When I was invited to deliver an incidental lecture to the students of the London School of Ethics and Social Philosophy, it seemed to me desirable to choose a subject that on the one hand should have an interest for students of Ethics, from a practical as well as theoretical point of view; and on the other hand, should not be customarily included---or, at least, only introduced in a very cursory and subordinate way---in the systematic treatment of Ethics. It seemed to me that the pursuit of culture as an ideal would fulfil these two conditions. Culture is a fundamentally important part of the human good that practical morality aims at promoting; at the same time, its importance in the general view of practical morality and philanthropy has grown very much during the last generation, with the enlargement of our conception of the prospective greatness of human life to be lived on this earth. I think no more remarkable change has ever taken place in human thought than this enlargement, due to the advance of science, especially of the historical sciences---geology, evolutional biology, archaeology, and anthropology, and the comprehensive but still rudimentary science sociology, which has taken nearly a century to get itself fairly born. The mundane life of the individual is as transient as ever; but the mundane life of the larger whole of which he is a part---the life of the human race---now spreads out before our imagination as all but infinite in its probable duration and its possibilities of development. Its past life is reckoned by tens of thousands of years: and the gloomiest forecasts of physicists as to the cooling of the sun allow it more millions of future years than I need try to count. Thus the problem of making human life on earth a better thing has become more and more clearly the dominant problem for morality, comprehending almost all minor problems, and determining the lines on which their solution is to be sought; and in the doubtless imperfect conception we form of this betterment, mental culture, which,---according to usage, I shall speak of briefly as culture,---has, as I said, a prominent place.
And the dominance of this problem has been further established by the change in current political ideas, of which our newspapers have long been so full,---the reaction against the individualism of the earlier political economists, which left the culture of the individual to his self-interest well understood, or, in the case of children, to parental affection, and merely aimed at protecting individuals and parents against interference in its pursuit. The enlarged conception of social and political duty which is now prevalent is impelling us with increasing force to promote positively the attainment of a good life for all;---through the action of the State, so far as experience shows this to be prudent, but also through private and voluntarily associated effort, outside and apart from, or in co-operation with, government. And this good life, as I have said, means for us a cultivated life, a life in which culture is in some degree attained and exercised.
Indeed, I think it may be said that the promotion of culture, in one form or another, is more and more coming to be recognized as the main moral justification for the luxurious expenditure of the rich. Observe that in saying this I wish clearly to distinguish the moral from the political justification. I have no hankering after sumptuary laws; and men being what they are, I have no doubt that the liberty to spend one's income luxuriously is---quite apart from any question of culture---an indispensable spring of economic progress. But what men ought to do is often very different from what they ought to be made to do. And if culture, like the greater goods, Religion and Morality, could be equally well promoted by scanty and restricted personal expenditure, it would seem to me---in view of the multiple evils of the penury around us---a clear moral duty for most persons with ample means to restrict their expenditure to the minimum necessary for the health, and the efficiency in professional or social work, of themselves and their families. The superfluity could then be spent in any of the ways of relieving distress which the Charity Organization Society would sanction; and in spite of the severity commonly attributed to that society, such sanctioned ways of spending are, I can assure you, both numerous and absorbent of funds. What stands in the way of this moral judgment is the widespread conviction that the lavish expenditure of the rich on the elements of culture, the means of developing and gratifying the love of knowledge and the love of beauty in all their various forms, meets an important social need,---wastefully no doubt, but still more effectively than it could at present be met in any other way; since the gain in knowledge and in elevated and refined delight obtained through this expenditure does not remain with the, rich alone, but extends in a number of ways to other classes. Whether this conviction is sound or not I do not now consider: I only refer to it as illustrating the importance that we have come to attach to the notion of culture in our moral judgments.
