Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/63

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I DO not know when the intellectual life is born. If we consult our own very different and individual experiences we would reach a variety of answers. But I shall at least express the experience of a large body of people in saying that this intellectual birth begins when for the first time we apprehend the principle of causation.

In any age there are but few who have attained the intellectual life. The vast majority of the race are still absorbed with the vegetative and animal functions of life. One would say that the birth of the spirit is not yet. Even among those called enlightened the major part merely assent to the principle of causation. They can not be said to apprehend it as an experience of their own intelligence. If you propound the principle to average men and women they will unhesitatingly agree with you. It takes no great cleverness to see that a denial would mean an impossible contradiction. In the sequence of events, causes are followed by adequate and commensurate effects; back of all effects are adequate and commensurate causes. This does very well as an abstract sentiment. But in the next comment which these good people make upon human affairs, it is more than probable that their denial of causation will be quite as direct and explicit as if expressed in so many words. And this is notably the case if the comment be upon those affairs which involve long-standing traditions, as when the talk turns upon political or social or religious issues.

The difficulty of being consistent is a great difficulty. The ability to be consistent is a proper test of intellectual progress. A great advance has been made when the beliefs in one department of thought are not entirely contradicted and neutralized by the beliefs in another department; when even a small residue of positive philosophy remains; when our science does not contradict our religion, and our religion our politics, and our politics our sociology.

How shall one attain even a moderate degree of reason? It is a large task to make the beliefs in any one bundle harmonize. It is a still greater task to make the bundles themselves harmonize with one another. In the autobiography of John Stuart Mill we have the record of such an attempt, and I know of no book in the language, which so stimulates one's desire to undertake a similar task.

Turning now from the workers to their work, the same prin-