Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/151

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147
IBSEN, EMERSON AND NIETZSCHE
IBSEN, EMERSON AND NIETZSCHE; THE INDIVIDUALISTS
By Professor LEWIS WORTHINGTON SMITH
DRAKE UNIVERSITY, DES MOINES, IA.

THE development of various phases of individualism is one of the striking phenomena of the nineteenth century. We are not yet far enough away from it to be sure how it will look to our eyes when it has become somewhat definitely measurable as the actual past, but it is not a wild conjecture to think that it will then appear as the individualistic century. In the world of letters Ibsen, Emerson and Nietzsche were three of the more significant, not to say the three most significant, apostles of individualism. They are interesting in comparison, because they represent quite different phases of the individualistic spirit and find their inspiration in somewhat different sources at the same time that they were contemporaneous and were each the product of a general tendency of their time. They illustrate that responsiveness to the common tone of an age that often surprises us in great men who have seemingly been not at all subject to the same specific influences. There were three major subjects of human thought within which originated the presuppositions that were the foundation for individualism. These were religion, political economy and biology with its related sciences. When at the house of the centurion Cornelius in Cæsarea, Peter said that he perceived that God was not a respecter of persons, but that in every nation he that feared him and respected him was acceptable to him, the Christian religion was set forward on that course that was to bring man finally to a larger hope and trust for himself and all his fellows. For several centuries, for the first twelve hundred years following the founding of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical system, indeed, the church meant little for either morality or the individual man. It was the church itself, its organization and its further establishment, that was of first moment, but with the Protestant reformation the fundamental Christian sense of human values at once became more active in society. When it became "the dissidence of dissent" in the new world and particularly when it became New England Congregationalism, that sense of value had made the individual human being of first importance in the world. That consequence of the development of protestantism was carried still further by the weakening of Calvinism in the New England churches and by the warmer recognition of the interest taken by the Son of God in every man, Jew or Gentile. It was not solely because New England