And this comes out more clearly if we note what among the advantages which the rich actually derive from their superfluous expenditure---I mean expenditure not needed for health or efficiency---the genuine philanthropists among them are keenly desirous to give to others less fortunate. Surely---apart from the general and technical education required for economic efficiency---they consist almost entirely in the means of developing the elevated faculties and refined sensibilities which we include in the notion of culture. I do not mean that such a philanthropist would object to manual labourers feasting on grouse and champagne---as certain miners in the North were once said to do when wages were high---but he would not make efforts and sacrifices to spread these delicacies. Perhaps you may say that if wealthy philanthropists really put so high a value on culture, they would not spend so much of their wealth in giving themselves pleasant things which have little or nothing to do with culture. I might answer this in various ways. I might dwell on the tyranny of custom, and the conventional forms in which the time-honoured virtue of hospitality necessarily has to express itself. But perhaps the answer that goes deepest is that suggested by an old remark that the precept ``Love thy neighbour as thyself'' might---when it has attained general acceptance and serious efforts are made to fulfil it---be advantageously supplemented by the converse precept ``Love thyself as thy neighbour'': since a genuine regard for our neighbour---when not hampered by the tyranny of custom---prompts us to give him what we think really good for him; whereas natural self-regard prompts us to give ourselves what we like. Thus the spontaneous expression of altruism, rather than the spontaneous expression of egoism, corresponds to our deepest judgment, the judgment of our best self, as to the good and evil in human life.
If it were needful to give further more detailed proof of this growing recognition of the importance of culture, and the growing desire for its wider diffusion, I might draw attention to several different features in recent social movements. I might point, e.g., to the burning question of the ``eight hours day'', and the eagerness shown by the advocates of the workmen's side in this controversy to convince the public that it is really leisure they want for their clients, and not merely additional wages. No impartial outsider objects to their getting as much wages as the conditions of industry may allow; but they know that the demand for leisure to lead a more cultivated life will stir the keenest sympathy of lookers on. I might remind you of the resolution recently passed at a Socialistic Congress, that University education should be effectively open to all classes of the community, from the highest to the lowest; for even an extravagance of this kind is a straw that shows how strongly the current of opinion is flowing. I might refer to the efforts to render picture-galleries and museums of art really available for the delight and instruction of the poorer classes of the community; and I might point to what is sometimes attacked as the ``encroachment of primary education on the province of secondary education''; which is, at any rate, evidence of the widespread determination to aim, even in elementary teaching, at something more than the minimum required for economic efficiency.
I only suggest these topics, as they are familiar to us all from the daily papers. I have said enough to show the growing importance of culture in our common conception of human good, in the ideal that morality aims at realizing. What I propose in the remainder of the present discourse is not to discuss the methods by which culture is to be promoted and diffused, but to free this fundamental notion, so far as possible, from obscurity and ambiguity, so that our philanthropic efforts to promote culture may have a clear and precise aim.
The question, what is culture? carries the thought of a man of my age irresistibly back to the delightful writer, who made the term familiar as a household word to the English reading public a generation ago---Matthew Arnold. I know that his poems are not forgotten by a younger generation, and I hope his essays are not forgotten either;---at any rate the less controversial of them, since the interest of controversy is usually somewhat ephemeral. I know no writings in English that plead the cause of literary culture with an earnestness so light and graceful, and so persuasive a charm. It was early in the sixties that he began his efforts to penetrate the hide of self-complacency which, then as now, was a characteristic feature of his fellow-countrymen; and to make us feel the want of true culture in all the three classes into which he divided our society---Barbarians, Philistines, and Populace. He told us---he was never tired of telling us, and his style could make the most incessant iteration tolerable if not agreeable---he set forth to us in memorable phrases what culture was, and what great benefits we should gain if we would only turn and seek it with our whole heart. Unfortunately, Matthew Arnold was not---as he humorously confessed---a systematic thinker with philosophical principles duly coherent and interdependent; and consequently it is not surprising that he did not always mean the same thing by culture; indeed it is interesting to watch his conception expanding and contracting elastically, as he passes from phase to phase of a long controversy.
