Popular Science Monthly/Volume 82/May 1913/The New Optimism
|THE NEW OPTIMISM|
STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
WE may distinguish three stages in the development of optimism. There was first the old a priori optimism of St. Augustine and Leibniz. One hears no more of this now. You may prove from the good intentions of the Creator that this world must be the best possible one, but the whole argument rests upon presuppositions that have less weight than formerly. Browning, when he cries, "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world," fails likewise to convince us. We prefer to look about the world and in so doing we have little difficulty in seeing many things that are not right.
Then, there is a second kind of optimism which follows the opposite method, the inductive, and arrives at the conclusion that the world is good and beautiful and full of happiness. It may not, indeed, be the best possible world, but it is good and fair and perhaps growing better and fairer. This is the natural, buoyant, hopeful attitude of the normal, healthy individual who enjoys his food, his sleep, his work and his play and who delights to say with Ruskin,
Of this class are the sane and helpful writings of Sir John Lubbock or the exultant songs of Walt Whitman, which refresh us with the optimism of youth, health and springtime. Dickens, likewise, compels us to a bright view of things by his contagious good cheer. Life can not be so very bad as long as there is a tavern near by with a pot of ale and a juicy joint.
Critics may call this the shallow optimism of the eupeptic man, but it is better and more natural than the dismal croakings of Schopenhauer or the songs of sorrow of Leopardi or James Thompson. The truth is, however, that this kind of optimism, as well as that first mentioned, implies a certain blindness to the actual evils and miseries of the world, or, perhaps more often, mere ignorance of them. Our faith in it is rudely shaken by a walk through the hospitals or prisons, the smell of anesthetics, a day's journey with a country doctor, a visit to the slums, a tour of the factories and mines, or a campaign in the regular army.
But now it can not escape the careful observer that there is at the opening of this century a third kind of optimism appearing, which we may call the new optimism. It might also be called dynamic, or practical, or psychological optimism. It concerns itself with no theoretical questions as to whether this world is the best possible one or not. It has for its motto—The world is pretty good, and we will make it better. In the first place, this view repudiates wholly the theory of the good old times and is able to show the fallacy upon which the theory depends. In the museum at Constantinople the writer saw an inscription upon an old stone. It was by King Naram Sin of Chaldea, 3800 years b.c., and it said,
We have fallen upon evil times
and the world has waxed very old and wicked.
Politics are very corrupt.
Children are no longer respectful to their parents.
This old and ever-recurring complaint does not depend upon any actual deterioration of the times, for the times are constantly growing better. It comes usually from older people whose outlook may be biased by subjective conditions due to decaying powers and by the tendency to regard all changes as changes for the worse, the only really good times being the bright days of our own youth. It is encouraged also by the fact that, since the springs of progress are in the human mind itself, it comes about that the present times are always below the standard set by our ideals and are regarded, therefore, as bad, being compared not really with the past, but with the ideals of our constructive imagination.
Careful historical comparison leads us to the result that there has been a rather steady progress forward in all things which conduce to human happiness. Anthropologists tell us that the health of the primitive man was nothing to boast of. He had little reserve force and slight power of sustained attention. His daily sufferings from hunger and thirst, from heat and cold, from dangers from wild animals and human enemies, from constant warfare, from loss of property by theft, from sickness and accident unalleviated by surgical care, and, worst of all, from never-ceasing fear of supernatural agencies, make his life seem in comparison with ours as one of extreme hardship and unhappiness.
In the palaces of the Homeric heroes, life was far too simple to seem to us very comfortable. Apparently they had commonly no nuts or fruits to eat, no green vegetables, no butter and usually no milk, no sugar, sweets or cakes, no boiled meats, no fish, no potatoes, no relishes, perhaps not even salt in the inland places, no tea, coffee, chocolate, or tobacco. Coarse bread with roasted meat, and sometimes cheese, honey, and wine, constituted the diet of the wealthy, and what the poor had to eat it is unsafe to say. The meat, which was their chief article of food, had to be killed just before it was eaten and right on the premises. This latter circumstance, together with their perpetual sacrifices of animals to the gods, must have made their homes most untidy, to say the least.
