Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/630

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


612 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

that they ever will be. Your absolute political ethics is therefore an ideal beyond the reach of the real." This is quite true. Never- theless, much as it seems to do so, it does not in the least follow that there is no use for absolute political ethics. The contrary may clearly enough be shown. An analogy will explain the paradox.

There exists a division of physical science distinguished as abstract mechanics or absolute mechanics absolute in the sense that its propositions are unqualified. It is concerned with statics and dynamics in their pure forms deals with forces and motions considered as free from all interferences resulting from friction, resistances of media, and special properties of matter. If it enun- ciates a law of motion, it recognizes nothing which modifies mani- festation of it. If it formulates the properties of the lever it treats of this assuming it to be perfectly rigid and without thickness an impossible lever. Its theory of the screw imagines the screw to be frictionless ; and in treating of the wedge, absolute incom- pressibility is supposed. Thus its truths are never presented in experience. Even those movements of the heavenly bodies which are deducible from its propositions are always more or less per- turbed ; and on the Earth the inferences to be drawn from them deviate very considerably from the results reached by experiment. Nevertheless this system of ideal mechanics is indispensable for the guidance of real mechanics. The engineer has to deal with its propositions as true in full, before he proceeds to qualify them by taking into account the natures of the materials he uses. The course which a projectile would take if subject only to the pro- pulsive force and the attraction of the Earth must be recognized, though no such course is ever pursued : correction for atmospheric resistance can not else be made. That is to say, though, by em- pirical methods, applied or relative mechanics may be developed to a considerable extent, it can not be highly developed without the aid of absolute mechanics. So is it here. Relative political ethics, or that which deals with right and wrong in public affairs as partially determined by changing circumstances, can not pro- gress without taking into account right and wrong considered apart from changing circumstances can not do without absolute political ethics; the propositions of which, deduced from the con- ditions under which life is carried on in an associated state, take no account of the special circumstances of any particular asso- ciated state.

And now observe a truth which seems entirely overlooked : namely, that the set of deductions thus arrived at is verified by an immeasurably vast induction, or rather by a great assemblage of vast inductions. For what else are the laws and judicial sys- tems of all civilized nations, and of all societies which have risen above savagery ? What is the meaning of the fact that all

�� �