When his preaching began he appeared to mean by culture merely a knowledge of and taste for fine literature, and the refinement of feeling and manners which he considered to spring naturally from this source. Thus, when he remarks regretfully that the English aristocracy has declined somewhat from the ``admirable'' and ``consummate'' culture which it had attained in the eighteenth century, what he regrets is the time when the oracle of polite society---Lord Chesterfield---could tell the son whom he was training for a political career, that ``Greek and Roman learning is the most necessary ornament which it is shameful not to be master of'', and bid the nascent diplomatist ``let Greek without fail share some part of every day''. And Arnold here seems to signify by culture almost entirely the aesthetic value and effect of the study of fine literature and not its value for thought: since he speaks of a ``high reason'' and a ``fine culture'' as two distinct things, and tells the middle class---his ``Philistines''---that they want both ``culture'' which aristocracy has, and ``ideas'' which aristocracy has not. But as the controversy went on and waxed a little hot, the limits of the notion came to be greatly enlarged. When John Bright sneered at culture as a ``smattering of two dead languages'', and when Mr. Frederick Harrison, in his ``stringent manner'', said that culture was a desirable quality in a critic of new books, but a poor thing when you came to active politics, Arnold was moved to unfold a much wider and deeper view of the essential quality of this divine gift. In the first place, culture was now made to include an openness to ideas, as well as fine manners and an appreciation of the beauty of fine poetry and fine prose. Indeed, of the two, the intellectual element is now the most prominent; the most powerful motive, according to Arnold, that prompts us to read the best books, to know the best that has been thought and said in the world, is now identified with the genuine scientific passion for ``seeing things as they really are''. But this is not all: Arnold will have us go deeper still and take a yet more comprehensive view. The passion for culture is not, he says, the mere desire of seeing things as they are, for the simple pleasure of seeing them as they are, and developing the intelligence of the seer; though this is a noble impulse, eminently proper to an intelligent being. But culture, true culture, aims at more than this: it aims at nothing less than human perfection, a perfect spiritual condition, involving the ``harmonious expansion of all the powers which make the beauty and worth of human nature'', and thus necessarily including perfection of will and of the moral feelings that claim the governance of will, no less than perfection of intelligence and taste. Its dominant idea being that of a human nature perfect on all its sides, it includes and transcends religion, which on its practical side is dominated by the more limited idea of moral perfection, and which, therefore, tends to concentrate effort on conquering the ``obvious faults of our animality''. So viewed, culture cannot be sought by anyone who seeks it for himself alone. ``Because men are all members of one great whole, and the sympathy which is in human nature will not allow one member to have a perfect welfare independent of the rest, the expansion of our humanity, to suit the idea of perfection which culture forms, must be a general expansion The individual is obliged, under pain of being stunted and enfeebled in his own development if he disobeys, to carry others along with him in his march towards perfection, to be continually doing all he can to enlarge and increase the volume of the human stream sweeping thitherward.'' In this wider conception ``all the love of our neighbour, the impulses towards action, help, and beneficence, the desire for clearing human confusion and diminishing the sum of human misery, the noble aspiration to leave the world better and happier than we found it''---all these motives ``come in as part of the grounds of culture and the main and pre-eminent part''. This culture is seen---if we see with Arnold's eyes---to move by the force not merely or primarily of the scientific impulse to pure knowledge, but also of the moral and social impulse to do good: it has ``one great passion for sweetness and light''; and ``one greater, for making reason and the will of God prevail''.
Well, this was a noble ideal, and the words in which Arnold set it before us had the genuine ring of prophetic conviction; but we felt that we had travelled a long way from the Earl of Chesterfield and the admirable and consummate culture of the English aristocracy in the eighteenth century. Our historical reminiscences seemed to indicate that the passion for making reason and the will of God prevail, and carrying on the whole human race in a grand march towards complete spiritual perfection, which these fine gentlemen as a class derived from their studies in Greek and Latin, was of a very limited description; hardly, indeed, perceptible to the scrutiny of the impartial historian. Even in the latter half of the nineteenth century the desire to cultivate the intellect and taste by reading the best books, and the passion for social improvement, are not---if we look at actual facts---always found together; or even if we grant that the one can hardly exist without some degree of the other, at any rate they co-exist in different minds in very varying proportions. And when Arnold tells us that the Greeks had arrived, in theory at least, at a harmonious adjustment of the claims of both, we feel that his admiration for Hellenism has led him to idealize it; for we cannot but remember how Plato politely but firmly conducts the poets out of his republic, and how the Stoics sneered at Aristotle's praises of pure speculation. In short, we might allow Arnold to define the aim of culture either as the pursuit of sweetness and light, or more comprehensively as the pursuit of complete spiritual perfection, including the aim of making reason and the will of God prevail; but in the name of culture itself we must refuse to use the same word for two such different things; since the resulting confusion of thought will certainly impede our efforts to see things as they really are.