If, rather than the Homeric heroes, we consider the most highly civilized of the ancients, namely, the Athenians of the fourth and fifth centuries b.c., their daily life seems to us hardly more attractive. Their comforts were few and their hardships many. Their food was like that of the Homeric Greeks. Their houses were gloomy and fragile and commonly shared by domestic animals. Their streets were unpaved and filthy. There was relatively little security either of life, property or reputation. Wars were almost incessant, bringing death, dishonor or slavery to both men and women. The reign of terror which prevailed throughout the cities of Greece during the long Peloponnesian war was too terrible for detailed description.
If we were to continue this study through the days of Rome, through the middle ages, through the centuries preceding our own, we should find that there has been a pretty steady growth in all the things which we usually regard as making life worth living. If by the good old times we mean the "days of Queen Bess in England, the days of our Puritan forefathers, or the more recent years of our own fathers and grandfathers, history shows us that they were uninviting. There were more and harder work, fewer comforts, less cleanliness, coarser and less varied food, less security of person and property. The good old times are therefore a myth pure and simple. The Golden Age is not in the, past, but in the present.
But, some one may say, a new list of evils has come to take the place of the old ones. It is true that material comforts were lacking in the other times, but people were more hardy then. They were more robust and wholesome and less sensitive to mere inconveniences. They lived, to be sure, on brick floors and wore homespun and went often to war, but they did not consider these things as hardships. They were brave and strong-shouldered and the very battles of life were a joy to them. Now we are weak-spirited and degenerate. Our young men are not so brave and our girls are not so modest. Our children, as Stanley Hall says,
We live in an overworked, serious and tense age. We have forgotten how to fight, to laugh, to eat, drink and be merry, but we have learned how to worry.
Furthermore, they continue, our manners and morals have deteriorated. Boodlers and bribers abound. A new bunch of grafters springs up for every one that is indicted. Jurors are fixed and voters bought and sold. Justice miscarries in our courts of law. Courts are dominated by shrewd attorneys more anxious for victory than for justice, urging delays and appeals based on mere technicalities. Then, there are the greedy trusts, the do-nothing congresses, the corruption of legislatures, jack-pot and bathroom politics, extravagance among the rich, increased frequency of divorce, smoking and drinking among women, increased consumption of alcoholic drinks, adulteration of food, sentimentalism towards condemned criminals, yellow journals, comic supplements, and all the rest, not to speak of the wresting of lands from weak nations by strong ones, as in the case of France and Morocco, Italy and Turkey, England and the Transvaal, and the United States and Spain.
That these evils exist no optimist may deny, but that they offer any evidence that the present times are degenerate may be very seriously doubted. It may be doubted whether the young men of the olden times were any braver or had any broader shoulders, or that the girls were more modest or more virtuous. It may be doubted whether the children were of old any sounder or more robust. As regards each and all of the other indictments of the present times, it may well be doubted whether there has been any deterioration, on the whole; but rather it is probable that the farther back we go; the more weakness and deformity we shall find; the more graft, the more miscarriage of justice, the more dishonesty, the more drunkenness, the more wresting of lands from weak nations by strong ones.
The mere picturing of the evils of the present points to progress, for in times past not only were these evils present, but their presence was not much noticed. The more rare becomes crime the greater its interest for the headlines of our dailies. The muck rakers, if they had lived a few centuries ago, would have needed no rake to bring evils to the surface. No one, of course, would maintain that there has been a uniform progress or a constant decrease of evils, nor that all the sins of the present were found in the past, but on the whole the world has been getting better age by age and, sometimes, as at present, pretty fast.
But, it may be said, all this only proves that the world is getting better, not that it is intrinsically good. It might still be thoroughly bad and pessimism triumphant. With James Thompson we might still say:
Speak not of comfort where no comfort is,
Speak not at all: can words make foul things fair?
Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss.
Hush, and be mute, envisaging despair.
