Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/30

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26
THE IDEA

always makes the mistake of leaving human nature out. The climbing instinct of humanity, and our discontent with things as they are, are facts accounted for no less than the stable instincts of nearly all other species. We all desire to make progress, and our ambitions are not limited to our own lives or our own lifetimes. It is part of our nature to aspire and hope; even on biological grounds this instinct must be assumed to serve some function. The first Christian poet, Prudentius, quite in the spirit of Robert Browning, names Hope as the distinguishing characteristic of mankind.
'Nonne hominum et pecudum distantia separat una? quod bona quadrupedum ante oculossitasunt, ego contra spero.'
We must consider seriously what this instinct of hope means and implies in the scheme of things.

It is of course possible to dismiss it as fraud. Perhaps this was the view most commonly held in antiquity. Hope was regarded as a gift of dubious value, an illusion which helps us to endure life, and a potent spur to action; but in the last resort an ignis fatuus. A Greek could write for his tombstone:

'I’ve entered port. Fortune and Hope, adieu!
 Make game of others, for I’ve done with you.'

And Lord Brougham chose this epigram to adorn his villa at Cannes. So for Schopenhauer hope is the bait by which Nature gets her hook in our nose, and induces us to serve her purposes, which are not our own. This is pessimism, which, like optimism, is a mood, not a philosophy. Neither of them needs refutation, except for the adherent of the opposite mood; and these will never convince each other, for the same arguments are