« PredošláPokračovať »
Asia have fallen, where theocratical dominion holds back humanity : this is the condition of the Hindus, for example. I ask the same question as about the preceding people : is this a people civilizing itself?
I will now completely change the nature of the hypothesis. Imagine a people among whom there is a great display of some individual liberties, but among whom disorder and inequality are excessive : strength and chance have the dominion; every one, if he is not strong, is oppressed, suffers, and perishes ; violence is the ruling character of the social state. Everybody is aware that Europe has passed through this state. Is it a civilized state ? It may doubtless contain the principles of civilisation which will develop themselves by degrees, but the acting principle of such a society is not, unquestionably, what the judgment of men calls civilisation.
I take a fourth and last hypothesis. The liberty of each individual is very great, inequality between them is rare, or at least very transient.
Every one does nearly what he likes, and in power differs little from his neighbours ; but there are very few general interests, very few public ideas, in a word, very little sociability : the faculties and existence of each individual come forth and flow on in isolation, without one influencing the other, and without leaving any trace behind ; successive generations leave society at the same point at which they found it. This is the condition of savage tribes ; liberty and equality exist, and yet, most certainly, civilisation does not.
I could multiply these hypotheses ; but I think I have brought forward sufficient to elucidate the popular and natural meaning of the word civilisation. It is clear that none of the conditions I have just sketched answers, according to the natural and right understanding of men, to this term. Why not? It appears to me that the first fact which is comprehended in the word civilisation is the fact of progress, of development ; it immediately gives the idea of a people, going on, not to change its place, but to change its condition ; of a people whose condition becomes extended and ameliorated. The idea of progression, of development, seems to me to be the fundamental idea contained in the word civilisation.
What is this progression ? What is this development ? Here lies the greatest difficulty we have to encounter.
The etymology of the word seems to answer in a clear and sa
tisfactory manner ; it tells us that it means the perfecting of civil life, the development of society properly so called, of the relations of men among themselves. Such is in fact the first idea that offers itself to the minds of men, when they utter the word civilisation : they directly think of the extension, the greatest activity, and the best organization of all social relations ; on the one hand an increasing production of means of power and prosperity in society ; on the other, a more equal distribution, among individuals, of the power and the prosperity produced. Is this all ? Have we exhausted the natural and common meaning of the word civilisation ? Does it contain nothing more? This is almost as if we asked—Is the human species after all merely an anthill, a society where it is merely a question of order and prosperity, where the greater the amount of work done, and the more equitable the division of the fruits of that work, the more the aim is attained, and the progress accomplished ?
The instinct of men repels so limited a definition of human destiny.
It appears, at the first view, that the word civilisation comprehends something more extended, more complex, superior to the mere perfection of social relations, of social power, and prosperity. Facts, public opinion, the generally received meaning of the term, agree with this instinct.
Take Rome in the prosperous time of the republic, after the Second Punic War, at the moment of her greatest power, when she was marching to the conquest of the world, when her social state was evidently progressing. Then take Rome under Augustus, at the time when her fall commenced, at least when the progressive movement of society was arrested, when evil principles were on the point of prevailing. Yet there is no one who does not think and does not say that the Rome of Augustus was more civilized than the Rome of Fabricius or of Cincinnatus.
Let us go elsewhere ; let us take the France of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries : it is evident, in a social point of view, that as to the amount and distribution of prosperity among individuals, the France of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was inferior to some other countries of Europe, to Holland and to England, for example. I think that in Holland and in England social activity was greater, was increasing more rapidly, and distributing its fruits better than in France. Yet consult the judgment of men ; that will tell you that France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the most civilized country of Europe. Europe has not hesitated in answering this question. We find traces of this public opinion respecting France in all the monuments of European literature.
We could point out other states where prosperity is greater, increases more rapidly, and is better divided among individuals than elsewhere, and yet where, by spontaneous instinct, in the judgment of men, the civilisation is considered inferior to that of other countries whose purely social relations are not so well regulated.
What is to be said ? What do these countries possess, what gives them this privileged right to the name of civilized, which compensates so largely, in the opinion of men, for what they want in other respects ?
