Modes of Thought

Lecture One: Importance

Alfred North Whitehead

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THE FIRST CHAPTER in philosophic approach should consist in a free examination of some ultimate notions, as they occur naturally in daily life. I am referring to the generalities which are inherent in literature, in social organization, in the effort towards understanding physical occurrences.

There are no definitions of such notions. They are incapable of analysis in terms of factors more far-reaching than themselves. Each must be displayed as necessary to the various meanings of groups of notions, of equal depth with itself. In discussion of such a group any one of its members might, with slight adjustment of language, have been chosen as the central figure. In this lecture the notion of 'Importance' has been taken as central, so that the discussion of a variety of topics comes back, time and again, to this idea.

In this whole set of lectures my aim is to examine some of those general characterizations of


( 2) our experience which are presupposed in the directed activities of mankind. There will be no attempt to frame a systematic philosophy. Such a goal is too ambitious for a short course. All systematic thought must start from presuppositions. Also, as mentioned above—the discussion will incidentally employ more basic notions than are expressed in its explicit aim. The verbal expositions of such data must be trimmed, and dressed, and put in order, during any process of systematization.

In all systematic thought, there is a tinge of pedantry. There is a putting aside of notions, of experiences, and of suggestions, with the prim excuse that of course we are not thinking of such things. System is important. It is necessary for the handling, for the utilization, and for the criticism of the thoughts which throng into our experience.

But before the work of systematization commences, there is a previous task—a very necessary task if we are to avoid the narrownesses inherent in all finite systems. Today, even Logic itself is struggling with the discovery embodied in a formal proof, that every finite set of premises must indicate notions which are excluded from its direct purview. Philosophy can exclude nothing. Thus it should never start from systematization. Its primary stage can be termed 'assemblage'.


( 3)

Such a process is, of course, unending. All that can be achieved is the emphasis on a few large-scale notions, together with attention to the variety of other ideas which arise in the display of those chosen for primary emphasis. Systematic philosophy is a subject of study for specialists. On the other hand, the philosophic process of assemblage should have received some attention from every educated mind, in its escape from its own specialism.

In Western Literature there are four great thinkers, whose services to civilized thought rest largely upon their achievements in philosophical assemblage; though each of them made important contributions to the structure of philosophic system. These men are Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, and William James.

Plato grasped the importance of mathematical system; but his chief fame rests upon the wealth of profound suggestions scattered throughout his dialogues, suggestions half smothered by the archaic misconceptions of the age in which he lived. Aristotle systematized as he assembled. He inherited from Plato, imposing his own systematic structures.

Leibniz inherited two thousand years of thought. He really did inherit more of the varied thoughts of his predecessors than any man before or since. His interests ranged from mathematics


( 4) to divinity, and from divinity to political philosophy, and from political philosophy to physical science. These interests were backed by profound learning. There is a book to be written, and its title should be, 'The Mind of Leibniz'.

Finally, there is William James, essentially a modern man. His mind was adequately based upon the learning of the past. But the essence of his greatness was his marvellous sensitivity to the ideas of the present. He knew the world in which he lived, by travel, by personal relations with its leading men, by the variety of his own studies. He systematized; but above all he assembled. His intellectual life was one protest against the dismissal of experience in the interest of system. He had discovered intuitively the great truth with which modern logic is now wrestling.

This prefatory discussion has been concerned with the two aspects of philosophy. Systematization is the criticism of generality by methods derived from the specialism of science. It presupposes a closed group of primary ideas. In another aspect philosophy is the entertainment of notions of large, adequate generality. Such a habit of mind is the very essence of civilization. It is civilization. The hermit thrush and the nightingale can produce sound of the utmost beauty. But they are not civilized beings. They lack ideas of adequate generality respecting their own ac-


( 5) -tions and the world around them. Without doubt the higher animals entertain notions, hopes, and fears. And yet they lack civilization by reason of the deficient generality of their mental functionings. Their love, their devotion, their beauty of performance, rightly claim our love and our tenderness in return. Civilization is more than all these; and in moral worth it can be less than all these. Civilized beings are those who survey the world with some large generality of understanding.

2. There are two contrasted ideas which seem inevitably to underlie all width of experience, one of them is the notion of importance, the sense of importance, the presupposition of importance. The other is the notion of matter-of-fact. There is no escape from sheer matter-of-fact. It is the basis of importance; and importance is important because of the inescapable character of matter-of-fact. We concentrate by reason of a sense of importance. And when we concentrate, we attend to matter-of-fact. Those people who in a hard-headed way confine their attention to matter-of-fact do so by reason of their sense of the importance of such an attitude. The two notions are antithetical, and require each other.

