Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/24

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THE IDEA

Olympians with only one neck to cut off. But Comte himself is what his system requires us to call a reactionary; he is back in the 'theological stage'; he would like a theocracy, if he could have one without a God. The state is to be subordinate to the Positive Church, and he will allow 'no unlimited freedom of thought'. The connection of this philosophy with the doctrine of progress seems very slender. It is not so easy to answer the question in the case of Hegel, because his contentment with the Prussian government may be set down to idiosyncrasy or prudence; but it is significant that some of his ablest disciples have discarded the belief. To say that 'the world is as it ought to be' does not imply that it goes on getting better, though some would think it was not good if it was not getting better. It is hard to believe that a great thinker really supposed that the universe as a whole is progressing, a notion which Mr. Bradley has stigmatized as 'nonsense, unmeaning or blasphemous'. Mr. Bradley may perhaps be interpreting Hegel rightly when he says that for a philosopher 'progress can never have any temporal sense', and explains that a perfect philosopher would see the whole world of appearance as a 'progress', by which he seems to mean only a rearrangement in terms of ascending and descending value and reality. But it might be objected that to use 'progress' in this sense is to lay a trap for the unwary. Mathematicians undoubtedly talk of progress, or rather of progression, without any implication of temporal sequence; but outside this science to speak of 'progress without any temporal sense' is to use a phrase which some would call self-contradictory. Be that as it may, popularized Hegelianism has laid hold of the idea of a self-improving universe, of perpetual and