Modern Rationalism/Chapter VI
RATIONALISM IN ETHICS: CONSTRUCTIVE RATIONALISM.
Surprise is often expressed that certain writers, who seem to accept some of the most advanced Rationalistic doctrines, cling, nevertheless, to the Theistic system which modern Rationalism has, as a body, abandoned. Thus we have seen, in the first chapter, that a large section or members and divines of the Established Church have so far yielded to the dissolving forces of the age as to abandon some of the most prominent dogmas of Christianity. Instead, however, of taking up an independent position, they make a determined effort, and finally succeed in enlarging the boundaries of the Church, modifying its legislation and entirely eviscerating its formulae, and thus remain nominal members and hold high positions in the Anglican communion. The same circumstance appears in the region of philosophy. The clash of systems, and the depth to which metaphysical criticism has penetrated, have produced a general scepticism with regard to the ontological features of older schools. Yet there is a large number of thinkers who shrink from the position of avowed unbelief, and who make interesting efforts to provide a new basis for reasonable acceptance of Theism. The recent attempt of Mr. Balfour to substitute a vague and glorified authority for logical processes, and the laboured analogical reasoning of Drummond, are well-known instances.
In all these cases we have the operation of one and the same idea. Christianity has fused religion and morality so intimately that it is feared the fall of traditional religion would lead to a contemptuous disregard of the moral law, which would have very serious consequences to society. Morality has become juridical and wholly theistic, instead of the independent tradition it once was. If the seal of divinity be removed from it in the popular esteem, there are many who think that there is no authority adequate to enforce its dictates. This apprehension was openly expressed by the Coleridgean school, as we have seen. The Church, to them, was an institution for the purification of life and the enforcement of moral discipline, and they sought to defend it on that ground only. Philosophical sceptics, from Kant to A. Balfour, have clung to Theism on the same principle. They think that the moral law would survive in the minds of a few grave and high-principled scholars, but would soon be trampled under the feet of the multitude if the supernatural halo were to depart from it. Kant himself, of course, cannot be placed in the same category with the later sceptics. He did not profess to establish a theism on the assumed evil consequences of Agnosticism, but to pass, by direct reasoning, from moral phenomena to a moral legislator and a necessary sanction in immortality, though there are many who accept Heine's version of the matter, which would put Kant in the same position as later moralists. How ever, there are several writers of the present day who take their stand definitely on the supposed moral or immoral consequences of Rationalism. Balfour and Mallock, for instance, evince a thorough scepticism on all speculative Theistic defence, yet advocate the retention of Theistic belief on the ground that its rejection would have serious practical consequences. The more advanced Broad-Churchmen—Dr. Momerie, A. Craufurd, etc.—are evidently in the same predicament. The large number of clergy men and professors who accept Kantism or Hegelianism, or that interesting combination of the two which is some times called Transcendentalism, must join on the same issue. In fact, it is not too much to say that the main issue between Theists and Agnostics is now an ethical issue. There are few, indeed, at the present day who would venture to support Theistic belief by direct meta physical arguments; between empiricism and transcendentalism metaphysics has been wholly discredited. A certain number still find a divine glow on the universe at large, marks of design and wisdom, etc.; but their perception is only capable, apparently, of being thrown into the form of "extra-rational" considerations. The majority of Theists base their belief upon ethical considerations.
It has been pointed out by Rationalists, in the first place, that the reasoning of such apologists as Mr. Balfour and Mr. Mallock assumes a fund of stupidity on the part of the "vulgus," about whose moral fate they are anxious, which can hardly be admitted. An argument founded solely upon the unsatisfactory results of "naturalism" would hardly satisfy even our very easily-satisfied bourgeoisie. To say that there is no speculative proof that God exists, but that the moral law will not be reverenced unless people believe he does, is a reasonable position to take up. But to go on to infer that he does exist, because of these evil consequences of disbelief, is a curious intellectual feat, though the argument is not a discovery of Mr. Balfour's; it is many centuries old in scholastic authors. The people at large would soon perceive this Theism of their anxious philosophers to be a fictio juris, no less than a trick to keep them moral, and would quickly nullify it. Unless, therefore, the Theist argues as Kant and Newman do—that is, that the moral law speculatively considered as a phenomenon points to the existence of God—his reasoning will not stand the test of time. On this point it is that the history of the operations of Rationalists in the domain of ethics is of profound importance, and we proceed at once to its narration. It will be impossible to give a full description of the ethical systems which have appeared during the century. We confine ourselves to those features of them which are most relevant to the main thesis of the progress of Rationalism.
