CIVILISATION AND PROGRESS.*
WE are somewhat surprised that this book, which has now been more than six months before the world, has not attracted a larger share of attention. Undoubtedly it is the book of a very able man, and undoubtedly it should supply the agnostics of the present day with the kind of generalisations which would best meet the prevailing drift of their thoughts in two very important directions,—the wish for some intermediate position between Positivism and Supernaturalism, and the wish for some light as to the drift of the tendency which makes for civilisation. We differ from Mr. Crozier
so profoundly as regards the assumptions,—to a very con- siderable extent the undiscussed assumptions,—from which he starts, that the testimony which we are compelled to give to the high ability of his ambitious book is completely impartial. As we disagree with his assumptions, we, of course, disagree with his conclusions ; and furthermore, we hold that, besides starting from very inadequate assumptions, he is some- times, on very important subjects, seriously inconsistent with himself. Nevertheless, we can have no doubt as to the great ability of the book, nor as to the literary power with which he thoughts it contains are often expressed. Take, for example, by way of illustration of his literary force, the following very fine criticism on Shakespeare :—
"I remember when as a youth I first began the study of Shakspeare, I was in the habit of reading almost entirely for Ythe lustre of the writing, my attention concentrated on the pomp and tread of the sentences with their rich and resplendent imagery much in the same way as when a boy I used to watch the procession through the streets of some mammoth circus, with its golden ohariots, its spirit-stirring music, its glittering charioteers, but paying little or no heed to the internal coherence of the characters, the causal connexions of the dialogues, or the truth and sequence of the sentiment and passions. As time passed on, this excess of emphasis laid on mere expression gradually gave way to a growing interest in the structure and internal cohesion of the characters themselves, until now I care comparatively little for the pomp and magnificence of expressiou, but dwell with ever-increasing delight on that immense and subtle knowledge of the laws of the human heart down to its finest and most evanescent experiences, which enabled Shakspeare to follow, with the fatal sure- ness of a hound following the trail, the winding, ever.flIcituating, and .evanishing line of thought and passiun. Indeed, in so far as mere insight is concerned, one can imagine these dialogues shorn almost entirely of that pomp of metaphor in which he so much delighted and indulged, and reduced to the plainest and simplest terms, without any derogation whatever from the profundity or fineness of the thought. In reflecting on Shakspeare, I always imagine him to have pondered his dramas long and well, to have worked at the couneidons and sequences of thought and feeling with the greatest care, and down to the minutest detail, but to have filled in rapidly, painting with a free and dashing band, seizing the first materials that came to him, and often using metaphors and words which touched his thought • Civilisation and Progros: being the Outline of a Neu System of PoliVeat, Religious, and Social Philosophy. By John Beattie Crozier. London: Longman&
by the merest segment and side of their circumference and import. It was in this way, and by the lustre. and glancing meanings of these innumerable segments, that he was able to shade. the curve of his thought to its finest nicety, while associations aroused by the range and redundancy of words from which these segments were cut, gave to the whole that richness and brilliancy which so pleases the mind. It was with great justice, therefore, that one of the most penetrating and ardent of his admirers remarked, that the distinguishing char-
acteristic of Shakspeare was that he could say what he willed What constitutes Shakspeare's supreme glory, and gives him that unique place which he occupies among men, is not so much his power of expression, which has been approached, if not Equalled, by many men vastly his inferiors in insight ; nor his poetical or lyrical power, which has been equalled, if not excelled, by several with no pre- tensions to his genius ; but that unequalled knowledge of the Laws of the Haman Mind in its entirety, that unerring sureness of percep- tion which, when we consider the difficulty there is in following the track of the simplest human spirit when acted on by vague and con- flicting thoughts and emotions, has about it something portentous, superhuman, almost divine. In figuring him to myself, I often think of the difference between him and other men, as like the difference between the ordinary run of billiard-players and the great professors and masters of the art. The ordinary player commencing with a few careful and happy strokes perhaps, and compiling a small score rapidly and brilliantly, gradually, as the game advances, loses control of the balls, which go distractedly in all directions, until at last he leaves them in positions from which it is impossible to score, and so comes to an end. The great player,- on the contrary, knows so accurately where the balls will be left after each stroke, that he can go on scoring with the same facility after any number of rounds, and in all positions of the balls. It is the same with Shakspeare. If we take, for example, the play of Othello, and represent the various passions, sentiments, and impulses of the mind as so many billiard- balls, we find him setting in motion one after another of these passions and sentiments, until he has them all in full activity, and then, as the interaction of conflicting passions proceeds, he knows so precisely where eath particular impact will leave them all—patting one to rest altogether perhaps, giving another a tremendous momentum and sending it rushing among the rest, touching a third so skilfully as to wake it up to an attitude of attention, and no more—that all are kept rolling on with the greatest precision and facility without a miss, or false judgment to the end ; while lesser men, after opening successfully, and every now and then perhaps making some fine stroke—generally in the line of their natural genius or affinity—when confronted with the deeper, more subtle, and complex situations, with passions and thoughts diversified and conflicting, lose control of their characters, neither know what to do with them or where to leave them, and at last, in desperation, strike about distractedly in all directions, and end in bombast, unreality, and absurdity."