Another development, besides that of social life, is in them strikingly manifested; the development of individual life, of internal life, the development of man himself, of his faculties, of his sentiments of his ideas. If society is more imperfect than elsewhere, humanity appears with more grandeur and power. There remain many social conquests to make, but immense intellectual and moral conquests are accomplished ; many men stand in need of many benefits and many rights ; but many great men live and shine before the world. Literature, science, and the arts display all their splendour. Wherever mankind sees these great types, these glorified images of human nature shining, wherever he sees this treasury of sublime enjoyments progressing, then he recognises it as, and calls it, civilisation.
Two facts, then, are comprised in this great fact : it subsists on two conditions, and shows itself by two symptoms ; the development of social activity, and of individual activity, the progress of society, and the progress of humanity. Wherever the external condition is extended, vivified, and ameliorated; wherever the internal nature of man displays itself with brilliancy and grandeur ; by these two signs, and often in spite of the profound imperfection of the social state, mankind applauds and proclairs civilisation.
EDUCATION.—(ADDISON.) I CONSIDER a human soul, without education, like marble in the quarry ; which shows none of its inherent beauties, until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud, spot, and vein, that runs through the body of it. Education, after the same manner, when it works upon a noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection, which, without such helps, are never able to make their appearance.
If my reader will give me leave to change the allusion so soon upon him, I shall make use of the same instance to illustrate the force of education, which Aristotle has brought to explain his doctrine of substantial forms, when he tells us, that a statue lies hid in a block of marble ; and that the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone, and the sculptor only finds it. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero ; the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lies hid and concealed in a plebeian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light. I am therefore much delighted with reading the accounts of savage nations, and with contemplating those virtues which are wild and uncultivated ; to see courage exerting itself in fierceness, resolution in obstinacy, wisdom in cunning, patience in sullenness and despair.
It is an unspeakable blessing to be born in those parts of the world where wisdom and knowledge flourish ; though it must be confessed there are, even in these parts, several poor uninstructed persons, who are but little above the inhabitants of those nations of which I have been here speaking ; as those who have had the advantages of a more liberal education, rise above one another by several different degrees of perfection. For, to return to our statue in the block of marble, we see it sometimes only begun to be chipped ; sometimes rough-hewn, and but just sketched into a human figure ; sometimes we see the man appearing distinctly in all his limbs and features ; sometimes we find the figure wrought up to great elegancy ; but seldom meet with any, to which the hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles could not give several nice touches and finishings.
THE MOUNTAIN OF MISERIES.—(ADDISON.) It is a celebrated thought of Socrates, that, if all the misfortunes of mankind were cast into a public stock, in order to be
equally distributed among the whole species, those who now think themselves the most unhappy, would prefer the share they are already possessed of, before that which would fall to them by such a division.
Horace has carried this thought a great deal further, which implies, that the hardships or misfortunes we lie under, are more easy to us than those of any other person would be, in case we could exchange conditions with him.
As I was ruminating upon these two remarks, and seated in my elbow-chair, I insensibly fell asleep ; when, on a sudden, methought there was a proclamation made by Jupiter, that every mortal should bring in his griefs and calamities, and throw them together in a heap. There was a large plain appointed for this purpose. I took my stand in the centre of it, and saw, great deal of pleasure, the whole human species, marching one after another, and throwing down their several loads, which immediately grew up into a prodigious mountain, that seemed to rise above the clouds.
There was a certain lady, of thin, airy shape, who was very active in this solemnity. She carried a magnifying-glass in one of her hands, and was clothed in a loose, flowing robe, embroidered with several figures of fiends and spectres, that discovered themselves in a thousand chimerical shapes as her garments hovered in the wind. There was something wild and distracted in her looks. Her name was Fancy. She led up every mortal to the appointed place, after having very officiously assisted him in making up his pack, and laying it upon his shoulders. My heart melted within me, to see my fellow-creatures groaning under their respective burdens, and to consider that prodigious bulk of human calamities which lay before me.
There were, however, several persons who gave me great diversion upon this occasion. I observed one bringing in a parcel, very carefully concealed under an old embroidered cloak, which, upon his throwing it into the hear, I discovered to be poverty. Another, after a great deal of puffing, threw down his luggage, which, upon examining, I found to be his wife.
There were multitudes of lovers, saddled with very whimsical burdens, composed of darts and flames ; but, what was very odd, though they sighed as if their hearts would break under these bundles of calamities, they could not persuade themselves to cast them into the heap, when they came up to it; but after a few