The nineteenth century closes the Deistic controversy, and opens with the struggle between the new Rationalism, empirical Agnosticism, and the orthodox theologians. In ethics the Rationalists oppose utilitarianism to orthodox juridical morality. The germs of the new system are, as usual, discovered in the old Greek controversies. Socrates, rising in an age of universal scepticism, and sceptical himself on most speculative questions, even on the immortality of the soul, made a vigorous stand for moral tradition. From Socrates sprang two widely-divergent ethical schools, the Cyrenaic and the Stoic. Aristippus, the leader of the Cyrenaics, taught that the end of moral action, the only criterion of the morality of acts, was the pleasure of the moment and of the individual. His egoistic hedonism was, in fact, little more than a philosophical defence of self-indulgence, sophistically evolved from the teaching of Socrates. At a later date the system of hedonism (the theory that pleasure or happiness—"hedone"—is the end of moral action) was adopted by Epicurus, who, however, removed its sensualistic features, embracing the higher social and intellectual enjoyments under the title of pleasure. This is the system which has served as a basis for modern Rationalistic systems, hence we omit other ethical schools. Christianity, in the meantime, introduced, or gave more prominence to, the idea of law and of moral obligation.
About the year 1650 Hobbes attempted, in two treatises, to revive interest in Epicurus, and rehabilitated his egoistic hedonism. Locke, remaining a Theist and intuitionist with regard to ethical principles, gives his assent to both the egoistic and the hedonistic features of the system. Hume, the real founder of modern Utilitarianism, defines virtue as a quality approved by spectators, and finds that only those qualities are approved which are useful and agreeable. He maintains that "reason is no motive to action" (against the Platonists who attacked Hobbes), and that there is no obligation to virtue except such as arises from the agent's own interest or happiness. Paley also adopted Utilitarian principles. He decides moral questions, and determines moral obligation, chiefly by appreciating the tendency of actions to promote or diminish the general happiness. In his esteem, of course, this whole Utilitarian system is of divine ordination.
Thus it is that, at the commencement of the century, we find Bentham and James Mill upholding an universalistic hedonism or utilitarianism against the Intuitionists and Theists. The passage, however, from egoism to altruism or universalism was strongly contested by Bentham's opponents (the Scotch school, and, after a time, the Graeco-Germans led by Coleridge), and was indifferently defended by him. When pressed, he was obliged to admit that the only interests which a man is at all times sure to find adequate motives for consulting are his own. He was wont to say that "nothing but a self-regarding affection will serve for diet, though, for a dessert, benevolence is a very valuable addition." The work of subsequent Agnostic moralists is precisely the elucidation and strengthening of this passage from individual to general welfare, so as to give security and permanency to the moral code. Of Bentham's immediate followers, Austin seems to have returned to the position of Paley. Grote extenuates the claim of the general interest upon the individual by considering duty as practically limited by reciprocity. John Stuart Mill continues the orderly development of the Utilitarian theory.
In J. S. Mill's system we find an unqualified subordination of individual to general welfare. It is, in fact, an Epicureanism strengthened by Stoical elements, and by ideas borrowed from Comtism. In his essay on "Utilitarianism," published in 1861, Mill is chiefly occupied in defending the system from the objections of sensualism and selfishness which the earlier presentations of it have excited. He differs from Bentham in establishing a distinction in kind between different orders of pleasures, and contending that the pleasures of the higher kind (although they may be less intense) must be preferred to the lower as ends of action. In this, however, which appears to be a fragment of pure Stoicism without an argumentative basis, Mill is generally deserted by later Utilitarians as inconsistent with hedonistic principles. He makes the higher principle which classifies pleasures, rather than pleasure itself, the basis of moral preference. Then, in further distinction from Bentham, he maintains that a disinterested public spirit should be the principal ground both for the performance of socially useful work, and for the inculcation of hygienic principles. Hence he does not identify the moral sentiment (in so far as it is altruistic) with sympathy or benevolence. Virtue is to be loved as "a thing desirable in itself." At the same time, he is forced to admit that, as Sidgwick expresses it, "the function of moral censure (including self-censure), as distinct from moral praise, should be restricted to the prevention