And when the alternatives are thus presented, it seems clear that usage is on the side of the narrower meaning. For what philanthropy is now increasingly eager to diffuse, under the name of culture, is something different from religion and morality; it is not these goods that have been withheld from the poor, nor of which the promotion excuses the luxurious expenditure of the rich. Poverty---except so far as it excludes even adequate moral instruction---is no bar to morality; as it is happily in men's power to do their duty in all relations of life, under any pressure of outward circumstances; and it is the rich, not the poor, that the Gospel warns of their special difficulty in entering the kingdom of heaven. Again if the pursuit of culture is taken to transcend and include the aim of promoting religion and morality, these sublimer goods cannot but claim the larger share of attention. Indeed Arnold himself told us in a later essay, that at least three-fourths of human life belong to morality, and religion as supplying motive force to morality; art and science together can at most claim the remaining fourth. But if so, in discussing the principles that should guide our effort after the improvement of the three-fourths of life that morality claims, the difficulties that such effort encounters, the methods which it has to apply, we shall inevitably find ourselves led far away from the consideration of culture in the ordinary sense.
For practical purposes then we must take the narrower meaning. But I have not referred to Arnold's wider notion in order merely to reject it, or to divorce the pursuit of culture from the larger aim at complete spiritual perfection and harmonious development of all sides of human nature. What God has joined together, I do not presume thus to put asunder. No one who has risen to the grand conception of the study of perfection as a comprehensive and balanced whole, the harmonious development of human nature on all its sides, can ever consent to abandon it; and therefore we cannot put it out of sight altogether, in considering the more restricted aims of culture in the narrower sense. This narrower notion is an abstraction needful for the purpose of clearer view and practical working out of methods of pursuit; but it should never be forgotten that the separation cannot be made complete without loss of truth. I propose, therefore, in what I have yet to say, first to analyse somewhat further the narrower conception of culture; and then to consider its relation to other elements of the wider notion of complete spiritual perfection.
The first question that arises when we concentrate attention on culture in the narrower and more usual sense is to determine its relation to knowledge. We certainly often distinguish the two: we speak of diffusing knowledge and culture; and yet it is not easy to conceive a cultivation of the mind that does not give knowledge. Here again it may help us to follow the course of Matthew Arnold's thought. In his earliest view, as we saw, culture seems to lie in the development of the taste rather than the intellect; the aristocracy, he finds, has culture but lacks ideas. But in his later and more meditated view he appears to blend the two completely, taking the development of the intellect as the more fundamental element. His favourite phrase for the essential spring of culture is the desire or passion for ``seeing things as they are''. The activity of culture, he tells us, lies in reading, observing, thinking. Hellenism---which is another term for culture in the narrower sense---``drives at ideas''; has ``an ardent sense for all the new and changing combinations of them which man's activity brings with it, and an indomitable impulse to know and adjust them perfectly''; it drives at ``an unclouded clearness'' and flexibility of mind, an ``unimpeded play of thought'', an ``untrammelled spontaneity of consciousness''. This is its essential aim; and the sweetness, the grace and serenity, the sensibility to beauty, the aversion to hideousness, rawness, vulgarity, which Arnold no less values, are conceived to have an intellectual root and source; they are to come from ``harmonized ideas''.
Now, I agree generally with the view here expressed as to the primacy of the intellectual element of culture. Since the most essential function of the mind is to think and know, a man of cultivated mind must be essentially concerned for knowledge: but it is not knowledge merely that gives culture. A man may be learned and yet lack culture: for he may be a pedant, and the characteristic of a pedant is that he has knowledge without culture. So again, a load of facts retained in the memory, a mass of reasonings got up merely for examination, these are not, they do not give culture. It is the love of knowledge, the ardour of scientific curiosity, driving us continually to absorb new facts and ideas, to make them our own and fit them into the living and growing system of our thought; and the trained faculty of doing this, the alert and supple intelligence exercised and continually developed in doing this,---it is in these that culture essentially lies.
