Page:Reason in Common Sense (1920).djvu/157

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

natural terms and to represent human emotions in their pathetic humility, not extended beyond their actual sphere nor fantastically uprooted from their necessary soil and occasions. He will sing the power of nature over the soul, the joys of the soul in the bosom of nature, the beauty visible in things, and the steady march of natural processes, so rich in momentous incidents and collocations. The precision of such a picture will accentuate its majesty, as precision does in the poems of Lucretius and Dante, while its pathos and dramatic interest will be redoubled by its truth.

A primary habit producing widespread illusions may in certain cases become the source of rational knowledge. This possibility will surprise no one who has studied nature and life to any purpose. Nature and life are tentative in all their processes, so that there is nothing exceptional in the fact that, since in crude experience image and emotion are inevitably regarded as constituting a single event, this habit should usually lead to childish absurdities, but also, under special circumstances, to rational insight and morality. There is evidently one case in which the pathetic fallacy is not fallacious, the case in which the object observed happens to be an animal similar to the observer and similarly affected, as for instance when a flock or herd are swayed by panic fear. The emotion which each, as he runs, attributes to the others is, as usual, the emotion he feels himself; but this emotion, fear,