of conduct that positively harms others, or impedes their pursuit of their own happiness, or violates engagements expressly or tacitly under taken by the agent." He has then to explain the logical basis of his altruism, always the principal point of attack from anti-Utilitarians, and to lend it a support which would appeal to the unphilosophical multitude as effectively as Theistic threats and promises. Here Mill makes a distinct advance in the work of construction. The moral sentiment has arisen, he maintains, partly through artificial and partly through natural causes. The artificial influence, the "education of conscience under government or authority," tends to yield to the "dissolving force of analysis." The natural causes of the altruistic moral sense are the "social feelings of mankind," which are a complex blending of (1) sympathy with the pleasures and pains of others, and (2) the habit of consulting the welfare of others from a consciousness of mutual need and implication of interests. On the latter point Mill evidently touches the sociological argument which later scholars elaborated. This feeling of unity with one's fellows engenders a "natural want" in any "properly-cultivated moral nature" to be in harmony with others, though he admits that some are devoid of it and ethically hopeless. In the course of time, the objects which were originally desired only as means to an end come, through the laws of association, to be directly pleasant and desirable; hence his apparently Stoical maxim, that virtue must be loved as a thing desirable in itself. He contends, also, that the acquired tendency to virtuous conduct may grow so strong as to persist even when there is not only no pleasure to be gained by it, but quite the reverse. Thus, Utilitarian morality is as capable of producing moral heroes as any other ethical system, and Mill's celebrated assertion, that he would go to hell rather than pay a mendacious compliment to the Deity, is much more in harmony with his teaching than Dr. Mivart or Mr. Mallock imagines. Dr. Bain's view of the origin of the moral sentiment is, broadly, similar to Mr. Mill's.
The chief argument against the Associational theory of moral feeling was based on the early age at which that feeling is manifested by children. This objection was met and answered by the next form which hedonism took—the evolutionary theory, which has now generally superseded the Associational. Not that there is a conflict between the consecutive schools of "naturalistic" ethics. It is a development parallel to that of Biblical criticism. Each new school supersedes its predecessor only in the sense that it introduces new elements, and is thus enabled to meet the old difficulties more effectively. The great crux of the hedonists had ever been the altruistic element, which is necessary in every system that seeks to uphold the traditional ethical code. This difficulty has been entirely surmounted in the evolutionary theory as it is presented by Mr. Leslie Stephen, the eminent Rationalistic critic, or by Mr. Herbert Spencer, the great Synthetic philosopher. Charles Darwin and W. K. Clifford are also earlier eminent exponents of the evolutionary theory. The new theory finds the incentive to altruism and the origin of the altruistic feeling in the social nature of man. Man is not an independent unit, whose actions happen to conflict with the interests of other independent units; but he is part of an organic whole, and half the pleasure of life is derived from that social connection. His actions are, therefore, directly and functionally related to his fellow-men, and to the integrity, health, and preservation of the organism into which he is incorporated. Altruism thus turns out to be an enlightened self-interest. The unthinking egoism of an Aristippus, or the anti-social individualism of a modern Nietzsche, are equally injurious to the individual himself in the ultimate analysis. He suffers with the depression of the social organism as inevitably as do the members of a diseased body. Morality is therefore, as Mr. Stephen says, "the definition of some of the most important qualities of the social organism." The bridge from egoism to universalism has been safely constructed.
Mr. Stephen, in his "Science of Ethics," accepts happiness (in a broader sense) as the ultimate end of reasonable conduct, but he rejects the Benthamite method of ascertaining empirically the conduciveness of actions to this end. He finds a more scientific criterion in their conduciveness to the "efficiency," for the purpose of its preservation, of the social organism (or social tissue, as he prefers to call it). He differs from Mr. Spencer in his estimate of the future, holding that sociology, which Mr. Spencer thinks sufficiently advanced to predict an ideal society, is as yet "nothing more than a collection of unverified guesses and vague generalities disguised under a more or less pretentious apparatus of quasi-scientific terminology." He does not, therefore, accept (few writers do) Mr. Spencer's distinction of absolute and relative ethics.