But when we consider how to acquire this habit of mind, we must, I think, regretfully take leave of the fascinating guide whom I have so long allowed to lead our thoughts on this subject. The path which at this point he shows us is a flowery one; but it does not climb the pass that we have to cross it cannot bring us to the solution of our problem. For Matthew Arnold's method of seeking truth is a survival from a pre-scientific age. He is a man of letters pure and simple; and often seems quite serenely unconscious of the intellectual limitations of his type. How the crude matter of common experience is reduced to the order and system which constitutes it an object of scientific knowledge; how the precisest possible conceptions are applied in the exact apprehension and analysis of facts, and how by facts thus established and analysed the conceptions in their turn are gradually rectified; how the laws of nature are ascertained by the combined processes of induction and deduction, provisional assumption and careful verification; how a general hypothesis is used to guide inquiry, and after due comparison with ascertained particulars, becomes an accepted theory; and how a theory, receiving further confirmation, takes its place finally as an organic part of a vast, living, ever-growing system of knowledge;---all this is quite alien to the habitual thought of a mere man of letters. Yet it is this complex process that the desire to see things as they are must, in the present state of knowledge, prompt a man to learn, to follow, and to apply. Intellectual culture, at the end of the nineteenth century, must include as its most essential element a scientific habit of mind; and a scientific habit of mind can only be acquired by the methodical study of some part at least of what the human race has come scientifically to know.
Now of all this Arnold has a very faint and intermittent conception. His method of ``seeing things as they are'' is simply to read the best books of all ages and countries, and let the unimpeded play of his consciousness combine the results. We ought, he thinks, to read a good many books, to give our consciousness room to play in, and acquire the right flexibility of spirit; but we must especially read the books of great writers---such as those of whom he incidentally gives a list: Plato, Cicero, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Goethe. Now imagine a man learning physical science in this way. I will take astronomy as the example most favourable to Arnold's view that I could choose; since students do still read the great work of Newton, though two centuries old: but imagine a learner, desirous of seeing the starry universe as it is, set down to read the treatises of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and let his consciousness play above them in an untrammelled manner, instead of learning astronomical theory from the latest books, and the actual method of astronomical observation in a modern observatory! And the suggestion would seem still more eccentric if applied to physics, chemistry, and biology.
It may be replied that, granting this true as to the knowledge of nature, the case is otherwise with knowledge of the human spirit. But the antithesis is misleading. Man, whatever else he is, is part of the world of nature, and modern science is more and more resolutely claiming him as an object of investigation. The sciences that deal with man viewed on his spiritual side---psychology and sociology---are certainly in a rudimentary condition compared with the physical sciences, and have fundamental difficulties to overcome of a kind no longer found in those more established methods. But literature supplies no short cut for overcoming these difficulties: the intuitions of literary genius will not avail to reduce to scientific order the complicated facts of psychical experience, any more than the facts of the physical world. And this is no less true of those special branches of the study of social man, which have attained a more advanced condition than the general science of society that, in idea, comprehends them:---economics, political science, archaeology, philology. Let us take philology, because, being concerned about words, it is in a way akin to literature. Reflection at once shows that the kinship lies entirely in the object and not at all in the manner of study. This is true even of the most limited species of philology, the study of the grammar of a particular language. The Iliad read by a man of letters differs in aspect from the Iliad scrutinized by the student of Greek philology, much as the Niagara of the ordinary cultivated tourist differs from Niagara as observed by the student of hydrodynamics. In short, in dealing with the human spirit and its products, no less than with merely physical phenomena, we shall find that ``letting our consciousness play about a subject'' is an essentially different thing from setting our intellect at work upon it methodically: and it is the latter habit that has to be resolutely learnt by any modern mind, that is earnestly desirous of ``seeing things as they are''.