One characteristic of the primary mode of conscious experience is its fusion of a large generality with an insistent particularity. There


( 6) is a lack of precise analysis in the characterization of the particularities of experience. It is not true that the characterization of individual experience by qualitative notions commences with any detailed analysis of such quality. The basis of our primary consciousness of quality is a large generality. For example, characteristic modes of thought, as we first recall ourselves to civilized experience, are—'This is important', 'That is difficult', 'This is lovely'.

In such ways of thinking there is an insistent particularity, symbolized above by the words 'This' and 'That'; and there is a large, vague characterization indicative of some form of excitement arising from the particular fact in the world without. This vagueness is the despair of cultivated people. For the generality, when stated, is too obvious to be worth mentioning. And yet it is always there, just on the edge of consciousness. But good literature avoids the large philosophic generality which the quality exhibits. It fastens upon the accidental precision which inevitably clothes the qualitative generality. Literature is a curious mixture of tacitly presupposing analysis, and conversely of returning to emphasize explicitly the fundamental emotional importance of our na´ve general intuitions.

Language is always relapsing into the generality of this intermediate stage between animal habit


( 7) and learned precision. It is always degenerating into philosophic generality, under the guise of words capable of more precise use. Such a lapse is uneducated, because it expresses the obvious. And yet, it is philosophic; because the obvious embodies the permanent importance of variable detail. Literary people object to the vague use of words which are capable of precision.

For example, Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria, objects to a party of tourists who gazed at a torrent and ejaculated 'How pretty!' as a vague characterization of an awe-inspiring spectacle. Undoubtedly, in this instance, the degenerate phrase 'How pretty!' lets down the whole vividness of the scene. And yet there is a real difficulty in the way of verbal expression. Words, in general, indicate useful particularities. How can they be employed to evoke a sense of that general character on which all importance depends? It is one function of great literature to evoke a vivid feeling of what lies beyond words.

3. Unfortunately for philosophy, learning tends to detail. Although in attempting to grasp our fundamental presuppositions, such as the contrast between 'importance' and 'matter-of-fact', we must undoubtedly have recourse to the learning which we inherit; yet in the development of intelligence there is a great principle which is often forgotten. In order to acquire


( 8) learning, we must first shake ourselves free of it. We must grasp the topic in the rough, before we smooth it out and shape it. For example, the mentality of John Stuart Mill was limited by his peculiar education which gave him system before any enjoyment of the relevant experience. Thus his systems were closed. We must be systematic; but we should keep our systems open. In other words, we should be sensitive to their limitations. There is always a vague 'beyond', waiting for penetration in respect to its detail.

The general notions which underlie the. de-tailed thoughts of the modern Western civilizations of Europe and America are largely derived from the expressions of fundamental ideas bequeathed to us by the ancient world of Greeks, Semites, and Egyptians. All three sources emphasize the matter-of-fact world around us. But their emphasis of importance, as we have inherited from them, differs. From the Greeks our inheritance has been primarily aesthetic and logical; from the Semites it has been moral and religious; from the Egyptians it has been practical. The Greeks bequeathed enjoyment, the Semites worship, the Egyptians practical observation.

But this inheritance from the civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean has its special forms. Our notion of 'Importance' as a general factor in the universe has been restricted to these forms.


( 9) It is the first task of modern philosophy to conceive of Importance and Matter-of-fact in some disengagement from the mentalities of the ancient world.

Matter-of-fact is the notion of mere existence. But when we seek to grasp this notion, it distinguishes itself into the subordinate notions of various types of existence—for example, fanciful or actual existences, and many other types. Thus the notion of existence involves the notion of an environment of existences and of types of existences. Any one instance of existence involves the notion of other existences, connected with it and yet beyond it. This notion of the environment introduces the notion of 'more and less', and of multiplicity.

The notion of 'importance' also refers to grades of importance and types of importance. Here again we reach the notion of 'more and less'. Also something has to be 'important'. There is no importance in a vacuum. Thus 'importance' leads us back to matter-of-fact. But the multiplicity of matter-of-fact requires for a finite intellect selection in dealing with it. Now 'selection' requires the notion of 'this rather than that'. Thus intellectual freedom issues from selection, and selection requires the notion of relative importance in order to give it meaning. Thus 'importance', 'selection', and 'intellectual freedom'


( 10) are bound up together, and they all involve some reference to matter-of-fact.