A few evolutionary writers think happiness or pleasure a mere accompaniment of the "preservation" of society which is the end of moral action. Mr. Spencer, in his "Data of Ethics," dissents from them, and thinks that conduct tending to the preservation of life is only good on the express assumption that life is attended with a "surplus of agreeable feelings." Ethics, he thinks, is not primarily concerned with the actual condition of human beings, but with an ideal society in which normal conduct will produce "pleasure unalloyed by pain anywhere." In such a society, which Mr. Spencer feels justified in predicting, moral conduct will be spontaneous. Absolute ethics is thus concerned with this ideal state, and deduces from necessary principles what conditions must be detrimental and what conditions must be beneficial in an ideal society. Relative ethics is a provisionary science, determining how far these absolute rules are applicable to the actual condition of humanity. In any case, the empirical reasoning of the earlier Utilitarians, and the attempt to adjust the balance of pleasure and pain, have given place to a more scientific treatment. Moral rules are deduced from sociological laws. As Mr. Stephen says: "A full perception of the truth that society is not a mere aggregate, but an organic growth . . . supplies the most characteristic postulate of modern speculation." The conceptions of modern biology are also utilized, especially by Herbert Spencer. Thus the difficulty of the early appearance of the moral sense in the child (a point which is much exaggerated) is met by the doctrine of transmission of parental characteristics by heredity. The long experience of the race has roughly determined which courses of action are prejudicial, and thus formed an empirical decalogue. These results are permanently registered on the nervous system, and transmitted with it in reproduction.
The older intuitive school of ethics, the school of Butler, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, etc., which opposed the empirical school in the last century, has few followers in the modern controversy. Dr. J. Martineau is its most eminent representative. With it may be associated the Hamiltonians and the Catholic writers. Its decay is largely due to the introduction into England of the German systems, which have been generally adopted by the opponents of empiricism. Kant, as we saw previously, arrived at the conclusion that pure or speculative reason was wholly subjective in its operation, but declared the objective value of practical reason or conscience. His fundamental principle is that duty must be done for duty's sake, and the criterion for determining individual duty is: "Act according to that maxim (or subjective principle) alone which thou canst, at the same time, will to be a universal law." This "categorical imperative," or sense of obligation, implies the freedom of the will; "thou shalt" implies "thou canst." Thus the moral law convinces us of freedom, though, in reality, the moral law is simply the law of the will itself, and the will is free when acting under this law. From the sense of obligation he deduces also the existence of a Supreme Legislator, and the necessity for a future life in which morality will be adequately vindicated.
However, by the time that the English Broad-Churchmen had adopted Kantism it had been superseded in Germany by the teaching of Hegel. Hegel held with Kant "that duty or good conduct consists in the conscious realization of the free reasonable will which is essentially the same in all rational beings. But Kant's ethical principle, owing to his purely formal conception of reason itself, does not admit the connection he sought to give it with practical life. His followers attempt to remedy this by still basing morality in reason, but seeking its content and realization in practical life and its institutions. Hegel conceives the universal will as objectively presented to each man in the laws, institutions, and customary morality of the community (for he is both pantheist and evolutionist), not applied by a subjective principle, as Kant thought. If concience conflicts with the common sense of the community, it must be resisted. Conscientious individual effort is self-deceived and futile unless it attains its realization in harmony with the objective social relations in which the individual finds himself placed. A compound of the teaching of Kant and Hegel, such as is worked out by T. H. Green, is now usually received in England and Germany. In his "Prolegomena to Ethics," published in 1883, Green attempts a combination of the two. "The ultimate standard of worth," he says, "is an ideal of personal worth;" yet "it is equally true that the human spirit can only realize itself, or fulfil its idea, in persons, and that it can only do this through society, since society is the condition of the development of a personality." Caird, Bradley, Sorley, Mackenzie, and others, support some modified form of Hegelianism.
The two later German theorists, Schopenhauer and Von Hartmann, have proved, as a whole, unassimilable to the English mind, though their influence is felt. Schopenhauer, according to whom the world is due to an irrational act of unconscious will, productive of hopeless misery, thinks all true morality is summed up in the denial of will, (1) by the repression of egoism, by the practice of ordinary virtue, of love and sympathy; (2) by ascetic self-mortification (he was much influenced by Buddhism). Hartmann says we must aim at the negation of the "will to live" (the incurable source of evil), not each by himself, but collectively, by working towards the end of the world-process and the annihilation of all so-called existence. These systems are not unconnected with the literary pessimism which is often opposed to Mr. Spencer's sociological optimism.