No one who reads that passage can doubt of Mr. Crozier's literary power ; and though we disagree in tote with his philosophy, and believe that he can justify it neither by consciousness nor by experience, we are willing to admit that, like every man of great literary faculty, he sees so vividly the extraordinary inconsistency between systems that make mind the mere outcome of matter, and every assumption on which the pro- gressive elevation of the mind depends, that he feels himself bound, —not without falling into inconsistency to himself,—to provide a religion,—or shall we call it an apology for a religion P—for man, as the only means of saving the higher nature from the inevitable deterioration to which a materialistic faith is certain to devote it. It is true that Mr. Crozier's religion is not a very potent one. It is a religion which "must cease in the future to contain within itself a philosophy of the world of phe- nomena," and which, as Mr. Crozier earnestly impresses upon us, cannot justify us in supposing that the divine purpose favours one phase of human life more than another, except 83 far as a large generalisation from history proves that that phase is becoming gradually more and more dominant,—that is, predominant,—as century succeeds century. Mr. Crozier concludes the part on "The Religion of Humanity" with the remark :—" Religion, in its true and final form, will have no effect on Action, but be restricted to giving that harmony and satisfaction to the Intellectual, Moral, and Emotional sides of our nature which is necessary to their balanced and healthy activity." Religion is with him rather the cog-wheel which restrains human life from rolling back down the inclined plane which it had ascended, than the locomotive which can push it up the inclined plane. God is simply the central Will conceived as behind the phenomena of the universe, but a Will of the nature of which we have no revelation except what may be contained in these phenomena themselves viewed in their entirety ; and even so, of course, our view is too limited and partial to enable us to form any worthy conception of the essential nature of the divine char- acter. Indeed, why Mr. Crozier permits us, on the strength of what he calls "the law of wills and causes," to believe in such a background of the universe at all, we cannot clearly understand. He speaks with the most unmeasured conlempt of the notion that "the satisfaction of the feelings is a proof of the truth of the doctrine" (p. 124), a contempt in which we heartily concur,
unless there be other reasons for believing that the feelings in question are feelings asserting their moral authority over our actions, and implanted by the controlling power for the very purpose of guiding us. And yet, so far as we can judge, the only ground which Mr. Crozier gives for believing that the uni- verse as a whole represents a Will behind the order of phenomena, is that it satisfies the feeling which disposes us to assign unex- plained phenomena to some spiritual Will as their ultimate cause. Now, if Mr. Crozier maintains this to be a spiritual necessity of the mind, we should reply that it is, at all events, a necessity which a great many of the thinkers he most admires steadily
ignore, and therefore, though it may be a reasonable principle, it can hardly be called a necessary one. And what is more, we do not see why, if he thinks it a necessary law, he should himself hold, as he appears to do, that the mere explain- ing of phenomena by the assignment of uniform ante- cedents and consequents between which they uniformly occur, instead of the causal Will, results in sufficient temporary satisfaction to the mind, to stave off for a time the necessity of referring them to a true divine Will. If his principle is sound and "necessary," surely the " explanations " rendered by science should count .absolutely for nothing ; should not appease this causal instinct even for a moment. If, however, he only means that the suggestion of a Will behind all phenomena is satisfactory to the human intellect, though not a necessary truth, then that appears to be precisely the ground for belief on which he is always casting ridicule, as if the wish to believe were a good reason for believing. Further, we cannot in any way assent to the strong distinction he draws between "scientific knowledge "and " belief." He appears to regard even the belief in the existence of an external world, as a type of a true belief which is not knowledge. But how is even scientific knowledge to be independent of that belief P Suppose that Fichte were right in suggesting that the laws of the motion of the celestial bodies, for instance, are not really laws of any external universe at all, but mere laws of the individual consciousness ; suppose that no one can get beyond himself at all, and that all that he mistakes for laws of the universe outside him are mere sub- jective laws of his own thought,—what then would become of the distinction between science and belief? In truth, the very existence of scientific knowledge, rests on the basis of the assumption that there are external realities to observe, that we are capable of observing them, and have observed them truly ; and that the fruits of these observations and our reasonings upon them are the laws we have established as to the uni- formities of Nature. If we have in any true sense knowledge of Nature's laws, then surely those fundamental beliefs, which lie at the base of knowledge, are knowledge too, and in an even higher degree. I have far more certainty of the existence of myself than of any laws of mind or matter ; I have far more certainty of the existence of something outside myself, than I have of the special laws which regulate the movements of those external realities. I have far more certainty of the existence of other minds, than I have of the laws regulating our relations to each other. There is, to our mind, no real distinction between the certainty of science and the certainty of what Mr. Crozier means by belief, except this,—that without the latter, the former could not exist at all, and therefore that the knowledge which he calls belief, is, in various cases, far more absolute than the knowledge which he calls knowledge.