And when this is clearly apprehended, it becomes manifest that the aim of science, and the aspect which things scientifically known present to the mind, is profoundly different from the aim of art, and the aspect of things which the study of beauty aims at seizing and presenting. There is, indeed, at the same time, a deep affinity traceable between the two. Things seen as they are by science afford the seer the pleasure of complex harmony, through the unity of intelligible order and system that is seen to pervade the vast diversity of particular facts, when we are able to bring them under general laws: and the pleasure of harmony, of a subtle unity of effect pervading a diversity of sensible impressions, is a main element of the delight derived from a great work of art. But the harmony and its elements are essentially different in the two cases; and in the case of science the harmony is essentially known, intellectually grasped, the feeling of it secondary; whereas in the case of art the feeling is of primary importance, the intellectual explanation of it secondary. So again the technique of art always involves knowledge of some kinds, and in the representative arts especially, careful observation of facts: but the knowledge is not sought for its own sake, and there is no general need that the facts should be scientifically understood. It would seem therefore that these two elements of what we commonly call culture, the love of truth along with the trained faculty for attaining it, and the love of beauty duly trained and developed, are---speaking broadly---as different in their aims and points of view as either is different from morality.
At this point Arnold would answer---this answer is, in fact, his final utterance on the subject---that it is the special function of literature to comprehend and mediate between these divergent aims and views. He urges that what the spirit of man---even the most modern man---demands is to establish a satisfactory relation between the results of science and our sense of conduct and sense of beauty; and that this is what humane letters, poetry and eloquence, stirring our higher emotions, will do for us. In this answer there is an important element of truth; but the claim goes too far. For to satisfy completely the demand to which he appeals, to bring into true and clear intellectual relation the notions and methods of studies so diverse as positive science and the theory of the fine arts is more than literature as literature can perform; the result can only be attained by philosophy, whose peculiar task indeed it is to bring into clear, orderly, harmonious relations the fundamental notions and methods of all special sciences and studies. But we must admit that it is not a task which philosophy can yet be said to have triumphantly accomplished: the height from which all normal human aims and activities can be clearly and fully contemplated in true and harmonious relations is a height not yet surmounted by the human spirit. And perhaps it never will be surmounted; perhaps---to change the metaphor---the accomplishment of this task is an ideal whose face is
And fixed upon the far sea-line,''
In the meantime it may be conceded to the advocates of humane letters that literature of the thoughtful kind---such poetry and eloquence as really deserves to be called a criticism of life---may supply even to philosophers an important part of the matter of philosophy, though it cannot give philosophic form and order, and may give a provisional substitute for philosophy to the many who do not philosophize. It gives, or helps to give, the kind of wide interest in, the versatile sympathy with, the whole complex manifestation of the human spirit in human history, which is required as a corrective to the specialization that the growth of science inexorably imposes; and giving this along with beauty and distinction of form and expression, it does at any rate bridge the gulf we occasionally feel between the divergent aims of science and art. It helps to produce a harmony of feeling in our contemplation of the world and life presented under these diverse aspects; if not the reasoned harmony of ideas which only philosophy could impart. And it is this function of literature, I think, that affords the best justification for the prominence given to it in our educational system.
So far, in analysing the conception of culture in the narrower sense, we have found divergence, at first sight wide, between the two elements of it which we have distinguished, but we have not found discord. Can we say that this is still the case when we turn to consider culture in relation to other elements of the wider notion of spiritual perfection? Is there any natural opposition between the devotion to moral excellence and the devotion to knowledge or to beauty? and if so, how are we to deal with it? These are questions of some practical importance on which it remains to say a few words.
First, as regards science and the scientific habit of mind. Here we may say broadly that morality is disposed to welcome science as a servant, but somewhat to dread it as a master. No moralist would deny that we shall be better able to promote human well-being or cure human woes the more we can learn from science of the conditions of both: discord can only arise because science is not altogether willing to accept simply this subordinate and serviceable relation to ethics. I shall not here treat of the deepest element of this discord: the tendency of the scientific study of man, in explaining the origin and growth of moral ideas and sentiments, to explain away their binding force; so that the ``law so analysed'' ceases, as Browning says, to ``coerce you much''. This is a difficulty with which only a systematic moral philosophy can deal. But, assuming that all such presumptuous invasions of science are repelled, and ethics allowed to be valid within its own domain, the question still remains how far the study of science tends to produce a habit of mind unfavourable to moral ardour. I think some such effect must be allowed to be natural. Scientific curiosity naturally adopts a neutral attitude towards the evil and good in the world it seeks to know; it aims at understanding, explaining, tracing the causes of the former no less than the latter; and so far as cases of vice and wrongdoing present interesting problems to science, the solution of which throws light on psychological and sociological laws, the passion for discovering truth seems inevitably to carry with it a certain pleasure in the existence of the facts scientifically understood and explained, which is difficult to reconcile with the aversion to vice and wrongdoing that morality would inculcate.