If, therefore, we return to the question of "naturalism versus supernaturalism," as the prevailing controversy is sometimes, though inaccurately, called, we find that this great progress of Rationalistic ethics brings us nearer to a solution. The issue has been gradually contracted until it rests almost exclusively on the ethical problem. If morality can find a secure and permanent basis apart from Theistic belief, most of the defence of that belief which is put forward in modern times breaks down completely. Such a basis is clearly provided in the modern school of independent ethics. In the first place, recent moralists have given a more scientific analysis of morality and immorality than was formerly obtainable. The principle of ethical discrimination is not a new one. For many centuries in Catholic theology—the only systematic moral theology—the ethical criterion has been mainly utilitarian. All theologians admitted that morality or immorality was intrinsic to actions, and did not arise from a divine command or prohibition. Actions were not immoral because forbidden, but they were forbidden because they were immoral. And, in analyzing this inherent immorality of certain acts, it was generally traced to their social harmfulness, and conscience was declared to be reason practically applying that criterion. There was, however, always some confusion owing to the existence of a written moral code; and not infrequently divines, like Cardinal Newman, degenerated into an utterly mystic view of conscience and morality. The true criterion has now been disengaged from obscuring circumstances, and specific moral problems are more likely to find a solution. Then, with regard to the sanction of moral conduct, the principal point of anxiety, it is difficult to see how any serious apprehension can be felt about the transfer of ethics from a Theistic to a utilitarian basis. The belief that each immoral act was a breach of an arbitrary positive code, without any but penal consequences, which could be avoided with ridiculous facility by believers, has not proved a very effective safe guard of morality in the course of history. Only a keen personal faith could make it conspicuously effective. Such faith is rare in these latter days, and is certainly not likely to be nourished by modern Theistic apologies. On the other hand, a doctrine which points out that immoral acts, and especially the habits which they fatally induce, are profoundly injurious to the fabric of society, and tend to destroy the conditions of mutual confidence and honour and sympathy which lie at its foundations, seems to have legitimate hope of appealing to an age which is increasingly remarkable for humanitarianism and social endeavour, and appreciation of mutual dependence. Indeed, the very fears which are expressed by Balfour, Mallock, etc., do but confirm the position of the Utilitarians. They emphasize the fact that immorality has grave social consequences, and that the real basis of morality is utilitarian. Those consequences only need to be pointed out clearly and definitely to the popular intelligence, as they are present in the systematic thoughts of philosophers, and the basis is given for a new ethical training of more consistent character, and of more cogent appeal. It would be an unjustifiable pessimism to think that men are incapable of being educated to such a moral code.
It is now clear that the reproach which is frequently addressed to Rationalists—that they are purely destructive and iconoclastic—is entirely incorrect. All the great Rationalists of the present century—J. and J. S. Mill, Darwin, Huxley, Harriet Martineau, George Eliot, Leslie Stephen, Spencer, Bain, Clifford—have co-operated in removing ethics to an independent basis, and have eloquently promulgated the new motives of morality in their works. They are convinced that morality will only be purified and elevated when moral acts are no longer performed for the sake of supernatural rewards, or out of fear of torment, and that men will be the more easily induced to lead consistently moral lives when they are taught to regard the moral law, not as an alien precept imposed by a tantalizing Deity, and in utter antagonism to self-interest, but as a rational adjustment of their own interests, the higher with the lower, and the individual impulses with the social obligations. And, under the influence of those great writers, a large number of ethical fellowships have already appeared, sustaining a high moral standard among all sections of the community on purely humanitarian grounds. The work is rapidly increasing, and finds ready converts in all classes of society. It is an object-lesson in constructive Rationalism, a practical answer to the timid apprehensions of wavering Theists, an anticipation of the purely secularistic moral training of the years to come.
Owing to the marvellous literary activity of the present age, the results which have been attained in the various departments of Rationalism have been immediately communicated to almost every class in the community. The scepticism of a Bayle or a Hobbes could be confined within very narrow limits, and even the criticism of Hume or of Voltaire had a comparatively limited audience. The enormous quantity and the graduated character of modern literature have had the effect of diffusing a reasoned scepticism in social strata which had been hitherto impermeable. Religious controversy of a fundamental character rages in all but the very lowest social spheres. The working man, who has neither leisure nor faculty to enter the labyrinthic details of the struggle, is nevertheless able to appreciate its broad moral. The mere continuance of the struggle and its ever-increasing difficulty naturally enfeeble his trust in traditional doctrine. Secularist and Christian Evidence lecturers are ever assailing him with their conflicting statements. He is but too ready to listen to the politician or sociologist who would divert his attention from the shadowy region of the unknown to the more acute and tangible interests of the present.
