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rid of, will materialism have the world to itself. And then the world will not be worth having?
Let me conclude by entirely dissenting from words of Professor Huxley, which I have already quoted in this lecture. His assertion that “it is utterly impossible to prove that anything whatever may not be the effect of a material and necessary cause,” is an arbitrary and unphilosophical dogma which need not, however, disquiet us, since up to the present hour no single fact of order, life, mind, morality, or religion, has been proved to be the effect of a material cause. His assertion that human logic is incompetent to show that any act is really spontaneous has no other ground than his strange misconception of what is meant by a spontaneous act,—than the fancy that “a really spontaneous act is one which, by the assumption, has no cause.” His assertion that “any one who is acquainted with the history of science will admit that its progress has, in all ages, meant, and now more than ever means, the extension of the province of what we call matter and causation, and the concomitant gradual banishment from all regions of human thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity,” only proves that he is more a follower of Comte than he is himself aware of, and has incautiously adopted one of that author's most superficial and erroneous generalisations. His prophecy as to the future would have been differ
1 See Appendix XIX.
ent if he had studied the past more thoroughly and independently, although, perhaps, the wisest course would have been not to prophesy at all. He has erred in thinking that it is the progress of materialism which alarms its opponents; it is its spread-a very different thing—which alarms them; its rapid diffusion when it is making no real progress; the humiliating fact that so many not uneducated persons are thoughtless enough to believe its proud and empty promises, although there are no achievements to justify them. He tells us that “many of the best minds of these days watch what they conceive to be the progress of materialism, in such fear and powerless anger as a savage feels when, during an eclipse, the great shadow creeps over the face of the sun." I thought that during an eclipse it was over the face of the earth that the great shadow crept; but that is of no consequence. This is, that, although where the shadow of materialism creeps there may be many to believe that there is no sun, the sun is by no means affected either by the shadow or by the foolish unbelief which accompanies it, but remains where and what it was, and when the shadow is past will be seen to be bright, beneficent, mighty, and terrible as ever. They who believe so cannot crouch and tremble before a shadow, whatever those may do who believe that the shadow is more than a shadow,—that it is greater than the sun, that it will be eternal.
POSITIVISM is to be the subject of the present lecture. It is a doctrine which is closely related both in history and character to scepticism on the one hand, and to materialism on the other. It owes its existence to the partly concurrent and partly counteractive operation of these two theories. It is a link between them; a cross or hybrid in which their respective qualities are combined, although incapable of being truly harmonised.
The term positivism has been objected to both on philological and logical grounds, but any faults it may have are not of a seriously dangerous kind, and it is my wish to avoid all controversies merely or mainly verbal. It was not, perhaps, a term greatly needed, and it may not be the best which could have been devised; but now that it has been invented and so widely accepted and em. ployed, it cannot be got rid of, and we must be content simply to guard against its being applied in ways calculated to create or foster prejudice. It was put in circulation by M. Auguste Comte, a man of remarkable intellectual power, but also of immoderate intellectual self-conceit and arrogance. He was born in 1798, and died in 1857. There is an able biography of him by the late M. Littré; and there are a multitude of sketches of his life, executed with different degrees of care and skill. His voluminous writings have been translated into our language by a few of his English disciples with self-denying zeal, and in a manner which leaves nothing to be desired.
M. Comte has no valid claim to be considered the originator of the theory to which he gave a new name and a vigorous impulse. It was taught in all its essential principles by Protagoras and others in Greece more than four hundred years before the Christian era. Positivism is the phenomenalism of the Greek sophists revived and adapted to the demands of the present age. Hume and Kant and Saint Simon were positivists before the appearance of positivism. It is scarcely possible to find in Comte's writings an original view—except on the subject of scientific method — which is generally accepted by
those who are called his disciples. He formed, indeed, a great many original notions,—notions his own by right of paternity or creation,—but these children of his brain few even of his warm admirers have felt inclined to adopt. They are the mere vagaries of an individual mind, and must be left out of account by those who are judging of the general doctrine of positivism. But although all the chief ideas of Comte had been clearly and repeatedly enunciated by earlier thinkers, he had great strength and skill in systematising doctrines and elaborately applying principles, and his influence has been both extensive and intense.
The Positivism which he taught, taken as a whole, is at once a philosophy, a polity, and a religion. It professes to systematise all scientific knowledge, to organise all industrial and social activities, and to satisfy all spiritual aspirations and affections. It undertakes to explain the past, to exhibit the good and evil, strength and weakness, of the present, and to forecast the future; to assign to every science, every large scientific generalisation, every principle and function of human nature, and every great social force, its appropriate place; to construct a system of thought inclusive of all well-established truths, and to delineate a scheme of political and religious life in which