As regards this question of the absolute goodness or evil of the world, the new optimism, as has already been intimated, does not greatly concern itself with it. It is rather disposed to see the good that there is and put shoulder to wheel and help it on. If, however, one were concerned with this question, it could no doubt be shown on sound psychological and biological principles that there must be a large balance of pleasure over pain wherever life forces are triumphant. But the summum bonum is not pleasure nor happiness, but, rather, abundance of life. Life is the key to the problem. So long as there is growth, movement, struggle, onward rush, conquest or noble defeat, there is little pessimism. The fundamental things in our psychic life are not thought, deliberation, judgment, nor yet pleasure and pain, but rather, will, impulse, restless striving, love, aspiration, progress. It is only when these fundamental things are checked and one is forced to think and feel and examine one's feelings, that pessimism arises. Pleasures unearned are no guaranty of inward peace. As President Jordan says:
But now let us examine more carefully some of the aspects of the new optimism and some of the grounds upon which it rests. In this new philosophy of life, man is the central and determining figure. He can make the world good. This is a new thought in the history of optimism. We are not blind to the evils and the miseries of life, but we are conscious of a new inner force which can relieve them and redeem them. The old optimism said, Cheer up, for the world is good and beautiful. The new optimism says, Cheer up, for you can make the world good and beautiful. This view is a part of the powerful reaction which has been taking place for many years against the mechanical philosophy of life which prevailed in the latter part of the nineteenth century under the influence of Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin. It came to be generally believed at that time that the world is merely a redistribution of matter and motion, that mechanical laws are sufficient to account for every phase of human life, including mental, moral and social phenomena, that at certain stages of organic evolution consciousness appears as a kind of by-product having no agency in the life drama itself, and that it is not necessary to take any account of it in explaining life, whether in its physiological, psychological or social aspects.
But now this disheartening philosophy is buffeted from every side, not more from the side of the psychologists and sociologists than from that of the biologists themselves. Grave doubts are cast upon the adequacy of natural selection to explain either the products or the direction of evolution, and it is now believed that there is some other determining factor which is spoken of now as consciousness, now as an initiatory psychic energy working towards definite ends, now as a vital impulse, a wellspring of progress or an original profound cosmic force. Whether consciousness itself be this original cosmic force, or whether, as some believe, it is a product of evolution, makes little difference in our problem, for human consciousness is here present in the world and it is a power which is changing not only the very face of the earth, but changing the direction of evolution itself. It would appear that consciousness has at this time reached a sort of adolescent or rapid growth stage in its development in which it has become conscious of its own powers, and this consciousness of itself increases tenfold its inherent force. We are, indeed, surrounded by mystery. Life is a puzzle and we may or may not be able to solve it. But we find ourselves possessed of a certain power to mould our fate and to mould to a high degree the forms of nature about us. The world is plastic to the human will. In the last century, Hegel sounded this true note of human conquest, obscured as was his message by a fanciful metaphysic. Heine had the same thought when he spoke of "liberating the imprisoned energies of the human spirit." More recently, a whole group of writers, like Ibsen, for instance, have proclaimed their belief in a glad trust in nature and in human instincts. In America, William James, in his remarkable essay on "The Energies of Men" has shown the almost unlimited powers of accomplishment possessed by the human mind and the human body. In France, Bergson is showing to eager hearers from every part of the world that nature is a vital, not a mechanical, process, and that creation is something which we experience in ourselves in the freedom of action. Politically we see the same spirit exhibited in the twentieth century movements for freedom in Turkey, Portugal, Persia, Mexico, and even in China, where new and more liberal forms of government have been gained or demanded.
We may, then, say that the present epoch represents the emergence of consciousness as a determining and self-conscious factor into the progress of evolution, able in some measure to direct the evolutionary movement itself to the advantage of mankind and able to an indefinite extent to mould the forces of nature to the same end.
The directions in which this powerful conscious force is operating to further human well being are threefold.
First, it improves our material environment by the control and management of natural forces. In this direction tremendous advance is now being made in the invention of new machinery, in the discovery and utilization of new forms of energy, in improved methods of agriculture, in renewing impoverished soils by bacterial agencies, in creating new plants bearing useful fruits, in reclaiming arid lands by great systems of irrigation, in facilitating transportation by digging great canals, in making the air as well as the land and water viable, and in many other familiar ways.
Second, it is attempting with apparent success to improve the human constitution, both physical and mental, by intelligent use of the forces both of heredity and of environment. For instance, both the cause and the cure of tuberculosis have been discovered and we have hopes of eliminating entirely this cruel disease. Other diseases which in former times devastated whole regions have been practically conquered, while still others are now in process of control. Mortality has been lessened and longevity definitely increased, so that the population of nearly every country has risen, even where the birth rate has remained stationary or declined. Furthermore, consciousness itself has been made a powerful instrument in directly enhancing human health and happiness in a group of movements of which the New Thought and Christian Science may be mentioned as examples. These movements have passed the experimental stage and are proving potent means in preventing and curing disease and promoting personal peace and harmony. Again, health leagues, committees on national vitality, scientific studies in nutrition, the warfare against insects and a host of such movements are all working towards increased happiness and increased health. But now it is proposed to go still farther in promoting human welfare by the direct application of the laws of heredity to the improvement of the race. Eugenics is the name of this new science and its aim is to teach us to be not merely well nourished and well nurtured, but also well born. Eugenics is defined by Galton as the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally. In eugenics we see consciousness arriving at sufficient maturity to control race culture. The possibilities of this new science are unlimited.