To the more educated the results of Rationalistic progress are unfailingly presented. The restless, apologetic tone which the ecclesiastical world has everywhere adopted is of itself an indication of the power and the wide diffusion of sceptical research. The eminent sceptics of the century—Darwin, Huxley, Mill, Tyndall, etc.—have appealed directly to the masses, and not merely to the cultured few. Their thoughts have been still further popularized by a number of Rationalistic periodicals, and by an infinity of publications emanating from less academic sources. And apart from the eminent scientists, such as Tyndall, Huxley, and Darwin; philosophers, such as Mill and Spencer; literary critics and historians, such as Stephen, Morley, Lecky, Harrison, Carlyle, Arnold, etc., who have propagated the spirit and the results of Rationalism so effectively, much has been done by writers in the lighter paths of literature. Innumerable poets have, in their verse, breathed the free, anti-dogmatic spirit of the age—Shelley, Clough, Tennyson, Browning, Matthew Arnold, George Eliot, George Meredith, Swinburne, and many others. In fiction also the Rationalistic spirit has found eloquent expression. George Eliot, Mrs. Lynn Linton, George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Grant Allen, represent uncompromising scepticism. Mrs. Humphry Ward, Sarah Grand, Olive Schreiner, with a large number of male novelists, breathe a wholesome Rationalistic spirit, though they restrain its influence within a narrow sphere. In the leading reviews Rationalism has for a long time occupied a prominent position. During the second half of the century, at least, there is not a single impartial review or magazine which has not been continuously utilized by the most powerful Rationalistic critics. Even the daily papers have come at length to deal impartially with Rationalistic writers in their reviews of current literature. The literary influence of the vast and important body of sceptical writers of the century has proved overwhelming.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find changes in the legislature corresponding to this expansion of public opinion. The religious tests which had so long discredited the universities have been abolished. The substitution of a Secular affirmation for an oath has been obtained by the strenuous advocacy of the late Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, Mr. G. J. Holyoake, and others. Even the laws which still remain on the Statute Book are no longer enforced in the tyrannical manner they were brought to bear in the earlier part of the century. In 1819 Richard Carlile was sentenced to three years imprisonment and £ 1,500 fine for selling Paine's "Age of Reason"—merely a Deistic publication. Many other severe prosecutions followed for a similar offence, and most of the leading Secularist lecturers have suffered under the blasphemy laws. At the present day the most advanced literature is sold with impunity, and, though Mr. Foote and his colleagues have not sacrificed a tittle of the liberty of speech for which they suffered, the present generation would be startled at any revival of the blasphemy prosecutions. Still, there is much work yet to be done in removing the disabilities of Freethinkers. The grave injuries they are still liable to incur, for instance, with regard to trusts, or contracts, or custody of children, or Sunday lectures, etc., reflect deep disgrace upon our legislative machinery. They are the last relics of that sacerdotal tyranny which dreads discussion and continues to the last its policy of persecution.
Finally the development and secularization of education must be taken into account in estimating the growth of Rationalism in the present century. The State has taken upon itself the task of educating its children, which religious bodies had so grossly neglected until 1870. The great perfection of elementary education in recent years, together with the growing tendency to divorce it completely from religious instruction, has made millions of minds receptive to Rationalistic influence, which had hitherto been entirely beyond its reach. At the same time, the abolition of religious tests and the open profession of religious scepticism in higher educational spheres have facilitated progress. Many of the most fearless critics of the age have been and are professors at the leading universities; indeed, the proportion of Rationalists among the University professors who have attained lasting literary recognition is remarkably high. And the most important Rationalistic works and theories are freely taught and commented upon in all the great Universities.
Thus it is that the progress of the Rationalistic spirit must be estimated, not only by the novelty and solidity of its achievements, but also by the universality of its diffusion. The theories and discoveries we have summarized are not "idols of the den"—they are the possession of all ranks of society. The evening paper, the Sunday paper, the myriads of leaflets and cheap publications, and the voices of innumerable popular lecturers bear them incessantly to the labouring classes. The social and humanitarian movements which the time-spirit has evoked are largely characterized by a purely secular character, which contrasts ominously with earlier movements, and which is anxiously deprecated by theologians. Literature is almost universally secularistic—is very largely anti-dogmatic and anti-sacerdotal. Dogmatism is visibly decaying. The Church is appealing to aesthetic, or ethical, or humanitarian influences, and suffering an unrestrained license of thought in speculative regions. In fine, the progress of the Rationalistic spirit in this nineteenth century is indefinitely greater than during the entire eighteen centuries since the Galilean and his followers infused a new life into the Hebrew, Hindoo, and Egyptian versions of the primitive solar myths.
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