Where Mr. Crozier's philosophy seems to us to go astray, is in his virtual denial that the course of civilisation is really determined by morality. His naturalism requires us to believe that tha whole of Nature (including the mind) is governed by uniform laws ; and his contempt for psychology (at least when severed from biology) is so thorough- going, that he does not even enter into the great problem whether in the free will of man there is no solution of that continuity, making every separate free volition the spring of a new stream either of order or disorder, and every free agent the source of what in the truest sense is a multitude of those miracles which science discredits and denies. Ignoring this central fact in man's history as Mr. Crozier does, of course he makes compara- tively light of sin, of conscience, of volition, and of all the deeper sources of the religious life. To his mind, the "controlling factor" of civilisation is the material and social condition" of man. In this world, he save, "things make their own relations, —that is to say, their own morality,—in spite of politicians or priests." The Church only reflects the higher ideas of the day ; it is the improvement of material and social conditions which really controls progress. And it is the equalisation of conditions between different classes which is the chief factor in promoting that progress. We believe that all history testifies against this belief. The degeneration of Greece, of Rome, of Judea, took place in spite of a very considerable equalisation of conditions in the two former peoples, which only accelerated the retro- gression; and in spite of that improvement in the material and social condition of Judea which grew out of the extension of the Roman Empire. The decadence was in each case due,. we believe, to moral causes ; and a like decadence appears to be perfectly possible now in the Western World from the same causes, even if it is not already taking place in France. To our minds, the critical point in all the countries where the rationale of national progress, or stationariuess, or regress is to be determined, is the question of the relative moral faithfulness of the mass of the people to their ideal of right. When that is improving, you have progress ; when that stands still, you have a stationary period; and when that recedes, even though there be a great contemporaneous improvement of the material conditions of life, you have deterioration. Mr. Crozier, holding as he appears to do, that there is no such thing as real in- dependence of the laws of causation, even in the human will, and therefore disbelieving, as he certainly does, in the direct communion between man and God, necessarily assigns Religion that very secondary and rather ornamental position which it assumes in his system, and ridicules the notion that the Christian faith,—which, whatever it may have accom- plished in early periods when superstition ascribed a great number of phenomena to specific divine purpose which are now known to be comprehended in the chain of natural causes, —can accomplish anything serious for us in future. We, who strenuously deny that, in the human world at least,. and in all that is affected by the spiritual life of man, there is any such thing as an absolute uniformity of succession, and who think that the free volitions of men are daily and hourly in organic relation with the spirit of God, cannot possibly accept a theory of civilisation which seems to us to ignore not only the evidence of history, but the teaching of consciousness. Nevertheless, we quite admit that Mr. Crozier has passed many true and impressive criticisms on the views of Comte, Carlyle, Herbert Spencer, and Buckle, and that his book, as a whole, —a book far less superficial than Mr. Buckle's,— is full of original criticism, conveyed in an effective and often a brilliant style. It will rectify much that is.faulty in the views of his predecessors, though it will also, we think, put those who have not grasped the central truth of the moral life on a wrong scent, in their effort to master the secret of civilisation.