The third direction in which intelligence is working to further the welfare of man is in social and political relations. Here the advances are too many and too rapid for any one to catalogue. One might recall such gains as the abolition of slavery, religious toleration, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of opportunity, the limitation or abandonment of the death penalty, the humanizing of prisons, the restriction of child labor, and the substitution of wise charity and helpfulness for injurious almsgiving. The rights of labor are now recognized and the whole laboring class more justly remunerated and accorded a position of dignity and respect. The rights of the workingman, his welfare and his comfort are secured by workingmen's unions, protective insurance, factory laws, eight-hour laws, pure food laws, free schools, free public libraries and many other agencies, while the general spirit of social progress and social improvement is shown by lend-a-hand movements, worth-while movements, Christian Endeavor societies, civic art clubs, the conservation movement, movements for the promotion of civic righteousness, of the square deal, and of universal peace, neighborhood and social centers, social surveys, social settlements, and kindred efforts having in view the greater happiness of all the people. In the event of famine, earthquakes or disasters of any kind in any part of the world, abundant charity cheerfully given and economically administered is immediately forthcoming. Finally, we are seeing the beginning of the custom of distributing colossal private fortunes in establishing and maintaining free public libraries, great educational and humanitarian institutions, and institutions for medical research and scientific investigations.
In particular there are four aspects of modern life and society which are distinctly optimistic. First, the elimination of fear. Second, the advance in the position of woman. Third, the gradually lessening frequency of war and its possible abolition. Fourth, the agitation against alcohol.
So free are we from fear that we do not realize the bondage of men in former times to both supernatural and political tyranny. Virgil represents Æneas as pulling up a little bush and finding clots of blood clinging to the roots, whereupon his terror was so great that his hair stood on end and his voice stuck in his throat. Fear is the greatest source of human suffering. Until comparatively recent times nature has been something unknown and the unknown has been a source of constant terror. It is believed to be full of supernatural and possibly hostile agencies. Devils and demons and indignant deities, an angry and jealous God, possible future and retributive punishments, earthquakes, and eclipses, all have contributed to make the life of man miserable. This burden of woe has now been lifted. Another view of nature prevails. Man has cast off fear and finds himself master of nature and perhaps of all her forces, while in religion the gospel of love is casting out the dread monster of fear. But it is not alone fear of supernatural agencies that we have escaped, but also fear of political tyranny and of sudden political upheavals connected with despotic governments and social instability. Few of us appreciate the profound security that we now enjoy, security of life, property and reputation.
The wonderful advance in the domestic and social position of woman and her corresponding happiness sounds a strong optimistic note in the present. In Queen Elizabeth's time a married woman and all her possessions almost belonged to her husband, very much as did his horse. He could take away her property or her wages or even pound her with a stick. Gradually she has secured the right to her own property, to her own earnings, and to her own children, and is now rapidly gaining the right to hold office, the right to an equal voice in public affairs and the right to equality of industrial opportunity. Woman's suffrage, for instance, partial or complete, is a fact in large portions of the United States, in New Zealand, New South Wales, South and West Australia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and other countries.
Another ground of optimism is found in the decreasing frequency of war. The cruelty of war, the physical and mental suffering, and the immediate and remote social consequences, all together represent only a part of its ultimate evils. In his little book on "The Human Harvest," David Starr Jordan has shown how war in the past has operated to produce human degeneracy by removing the best and strongest men and leaving at home the sick and the maimed, the lazy and inefficient, the slaves and the commonest laborers to become the fathers of the next generation. Now the conditions are different. Even in the event of a war in this country, the conditions are such that no serious depopulation could happen and in Europe wars are already too far apart to have this effect. It is true that only a too sanguine optimism can see the immediate abolition of war, but it is equally beyond dispute that there are now powerful forces at work in the direction of universal peace.
