Page:Ethical Studies (reprint 1911).djvu/181

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movement are nothing but the successes of what from time to time somehow happens to be best suited to the chance of circumstances,—then it is clear in the first place that, teleology being banished, such words as evolution[1] and progress have lost their own meaning, and that to speak of humanity realizing itself in history, and of myself finding in that movement the truth of myself worked out, would be simply to delude oneself with hollow phrases.

Thus far, we must say that on such a view of ‘developement’ the doctrine of ‘my station’ is grievously curtailed. But is it destroyed? Not wholly; though sorely mutilated, it still keeps its ground. We have rejected teleology, but have not yet embraced individualism. We still believe that the universal self is more than a collection or an idea, that it is reality, and that apart from it the ‘individuals’ are the fictions of a theory. We have still the fact of the one self particularized in its many members; and the right and duty of gaining self-realization through the real universal is still as certain as is the impossibility of gaining it otherwise. And so ‘my station’ is after all a position, not indeed satisfactory, but not yet untenable.

But if the larger doctrine be the truth, if evolution is more than a tortured phrase, and progress to a goal no mere idea but an actual fact, then history is the working out of the true human nature through various incomplete stages towards completion, and ‘my station’ is the one satisfactory view of morals. Here (as we have seen) all morality is and must be ‘relative,’ because the essence

  1. With respect to ‘evolution’ I may remark in passing that, though this word may of course be used to stand for anything whatever, yet for all that it has a meaning of its own, which those who care to use words, not merely with a meaning, but also with their meaning, would do well to consider. To try to exhibit all that is contained in it would be a serious matter, but we may call attention to a part. And first, ‘evolution,’ ‘developement,’ ‘progress,’ all imply something identical throughout, a subject of the evolution, which is one and the same. If what is there at the beginning is not there at the end, and the same as what was there at the beginning, then evolution is a word with no meaning. Something must evolve itself, and that something, which is the end, must also be the beginning. It must be what moves itself to the end, and must be the end which is the ‘because’ of the motion. Evolution must evolve itself to itself, progress itself go forward to a goal which is itself, developement bring out nothing but what was in, and bring it out, not from external compulsion, but because it is in.
      And further, unless what is at the end is different from that which was at the beginning, there is no evolution. That which developes, or evolves itself, both is and is not. It is, or it could not be it which developes, and which at the end has developed. It is not, or else it could not become. It becomes what it is; and, if this is nonsense, then evolution is nonsense.
      Evolution is a contradiction; and, when the contradiction ceases, the evolution ceases. The process is a contradiction, and only because it is a contradiction can it be a process. So long as progress lasts, contradiction lasts; so long as anything becomes, it is not. To be realized is to cease to progress. To be at the end (in one sense) is to lose the end (in another), and that because (in both senses) all then comes to the end. For the process is a contradiction, and the solution of the contradiction is in every sense the end of the process.