Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/293

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justment, we are apt to suppose that congruity of institutions, conduct, sentiments, and beliefs, is necessary. "We think it almost impossible that, in the same society, there should be daily practised principles of quite opposite kinds; and it seems to us scarcely credible that men should have, or profess to have, beliefs with which their acts are absolutely irreconcilable. Only that extremely rare disorder, insanity, could explain the conduct of one who, knowing that fire burns, nevertheless thrusts his hand into the flame; and to insanity also we should ascribe the behavior of one who, professing to think a certain course morally right, pursued the opposite course. Yet the revelations yielded by these ancient remains show us that societies could hold together notwithstanding: what we should think a chaos of conduct and of opinion. Nay, more, they show us that it was possible for men to profess one thing and do another, without betraying a consciousness of inconsistency. One piece of evidence is curiously to the point. Among their multitudinous agencies for beneficent purposes, the English had a 'Naval and Military Bible Society'—a society for distributing copies of their sacred book among their professional fighters on sea and land; and this society was subscribed to, and chiefly managed by, leaders among these fighters. It is, indeed, suggested by the reporter, that for these classes of men they had an expurgated edition of their sacred book, from which the injunctions to 'return good for evil,' and 'to turn the cheek to the smiter,' were omitted. It may have been so; but, if not, we have a remarkable instance of the extent to which conviction and conduct may be diametrically opposed, without any apparent perception that they are opposed. We habitually assume that the distinctive trait of humanity is rationality, and that rationality involves consistency; yet here we find an extinct race (unquestionably human, and regarding itself as rational) in which the inconsistency of conduct and professed belief was as great as can well be imagined. Thus we are warned against supposing that what now seems to us so natural was always natural. We have our eyes opened to an error which has been getting confirmed among us for these thousands of years, that social phenomena and the phenomena of human nature necessarily hang together in the ways we see around us."

Before summing up what has been said under the title of "Subjective Difficulties—Intellectual," I may remark that this group of difficulties is separated from the group of objective difficulties, dealt with in the last chapter, rather for the sake of convenience than because the division can be strictly maintained. In contemplating difficulties of interpretation—phenomena being on the one side and intelligence on the other—we may, as we please, ascribe failure either to the inadequacy of the intelligence or to the involved nature of the phenomena. The difficulty is subjective or objective according to our