Still another optimistic factor of the present is the crusade against alcohol. This is a determined and persistent opposition and in the end will eliminate its use. Hitherto the opposition has been largely sentimental and has been directed not so much against alcohol as against drunkenness. Recent studies in the psychology and physiology of alcohol lead us to believe that it is a race poison. It is the most deadly form of the downward or recalcitrant action of matter. So far back as history goes it has acted as-one of the most serious impeding forces to the upward progress of the human spirit. It is in spite of alcohol that progress has continued from century to century. It is impossible to estimate the damage it has done to the human race. Its elimination will be a far more difficult problem than the abolition of war. The psychological cause of the universal desire for alcohol lies deeper than has been supposed, and it is only when this cause is understood that successful headway will be made against it. But it is undoubtedly true that alcohol will have to go. The emergence of woman into political and social affairs will add new vigor to the opposition to it and psychological, physiological and sociological studies will solve the problem of method.
But, now, it may be said, while these optimistic views of life and society are most cheering and suggestive, still they are in a certain way superficial and particularly so as regards the economic outlook for the future. There are deep-lying causes at work, it may be said, which look towards human degeneracy rather than towards human uplift. Our present prosperity is due very largely, for one thing, to the fact that there have been ever to the westward rich unoccupied lands to relieve the congestion of our population and react as an invigorating influence upon our eastern civilizations. These lands are now nearly all occupied, and henceforth, remembering Malthus's doctrine of the increase of population and the law of diminishing returns in agriculture, we may look for trouble. In the United States, it may be said, our present flamboyant prosperity is due to the fact that we are reveling in the wasteful use of a by no means inexhaustible supply of bituminous and anthracite coal, petroleum, natural gas, timber and soil fertility. The end of all these rich supplies can not be far away. If we could perchance find a substitute for our coal and timber, yet there is no way of supplying the combined nitrogen necessary to renew our soil when the present sources are exhausted. Again, in other directions, it is said, the social forces put into operation by man are Lilliputian and a single convulsion of nature may overthrow them all. Take, for instance, our war against contagious diseases. When we have eliminated them, we have destroyed nature's social scavengers and she will take a terrible revenge. In former days, tuberculosis, typhus, typhoid fever and smallpox swept through the land, removing crowds of the unfit and those not immune to these diseases, leaving the sound, the hearty, and the immune to become the fathers and mothers of the next generation.
Perhaps the clearest statement of these views is found in an article on "Decadence and Civilization," by W. C. D. and Catherine D. Whetham in a recent number of The Hibbert Journal. These writers point out that in all our sympathetic care for the unfit we are sacrificing heredity to environment. "It is conceivable," they say, for instance, "that a wilderness of sanatoria may serve as easily to increase tubercular disease in the future as to diminish it in the present." As regards our warfare against alcohol, they continue, we are only laying up for ourselves future trouble. The races of southern Europe, where wine is abundant, have gradually become immune to alcohol, those families not able to use it moderately having perished, so that drunkenness, while formerly common in these countries, is now rare. Hence it is urged that, if by restrictive measures we make alcohol unattainable for the present, in the future a demoralizing wave of alcoholism will overcome all barriers, showing again that we are sacrificing heredity to present environment.
Again, still further and still worse, it is said, the emergence of woman into industrial and political life, while it will purify and ennoble society for the present, means race deterioration in the future. Say the same writers:
Apparently, for a time we can shift a great part of the burdens of the country on to women, who can undersell their husbands and brothers and we probably effect thereby a distinct temporary improvement in our own generation, for a woman of better education and character can always be secured for a lower rate of pay; but we are devouring our one essential form of life capital, female humanity and the process must end in disaster.
A man may be a hard worker in industrial or political fields and at the same time the father of a robust and numerous family. On the contrary; a woman's "essential function is motherhood," and participation in industrial or political activity invariably interferes with this function.
It is not a mere coincidence that the women whose names are best known and most distinguished for social, artistic and literary services were for the most part unmarried or childless, so that the special gifts which brought them fame died with them.
So much, then, for the voice of the pessimist. We must admit that there is force in these arguments and that some of the dangers referred to are real dangers, but the spirit of the new optimism affirms that all these difficulties as they arise will be successfully met by the unconquerable power of the human mind, as others have been met before. There may be, it is true, no more rich unoccupied lands to the westward, but scientific agriculture is showing that there are almost infinite unoccupied possibilities in the soil under our feet. Malthus's law of population is a mere bugbear and agricultural science is turning the law of diminishing returns into a law of increasing returns. As regards the exhaustion of our forests and mines and the impoverishment of our soil, the conservation movement is already here to protect them. Our forests may be renewed as they are in other countries and substitutes may be found for our coal which will be as superior to it as the electric light is superior to the old candle or lamp. Few will be sorry to see the passing of the coal with its dirt and its smoke. As regards the exhaustion of the combined nitrogen of our soils, science even now is learning how to imprison the free nitrogen of the air.