We have now been brought back to matter-of-fact. Let us again consider it for a while. The environment surpasses us in every physical dimension. Thus matter-of-fact is tinged with the notion of a compulsive determinism. The earth rotates; and we move with it, experiencing the routine of day and night as a prime necessity in our lives. The first Roman to mention the report of the midnight sun disbelieved it. He was an educated man well aware of the necessities of nature. In this way, the necessities of nature can be exaggerated. But all the same, in some sense or other they are there. In the same way, the freedom presupposed in the notion of selection is there, in some sense or other. Here we find an example of the value of a systematic philosophy. For we have either to explain the diverse senses in which freedom and necessity can coexist, or we have to explain away one or other of the most obvious presuppositions of our daily thoughts.

4. Let us set these two topics of matter-of-fact and of 'importance' in another light.

The notion of mere matter-of-fact is the emergence into thought of the habit of mere existence to coordinate itself with the necessities of external activity. It is the recognition of the goings-on of nature in which we, and all things


( 11) of all types, are immersed. It has its origin in the thought of ourselves as process immersed in process beyond ourselves. This grasp of factuality is one extreme of thought. Namely, it is the concept of mere agitation of things agitated.

This is the ideal of physical science, and it is the hidden ideal of those who insist upon the exclusive importance of objectivity.

The notion of 'Importance' is equally dominant in civilized thought. It can be inadequately defined as 'Interest, involving that intensity of individual feeling which leads to publicity of expression'. We are here trenching upon the topic of the next lecture. The definition is inadequate because there are two aspects to Importance; one based on the unity of the Universe, the other on the individuality of the details. The word 'Interest' suggests the latter aspect; the word 'Importance' leans towards the former. In some sense or other interest always modifies expression. Thus, for the sake of reminding ourselves of this aspect of 'Importance', the word 'Interest' will occasionally be used as a synonym. But 'Importance' is a fundamental notion not to be fully explained by any reference to a finite number of other factors.

As an explicit thought it is somewhat at odds with the concept of 'Fact'. A sound technological procedure is to analyse the facts in disre-


( 12) -gard of any subjective judgment as to their relative interest. And yet the notion of importance is like nature itself: Expel it with a pitch-fork, and it ever returns. The most ardent upholders of objectivity in scientific thought insist upon its importance. In truth, 'to uphold a doctrine' is itself such an insistence. Apart from a feeling of interest, you would merely notice the doctrine and not uphold it. The zeal for truth presupposes interest. Also sustained observation presupposes the notion. For concentrated attention means disregard of irrelevancies; and such disregard can only be sustained by some sense of importance.

Thus the sense of importance (or interest) is embedded in the very being of animal experience. As it sinks in dominance, experience trivializes and verges towards nothingness.

5. The notion of a mere fact is the triumph of the abstractive intellect. It has entered into the explicit thought of no baby and of no animal. Babies and animals are concerned with their wants as projected against the general environment. That is to say, they are immersed in their interest respecting details embedded in externality. There is the merest trace of the abstraction of the detail. A single fact in isolation is the primary myth required for finite thought, that is to say, for thought unable to embrace totality.

This mythological character arises because


( 13) there is no such fact. Connectedness is of the essence of all things of all types. It is of the essence of types, that they be connected. Abstraction from connectedness involves the omission of an essential factor in the fact considered. No fact is merely itself. The penetration of literature and art at their height arises from our dumb sense that we have passed beyond mythology; namely, beyond the myth of isolation.

It follows that in every consideration of a single fact there is the suppressed presupposition of the environmental co÷rdination requisite for its existence. This environment, thus co÷rdinated, is the whole universe in its perspective to the fact. But perspective is gradation of relevance; that is to say, it is gradation of importance. Feeling is the agent which reduces the universe to its perspective for fact. Apart from gradations of feeling, the infinitude of detail produces an infinitude of effect in the constitution of each fact. And that is all that is to be said, when we omit feeling. But we feel differently about these effects and thus reduce them to a perspective. 'To be negligible' means 'to be negligible for some co÷rdination of feeling'. Thus perspective is the outcome of feeling; and feeling is graded by the sense of interest as to the variety of its differentiations.

In this way the finite intellect deals with the myth of finite facts. There can be no objection


( 14) to this procedure, provided that we remember what we are doing. We are presupposing an environment which, in its totality, we are unable to define. For example, science is always wrong, so far as it neglects this limitation. The conjunction of premises, from which logic proceeds, presupposes that no difficulty will arise from the conjunction of the various unexpressed presuppositions involved in these premises. Both in science and in logic you have only to develop your argument sufficiently, and sooner or later you are bound to arrive at a contradiction, either internally within the argument, or externally in its reference to fact.

Judging from the history of European science, about three or four thousand years of continuous thought by a sufficient number of able people suffice to uncover some contradiction latent in any logical train of thought. As to physical science, the unguarded Newtonian doctrines survived for three hundred years. The span of life for modern scientific schemes is about thirty years. The father of European philosophy, in one of his many moods of thought, laid down the axiom that the deeper truths must be adumbrated by myths. Surely, the subsequent history of Western thought has amply justified his fleeting intuition.

It is to be noticed that none of these logical or


( 15) scientific myths is wrong, in an unqualified sense of that term. It is unguarded. Its truth is limited by unexpressed presuppositions; and as time goes on we discover some of these limitations. The simple-minded use of the notions 'right or wrong' is one of the chief obstacles to the progress of understanding.

6. Thus one characterization of importance is that it is that aspect of feeling whereby a perspective is imposed upon the universe of things felt. In our more self-conscious entertainment of the notion, we are aware of grading the effectiveness of things about us in proportion to their interest. In this way, we put aside, and we direct attention, and we perform necessary functions without bestowing the emphasis of conscious attention. The two notions of importance and of perspective are closely intertwined.

We may well ask whether the doctrine of perspective is not an endeavour to reduce the concept of importance to mere matter-of-fact devoid of intrinsic interest. Of course such reduction is impossible. But it is true to say that perspective is the dead abstraction of mere fact from the living importance of things felt. The concrete truth is the variation of interest; the abstraction is the universe in perspective; the consequent science is the scheme of physical laws which, with unexpressed presuppositions, expresses the pat-


( 16) -terns of perspective as observed by average human beings.

Importance is a generic notion which has been obscured by the overwhelming prominence of a few of its innumerable species. The terms 'morality', 'logic', 'religion', 'art', have each of them been claimed as exhausting the whole meaning of importance. Each of them denotes a subordinate species. But the genus stretches beyond any finite group of species. There are perspectives of the universe to which morality is irrelevant, to which logic is irrelevant, to which religion is irrelevant, to which art is irrelevant. By this false limitation the activity expressing the ultimate aim infused into the process of nature has been trivialized into the guardianship of mores, or of rules of thought, or of mystic sentiment, or of aesthetic enjoyment. No one of these specializations exhausts the final unity of purpose in the world. The generic aim of process is the attainment of importance, in that species and to that extent which in that instance is possible.

Of course the word 'importance', as in common use, has been reduced to suggest a silly little pomposity which is the extreme of trivialization of its meaning here. This is a permanent difficulty of philosophic discussion; namely, that words must be stretched beyond their common meanings in the market-place. But notwithstanding


( 17) this difficulty, philosophy must found itself upon the presuppositions and the interpretations of ordinary life. In our first approach to philosophy, learning should be banished. We should appeal to the simple-minded notions issuing from ordinary civilized social relations.

I will illustrate this doctrine by an anecdote of an incident which illustrated to me the possible irrelevance of moral considerations. About eleven years ago, a young friend of mine reached her tenth birthday. I will not guarantee the precise accuracy of these figures. Anyhow the young woman is now twenty-one and our friendship is still flourishing. The child's great-aunt celebrated the day by taking her to an afternoon performance of the opera Carmen, rendered in English. Also, she was allowed to select two companions for the treat. She chose another little girl and —I am proud to say—myself. As we came out of the opera-house after the performance, she looked up at her aunt and said—'Auntie, do you think that those were really good people?' Both the aunt and I side-stepped the question by looking for the car which was to take us home.

The point that I now wish to make is that our enjoyment in the theatre was irrelevant to moral considerations applied to the performance. Of course smugglers are naughty people,


( 18) and Carmen is carefree as to niceties of behaviour. But while they are singing their parts and dancing on the stage, morals vanish and beauty remains.

I am not saying that moral considerations are always irrelevant to the stage. In fact, sometimes they are the very topic of the play, especially of modern plays. But the retreat of morals in the presence of music, and of dancing, and the general gaiety of the theatre, is a fact very interesting to philosophers and very puzzling to the official censors.

7. The point is that moral codes are relevant to presuppositions respecting the systematic character of the relevant universe. When the presuppositions do not apply, that special code is a vacuous statement of abstract irrelevancies. We evade this difficulty as to codes by retaining their language with alterations of meaning introduced by the social changes within centuries and millennia. Also the inevitable imperfections of translation help in effecting the evasion. The translation has always to make sense in the epoch of the translators. The notion of the unqualified stability of particular laws of nature and of particular moral codes is a primary illusion which has vitiated much philosophy.

For example, consider the application of our moral notions concerning family relations to


( 19) beings such as fish, who produce hundreds, nay thousands, of eggs in one year.

This conclusion as to moral codes must not be extended to involve the negation of any meaning to the term 'morality'. In the same way, the notion of legality of behaviour within a state evades the possibility of complete codification. The legal profession can never be superseded by automata.

Morality consists in the control of process so as to maximize importance. It is the aim at greatness of experience in the various dimensions belonging to it. This notion of the dimensions of experience, and of its importance in each dimension and of its final unity of importance, is difficult and hard to understand.

But only so far as we can adumbrate it, do we grasp the notion of morality. Morality is always the aim at that union of harmony, intensity, and vividness which involves the perfection of importance for that occasion. The codifications carry us beyond our own direct immediate insights. They involve the usual judgments valid for the usual occasions in that epoch. They are useful, and indeed essential, for civilization. But we only weaken their influence by exaggerating their status.

For example, consider the ten commandments. Can we really hold that a rest day once in seven


( 20) days, as distinct from once in six or eight days, is an ultimate moral law of the universe? Can we really think that no work whatever can be done on Sundays? Can we really think that the division of time into days is an absolute factor in the nature of all existence? Evidently, the commandments are to be construed with common sense. In other words, they are formulations of behaviours which in ordinary circumstances, apart from very special reasons, it is better to adopt.

There is no one behaviour-system belonging to the essential character of the universe, as the universal moral ideal. What is universal is the spirit which should permeate any behaviour-system in the circumstances of its adoption. Thus morality does not indicate what you are to do in mythological abstractions. It does concern the general ideal which should be the justification for any particular objective. The destruction of a man, or of an insect, or of a tree, or of the Parthenon, may be moral or immoral. The ten commandments tell us that in the vast majority of cases such slaughter is better avoided. In these exceptional instances we avoid the term 'murder'. Whether we destroy, or whether we preserve, our action is moral if we have thereby safe-guarded the importance of experience so far as it depends on that concrete instance in the world's history.


( 21)

8. Great advances in thought are often the result of fortunate errors. These errors are the result of oversimplification. The advance is due to the fact that, for the moment, the excess is not relevant to the use of the simplified notions. One of the chief examples of this truth is Aristotle's analysis into genus, and species, and sub-species. It was one of the happiest ideas possible, and it has clarified thinking ever since. Plato's doctrine of 'division' was an anticipation, vague and hazy. He felt its value. It did not do much good, by reason of its lack of decisive clarity. Among sensible people, Aristotle's mode of analysis has been an essential feature in intellectual progress for two thousand years.

Of course, Plato was right and Aristotle was wrong. There is no clear division among genera; there is no clear division among species; there are no clear divisions anywhere. That is to say, there are no clear divisions when you push your observations beyond the presuppositions on which they rest. It so happens, however, that we always think within limitations.

As a practical question, Aristotle was right and Plato was muddled. But, what neither Aristotle nor Plato adequately conceived was the necessity for investigation of the peculiar characterization of that sense of importance which is current in the thought of each age. All classi-


( 22) -fication depends on the current character of importance.

We have now behind us some detailed history of three or four thousand years of civilization. The Greeks (as Thucydides discloses) were ignorant of history, except for that of two or three almost contemporaneous generations. The Egyptians and the Jews worshipped a long history, uncritically. The Greeks would have criticized history, if they had known anything about it; the Jews would have criticized history, if they had not worshipped its records; the Egyptians would have criticized history, if they had not been sensible men who confined themselves to 'pure history'. By the same exercise of good sense, the Egyptians failed to generalize their geometrical knowledge, and thus lost their chance to become the founders of modern civilization. An excess of common sense has its disadvantages. The Greeks, with their airy generalizations, were always children—very fortunately for the modern world. Panic of error is the death of progress; and love of truth is its safeguard.

9. For these reasons, the criticism of history has been left for development by the modern world of the last four centuries. Of course there is no sudden beginning. Anticipations of such criticism can always be found in the older liter-


( 23) -ature. Yet it remains true that modern thought is remarkable for its concentration of attention upon history. This criticism has itself passed through phases.

The first emphasis was upon the authenticity of the record. Such questions as, Did Plato write this dialogue?, Did the Emperor Constantine make this donation?, were the primary topics. This phase of correction passed to details. It was then called 'emendation'. Is this manuscript of the Aeneid a correct version of what Virgil wrote? This is a fairly definite question. But the relation of Homer to the Iliad is vaguer. Perhaps Homer and his comrades could not write. Even if they could write, they were very unlikely to have written down the Iliad. Papyrus was scarce, and it was easier to remember it. Thus the poem was handed down through generations of groups of bards with a sublime indifference to minor variations. Later we have records of formal revisions of the text. Analogous vagueness applies to the concepts of all social transactions. Thus the notion of accurate record has its limitations.

History has now passed into another phase. It is displaying transitions of behaviour. The Western historian is depicting types of activity, types of mood, and types of formulated belief, exhibited in the adventures of the European


( 24) races as they overran first Europe, then America, and the fringes of other continents and islands. This change in emphasis showed itself decidedly in the eighteenth century.

For example, Bentley, the typical scholarly critic, died in 1742; and Gibbon, who traced the decline and fall of a political system, and the variations of motive animating its activity, was born in 1737. Gibbon corrected no editions of authors, and Bentley depicted no transitions of behaviour. In Europe, the change may be symbolized by Mabillon, who died in 1707, and Voltaire, who was born in 1694. Of course historical phases overlap each other. I am speaking of predominant interest. In the earlier period, even the discursive humanist, Erasmus, issued accurate editions; in the nineteenth century historical narrative was more prominent than devotion to editorial accuracy. Of course there were reasons for the change, and all the types of historic scholarship co-exist.

Under the influence of physical science, the task of history has more recently been limited to the narration of mere sequences. This ideal of knowledge is the triumph of matter-of-fact. Such suggestion of causation, as is admitted, is confined to the statements of physical materialities, such as the economic motive.

Such history confines itself to abstract my-


( 25) -thology. The variety of motives is excluded. You cannot write the history of religious development without estimate of the motive-power of religious belief. The history of the Papacy is not a mere sequence of behaviours. It illustrates a mode of causation, which is derived from a mode of thought.

Thus the study of history as mere sequence wears itself out. It is a make-belief. There are oceans of facts. We seek that thread of co-ordination derived from the special forms of importance prevalent in the respective epochs. Apart from such interests, intrinsic within each period, there would be no language, no art, no heroism, no devotion. Ideals lie beyond matter-of-fact, and yet provide the colour of its development.

10. Matter-of-fact is an abstraction, arrived at by confining thought to purely formal relations which then masquerade as the final reality. This is why science, in its perfection, relapses into the study of differential equations. The concrete world has slipped through the meshes of the scientific net.

Consider, for example, the scientific notion of measurement. Can we elucidate the turmoil of Europe by weighing its dictators, its prime ministers, and its editors of newspapers? The idea is absurd, although some relevant information


( 26) might be obtained. I am not upholding the irrelevance of science. Such a doctrine would be foolish. For example, a daily record of the bodily temperatures of the men, above mentioned, might be useful. My point is the incompleteness of the information.

Each social system is realizing a variety of modes of interest, some of them dominant, and some in the background. The eighteenth century was not merely the age of reason, nor was the sixteenth century merely the age of religious excitement. For example, to study the Reformation turmoil without reference to America, and to India, and to the Turks, and to the rise of nationalism, and to the recent diffusion of printing, is ridiculous. The relevance of these factors consists in their modifications of prevalent modes of importance, which interfused with the religious interest.

The chequered history of religion and morality is the main reason for the widespread desire to put them aside in favour of the more stable generalities of science. Unfortunately for this smug endeavour to view the universe as the incarnation of the commonplace, the impact of aesthetic, religious and moral notions is inescapable. They are the disrupting and the energizing forces of civilization. They force mankind upwards and downwards. When their


( 27) vigour abates, a slow mild decay ensues. Then new ideals arise, bringing in their train a rise in the energy of social behaviour.

The concentration of attention upon matter-of-fact is the supremacy of the desert. Any approach to such triumph bestows on learning 'a fugitive, and a cloistered virtue', which shuns emphasis on essential connections such as disclose the universe in its impact upon individual experience.

Notes

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