We may illustrate this by comparing the similar attitude towards physical evil sometimes noticed in students of medical science. We have all heard of the surgeon who, when bicycles came in, rubbed his hands with delight over the novel and beautiful fractures of the lower limbs resulting from this mode of progression! But though the surgeon's sentiments towards an interesting fracture are different from a layman's, and may have an intermingling of scientific satisfaction from which the latter recoils, we all know that this does not normally affect his active impulses; in the presence of the need of action he is none the less helpful, while the layman is comparatively helpless. And perhaps the parallel may suggest a tolerable practical solution of the deeper discord between the scientific and the moral views of man's mental nature. That is, though there must perhaps be some interference in the region of feeling between the passion of scientific activity and normal ethical sentiment, there need be none in respect of habits of action. And any loss in the region of sentiment will not be uncompensated; for the keener and correcter insight into the bad consequences of our actions which science may be expected to give, must tend to direct the sentiment of moral aversion to matters other than those on which ordinary morality concentrates its attention, and thus to make its scope at once broader and truer.
When we turn to contemplate the pursuit of beauty in relation to the pursuit of moral excellence we find an occasional antagonism even more sharply marked, just because of the affinity between the two. Morality and Art sometimes appear as the proverbial ``two of a trade'' that cannot agree;---and in speaking of art I mean only work worthy of the name, and do not include the mere misuse of technical gifts for the gratification of base appetites. Both art and morality have an ideal, and the aim in both cases is to apprehend and exhibit the ideal in a reality that does not conform to or express it adequately; but the ideals are not the same, and it is just where they most nearly coincide---in dealing with human life and character---that some conflict is apt to arise. Morality aims at eradicating and abolishing evil, especially moral evil; whereas the aesthetic contemplation of life recognizes it as an element necessary to vivid and full interest. The opposition attains its sharpest edge in modern realistic art and literature; but it is by no means confined to the work of this school. Take, for example, the Paradise Lost of Milton---a writer as unlike a modern realist as possible. The old remark, that Satan is the real hero of Paradise Lost, is an epigrammatic exaggeration; but he is certainly quite indispensable to the interest of the poem; and the magnificent inconsistency with which Milton has half humanized his devil shows that he felt this. If the description of Adam and Eve in the Miltonian Paradise is not dull---and most of us, I think, do not find it dull---it is because we know that the devil is on his way thither; the charm of the placid, innocent life requires to be flavoured by the anticipated contrast. Thus, aesthetically speaking, the more we admire the poem the more satisfaction we must find in the existence of the devil, as an indispensable element of the whole artistic construction, and this satisfaction is liable to clash somewhat with our moral attitude towards evil.
I do not think that this opposition can be altogether overcome. Its root lies deep in the nature of things as we are compelled to conceive it; it represents an unsolved problem of philosophy, which continually forces itself to the front in the development of the religious consciousness. The general man is convinced that the war with moral evil is essential to that highest human life which is the highest thing we know in the world of experience; and yet he is no, less convinced that the world with all its evil is somehow good, as the outcome and manifestation of ideal goodness. The aim of art and of the effort to apprehend beauty corresponds to the latter of these convictions; and thus its claim to have a place along with moral effort, in our ideal of human nature harmoniously developed, is strongly based. If so, it would seem that we must endeavour to make the moods of æsthetic and ethical sentiment alternate, if we cannot quite harmonize them; the delighted contemplation of our mingled and varied world as beautiful in its mixtures and contrasts, though it cannot be allowed to interfere with the moral struggle with evil, may be allowed to relieve it, and give a transient repose from conflict.And on the whole we must be content that science and art and morality are for the most part working on the same side, in that struggle with our lower nature through which we
``Move upward, working out the beast.''Perhaps they will aid each other best if we abstain from trying to drill them into perfect conformity of movement, and allow them to fight independently in loose array. [Back to:]