Saturday, 6 July 2013

CIVILISATION AND PROGRESS.

In his "Civilisation and Progress," recently published by Longmans and Co., Mr. Crozier endeavours to show that there is need of a new system of political, religious, and social philosophy.
 Comte worked out relations existing between religion and science, but not those uniting religion with natural and social conditions generally. Buckle set forth the part played in civilisation by science and natural and social conditions, but left confused that played by religion and government. Herbert Spencer points out how civilisation follows laws of evolution, but does not explain how it is influenced by religion, government, science, and material and social conditions. Mr. Crozier wishes to discover the laws uniting all these factors, and thus establish a philosophy of civilisation to explain the past and guide in the future. In another respect he differs from the great authorities just named. His starting point is the essential identity of the human mind always and everywhere, and its union with material and social conditions constitutes the chief ground of progress in civilisation.   He endeavours to show that no real insight into the present is furnished by history, whether we take the ordinary narrative and scientific works of the schools; the philosophics — descriptive works of great classical historians like Gibbon, Hume, Macaulay, Carlyle, and Grote; or the purely philosophical works of sociologists like Montesquieu, Buckle, Comte, and Spencer. What people most need is insight into the conditions under which they work and live, into the connection of causes and the course of events. And as the conditions are never twice alike, each emergency requires a different combination of thought and action to meet it. Physical science, political economy, metaphysics, scientific psychology, and Cardinal Newman's illative sense are now examined and found just as unable as history and sociology to furnish what is needed. Having either discarded the various recognised instruments of knowledge as useless for his purpose, or degraded them (like history) into a subordinate position, he proposes his New Organon for the solution of the higher problems of civilisation—the laws of the human mind in its entirety as a concrete entity—laws which he maintain find no place in the recognised circle of the sciences. This is the method unconsciously employed by the greatest poets, sages, and thinkers, like Shakspeare, Goethe, Bacon, Emerson, and Carlyle. These differ thus from scientists and philosophers like Kant, Mill, and Spencer; from thinkers like Comte, and even from novelists like Thacheray, George Eliot, and Charlotte Bronte. Even the best novelists, while professing to deal with the laws of the human mind in its entirety, occupy themselves in reality only with the ordinary level of thought and feeling on very ordinary persons, and confine themselves too much to the microscopic and morbid anatomy of the thoughts and emotions which radiate from human relations.
 Mr. Crozier thinks that his New Organon will remove the doctrine of supernatural revelation. He, himself believes that "the revelation the supreme power has given to man is the laws of the world, and of the human mind." The question has to be answered, how is civilisation possible? or (as Carlyle would say), how in a world of knaves is honesty to be had from their united action? Another question arises, what is the goal of civilisation? Answer, the elevation and expansion of the individual, and not (with Comte and Carlyle) of humanity as a whole.
  The author now undertakes to show the part performed in civilisation by the various factors respectively. Before describing their united action, he has to determine the controlling factor, that on which the others depend, from which they take their initiative and word of command. The factor is a word which must be addressed if civilisation is to be advanced. The various   divergent opinions on this question all fall into two broad categories. The church represents the view that civilisation is to be best advanced by the preaching of duty and morality, the state, the view that it will be best advanced by improvement in men's material and social conditions. Mr. Crozier's opinion is best expressed in his own words:—"To the doctrine of Comte, Carlyle, and, indeed, of the religious world generally—the doctrine that progress is to be forwarded rather by exhortations to duty and morality, than by the gradual amelioration of the material and social conditions of men—I desire to offer the most strenuous opposition. . . . All exhortations to duty and morality, and the the elevation and expansion of mind, in the face of material and social conditions adverse to the growth of those virtues, are a waste of time and human energy."
 The work before us contains a fair amount of historical information concerning theories of civilisation and kindred questions. Some parts of it stimulate fresh thought, and send forth the mind on new lines. There will be much difference of opinion as to the value of the author's general views. His style is often rather pretentious, and his treatment of religious questions, for the most part, quite unsatisfactory.   

 Launceston Examiner 5 February 1887,

No comments: