« PreviousContinue »
the mud, and to pick up the truths that are being trampled into it, by a headstrong and uneducated generation.
With what success I have done this, it is not for me to judge. But though I cannot be confident of the value of what I have done, I am confident enough of the value of what I have tried to do. From a literary point of view many faults may be found with me. There may be faults. yet deeper, to which possibly I shall have to plead guilty. I may-I cannot tell—have unduly emphasized some points, and not put enough emphasis on others. I may be convicted—nothing is more likely—of many verbal inconsistencies. But let the arguments I have done my best to embody be taken as a whole, and they have a vitality that does not depend upon me; nor can they be proved false, because my ignorance or weakness may here or there have associated them with, or illustrated them by, a falsehood. I am not myself conscious of any such falsehoods in my book ; but if such are pointed out to me, I shall do my best to correct them. If what I have done prove not worth correction, others coming after me will be preferred before me, and are sure before long to address themselves successfully to the same task in which I perhaps have failed. What indeed can we each of us look for but a large measure of failure, especially when we are moving not with the tide but against it—when the things we wrestle with are principalities and powers, and spiritual stupidity in high places—and when we are ourselves partly weakened by the very influences against which we are struggling?
But this is not all. There is in the way another difficulty. Writing as the well-wishers of truth and goodness,
we find, as the world now stands, that our chief foes are they of our own household. The insolence, the ignorance, and the stupidity of the age has embodied itself, and found its mouthpiece, in men who are personally the negations of all that they represent theoretically. We have men who in private are full of the most gracious modesty: representing in their philosophies the most ludicrous arrogance; we have men who practise every virtue themselves proclaiming the principles of every vice to others; we have men who have mastered many kinds of knowledge acting on the world only as embodiments of the completest and most pernicious ignorance. I have had occasion to deal continually with certain of these by name. With the exception of one-who has died prematurely, whilst this book was in the press—those I have named oftenest are still living. Many of them probably are known to you personally, though none of them are so known to me: and you will appreciate the sort of difficulty I have felt better than I can express it. I can only hope that as the falsehood of their arguments cannot blind any of us to their personal merits, so no intellectual demerits in my case will be prejudicial to the truth of my arguments.
To me the strange thing is that such arguments should have to be used at all; and perhaps a thing stranger still that it should fall, to me to use them—to me, an outsider in philosophy, in literature, and in theology. But the justification of my speaking is that there is any opening for me to speak; and others must be blamed, not I, if
'the lyre so long divine Degenerates into hands like mine."
At any rate, however all this may be, what I here in. scribe to you, my friend and teacher, I am confident is not unworthy of you. It is not what I have done; it is what I have tried to do. As such I beg you to accept it, and to believe me still, though now so seldom near you,
In this book the words "positive," "positivist" and "positivism" are of constant occurrence as applied to modern thought and thinkers. To avoid any chance of confusion or misconception, it will be well to say that these words as used by me have no special reference to the system of Comte or his disciples, but are applied to the common views and position of the whole scientific school, one of the most eminent members of which I mean Professor Huxley—has been the most trenchant and contemptuous critic that “positivism” in its narrower sense has met with. Over “positivism” in this sense Professor Huxley and Mr. Frederic Harrison have had some public battles. Positivism in the sense in which it is used by me, applies to the principles as to which the above writers explicitly agree, not to those as to which they differ.
W. H. M.