Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

dents, but strikes at the very source of national wealth by diminishing productive industry and impairing the power of production itself. A traffic that makes bad citizens and poor laborers can offer no financial compensations to the state worth a wise man's consideration.

We are compelled, then, to the conclusion, that the taxation of the liquor traffic offers no effective regulation of it; that if held out as a measure of reform it is delusive, and stands in the way of better legislation ; and that in itself it has the double vice of

; being opposed to the better moral instincts, and of being operative as a bribe to pervert the public conscience.

ROBERT C. PITMAN.

[merged small][ocr errors]

SCIENCE AND A FUTURE STATE.

BROADLY speaking, there are two ways of looking at

ROAI

things. We may measure that which is without by a standard from within, or that which is within by a standard from without. The old schoolmen adopted the first method when they insisted upon the perfect circularity of the planetary motions and the immaculate perfection of the sun. Their failure has already become a story of the past. But at the present moment an opposite school of thought have gained ascendency, and these insist upon regarding man as altogether the product of the visible world around him.

Their procrustean method of measurement has been applied so rigidly, and sometimes so unfeelingly, as to provoke a violent opposition from the inmost depths of our nature. And yet there is an amount of reasonableness in both these ways of setting to work.

The truth would seem to be that if we had on the one hand a complete knowledge of our own natures, we could rise to a comprehensive grasp of the cosmos; or if we had, on the other, a complete view of the cosmos, we could by this means obtain a thorough knowledge of ourselves. But in either case we must always start from something within ourselves. The justifiable satisfaction which we now feel when we contemplate all that science has already achieved arises from the conviction that there is a profound correspondence between our scientific instincts and the course of qutward things, so profound and so intimate that our intellectual nature is never put to permanent confusion. Thus the true man of science, whilst he regards the past with satisfaction, contemplates the future with unbounded

hope—he sees before him an interminable vista, along which he delights to travel ; " forgetting the things which are behind, he is continually pressing forward to those which are before."

Now let us ask ourselves why it was that the old schoolmen made such a profound mistake. We think that the blame for their failure has been attributed in too large a proportion to the Church of those days, and in too small a proportion to the mental peculiarities of the middle ages, which were pervaded with the spirit of literature rather than with that of scientific thought. The intellectual weapon employed was not altogether intellectual. The prevalent school of thought, actuated rather by moral and religious than by strictly intellectual views, had forged something which was not a weapon. It was of no use in the investigation of nature, when nature came to be in. vestigated. Nevertheless the schoolmen did not give way without a struggle, they denied the reality of the perplexity introduced when their scheme was tested by observation. They continued for some time to assert the truth of their views, and to question the accuracy of the observations which appeared to contradict them--at length, however, they were compelled to yield. Let us now review in a similar manner the procedure of the extreme school of the present day. A victory for science has undoubtedly been gained; we can now look at things from a comprehensive stand-point, and are able to realize the underlying unity of the cosmos. But man himself forms part of this wonderful order, and therefore it is deemed possible to explain scientifically, and, as it were, from without, the origin of man's moral and spiritual nature. The attempt is made; but the explanation does not prove satisfactory to a large body of men, who continue to assert that the adoption of the proposed scheme would lead to permanent perplexity in the moral and spiritual world. Now there are two ways of criticising such a scheme.

Inasmuch as it takes its rise upon the basis of scientific speculation we may criticise it intellectually, and see whether it be thoroughly consistent with itself, or whether some vital point may not in reality have been overlooked.

Or we may attempt to show that if introduced it would inevitably lead to permanent moral confusion, and if we succeed in this we shall in reality have sufficiently condemned it ; for just as the intellect is bound to reject any scheme that would permanently perplex it, so is the moral and spiritual nature of man bound to reject any that will inevitably lead to moral and spiritual confusion. To speak plainly, we may attack the materialistic scheme in two ways : we may either challenge the validity of its leading scientific argument, directed mainly against the possibility of a future state of existence, or we may attempt to prove that the denial of such a state will produce irretrievable moral perplexity. The first of these will be the course adopted by the man of science, the second will commend itself to the moral philosopher. Desiring here to confine ourselves to the first of these two methods, we cannot, however, refrain from making one remark. Confusion is not an element that any body of thinkers are willing to encounter, and the extreme school, who have been the aggressors on this occasion, are naturally anxious to prove (just as the old schoolmen attempted to do that the disturbance is, after all, only apparent, and that a nobler and higher system of moral and social order will ulti. mately be established on a sound philosophical basis. They decline to receive the outcry of the followers of religion as a true evidence of confusion. Nevertheless, the disturbance caused is real enough and honest enough, for we have the curious fact of the rise of a school of pessimists amongst the scientific ranks themselves; that is to say, of men who are at once bold enough to carry out their principles, and candid enough to admit that as a logical consequence intelligent existence is a mistake.

Let us now endeavor to ascertain the true verdict of science on the question raised by this extreme school of thought. We see many groups of things in the world around us. There are things in motion and things at rest, things colored and things without color, things sounding and things silent, things hard and things soft, things living and things dead. Now, without doubt, this last group will impress us most profoundly, for in things living we recognize a likeness to ourselves, while from the fate of things dead we perhaps think we may predict our own. And from a surface view the tale here told by nature is certainly not a pleasing one. For there seems to be a general facility of transmutation, in virtue of which external things go about from group to group, so that what is bright to-day may be dark to-night and bright again to-morrow, or what is in motion now inay be afterwards in repose and anon in motion once more. But there is one great exception to this law of convertibility, and that in the very group with which we are most intimately concerned ; for a thing which is alive to-day may be dead to-morrow, but it will not live again.

If, however, we continue to reflect upon the subject, we shall see that this physical law of life, important as it is, does not yet furnish man with a reply to that question which most concerns him. For we want to know whether the death of the individual be the end of his conscious existence not merely here, and under earthly conditions, but elsewhere, and under all conceivable conditions. Now, can a study of nature enable us to solve this problem? There are three possible replies which science, so questioned, may be imagined to give to our demand. In the first place, it is at least conceivable that she may be in a position to offer a definite solution of the question, whether positive or negative ; or, secondly, she may affirm her absolute incompetence to throw any light whatever upon the subject; or, thirdly, while unable to afford a complete solution, she may yet be able to offer some hint that will support the evidence derived from other quarters. We need hardly say that in pursuing such an inquiry from the scientific side, we must divest ourselves of all strictly personal considerations. The craving of the individual for continued existence (as well as the opposite craving which some assert they possess) is, after all, a personal equation here out of place, and which we must hand over to the moral philosopher to be weighed in other balances than ours.

But, nevertheless, this separation between the moral and scientific aspects of the question is, after all, artificial—it is one which convenience dictates rather than one which true philosophy requires. Indeed, we are never able to get rid of the moral element even in those investigations most legitimately scientific. For no man is able to verify by himself the truth of statements which he is yet willing to accept on the testimony of others. Thus the moral element of trustworthiness mingles,

« PredošláPokračovať »