On Compromise eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 203 pages of information about On Compromise.
But where are the dropped links that might have made all the difference? Ubi sunt eorum tabulae qui post vota nuncupate perierunt?  Where is the fruit of those multitudinous gifts which came into the world in untimely seasons?  We accept the past for the same reason that we accept the laws of the solar system, though, as Comte says, ‘we can easily conceive them improved in certain respects.’  The past, like the solar system, is beyond reach of modification at our hands, and we cannot help it.  But it is surely the mere midsummer madness of philosophic complacency to think that we have come by the shortest and easiest of all imaginable routes to our present point in the march; to suppose that we have wasted nothing, lost nothing, cruelly destroyed nothing, on the road.  What we have lost is all in the region of the ‘might have been,’ and we are justified in taking this into account, and thinking much of it, and in trying to find causes for the loss.  One of them has been want of liberty for the human intelligence; and another, to return to our proper subject, has been the prolonged existence of superstition, of false opinions, and of attachment to gross symbols, beyond the time when they might have been successfully attacked, and would have fallen into decay but for the mistaken political notion of their utility.  In making a just estimate of this utility, if we see reason to believe that these false opinions, narrow superstitions, gross symbols, have been an impediment to the free exercise of the intelligence and a worthier culture of the emotions, then we are justified in placing the unknown loss as a real and most weighty item in the account against them.

In short, then, the utmost that can be said on behalf of errors in opinion and motive, is that they are inevitable elements in human growth.  But the inevitable does not coincide with the useful.  Pain can be avoided by none of the sons of men, yet the horrible and uncompensated subtraction which it makes from the value and usefulness of human life, is one of the most formidable obstacles to the smoother progress of the world.  And as with pain, so with error.  The moral of our contention has reference to the temper in which practically we ought to regard false doctrine and ill-directed motive.  It goes to show that if we have satisfied ourselves on good grounds that the doctrine is false, or the motive ill directed, then the only question that we need ask ourselves turns solely upon the possibility of breaking it up and dispersing it, by methods compatible with the doctrine of liberty.  Any embarrassment in dealing with it, due to a semi-latent notion that it may be useful to some one else is a weakness that hinders social progress.


[Footnote 5:  Mill’s Autobiography p. 170.]

[Footnote 6:  M. Renan’s Reforme Intellectuelle et Morale de la France, p. 98.]

[Footnote 7:  Etudes d’Histoire Religieuse, Preface, p. xvi.]

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On Compromise from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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