In an article by W J McGee in Science, October 6, 1911, on the "Prospective Population of the United States," we have a painstaking study of this subject, based on all kinds of data, including not only the observed decrease in human productivity, but also the relation of our natural resources to the increase of population. He finds the only real limitation of our natural resources to be in the water supply, and taking this fully into account, he estimates the population of the United States to be doubled in 1950, trebled in 1980, quadrupled in 2010, and so on to the year 2210, when we shall be supporting over eleven times our present population, or 1,017,000,000 people. His view is wholly optimistic, showing how movements already initiated are likely to overcome great apparent evils.
As regards the action of tuberculosis and other diseases of this class in purifying society by removing the unfit, it may be answered without hesitation that sanitary science can provide methods of purification far superior to these filthy diseases. An unsanitary medieval city might perhaps need dogs as scavengers. A well-kept modern city needs none such. So in regard to any possible racial deterioration as the result of the participation of mothers in industrial and political occupations, it is the business of society to consider just as much the conservation of human health and human vitality as the conservation of our forests and our soils. It is by no means impossible that society in the future will find means of preventing the production of the unfit and providing for the production of the best. The present movement in advancing the position of woman may go farther than equality of rights. It may give to the future mothers of the nation superior rights and superior privileges. The notion, however, that work and motherhood are incompatible has no foundation in experience. . Small families and weak children are more often found among the idle and luxurious than among the workers.
The fact is that pessimism finds its explanation not in objective, but in subjective conditions. The psychological grounds of pessimism are not obscure. It springs usually from one of three sources. The first of these is lowered vitality. Optimism is the natural and necessary accompaniment of health. It flows from it as naturally as light from the sun. It is just the mental reflex of that normal physical activity which belongs to the healthy body. Pessimism is the mental reflex of disturbed function, sometimes of the nerves, commonly of the liver or kidneys.
Then, secondly, pessimism comes in part from the over-seriousness and over-sensitiveness of the age, the incidental accompaniment of what we have called the adolescent stage in the development of human consciousness. The childhood of the race has past. We have become self-conscious, reflective, conscientious, a little careworn. The boyish, rollicking, happy-go-lucky abandon and exuberance of spirit exhibited in the writings of Shakespeare's times are absent now. In those days social conditions were relatively bad and comforts few, yet they did not care so much. They did not take life too seriously. They ate, drank, laughed, and died when their time came. Now we worry more. Writers like Tolstoi take life very seriously. Conditions in Russia are no doubt bad, but they are not worse than they have been and they are not sufficiently bad to fill a man's soul with such bottomless gloom as they did the soul of Tolstoi. His was an extreme case of the oversensitiveness and over-conscientiousness of the age. He was unhappy because he had bread when others hungered, a condition which in former times has usually been the occasion of rejoicing. Our own sins and the sins of our legislators, our political leaders, and our masters of capital lie like an incubus on our spirits.
Thus we have already anticipated the third ground of pessimism. It is that we compare our present condition not with the past but with the ideal future, or rather with an ideal state which consciousness itself creates. Our physical condition, could it have been foreseen by Francis Bacon, would have seemed a veritable paradise. But we are not happy. Our workmen have better wages and fewer hardships than ever workmen had before, yet they are not satisfied. The New Atlantis is ever in the future. Thus, we come back to the position already indicated, that human consciousness is a wellspring of progress. It creates ideals and it is with these ideals that we compare our present attainments and pronounce them imperfect. This is what makes progress possible. It is the eternal unrest, the eternal aspiration of the human mind, which is never satisfied with the good, but urges us ever forward to something better.
We often hear reference made to "political unrest," as if it were some inherent social defect, a mere petulant, purposeless fault finding. But it is not a defect. It is the voice of progress proclaiming its discontent with the present and demanding improvement; not an idle but a rational discontent, recognizing the real evils of the times and perceiving more or less clearly the direction of the upward way. What, therefore, appears as pessimism is really the ground of the highest optimism. There is no static happiness, no happiness of mere content and satisfaction. What we require is growth, movement, struggle, aspiration, conquest.