The Unity of Civilization eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about The Unity of Civilization.
cataclysms, the historian will discover a rise of liberal and humanitarian opinions to ascendancy in the earlier period and a reaction against them towards the close.  The causes of such a change are multifarious and tangled, but he will, I believe, recognize the year 1870 and the victory of Bismarck as the dividing line.  May it be so that he will find in the present war another turning-point from which a new movement is to begin.

Be this as it may, we may rest assured that the political thought of Europe, like its philosophy and its science, will go forward or backward as a unity.  It may move by peaceful and friendly co-operation or by the stimulus of embittered rivalry.  But its many centres are related by so many strands of connexion that the movement in any one of these is reflected in the rest.  The liberties of England are fostered by the emancipation of the Alsatian, the Slovak, or the Pole.  They are enfeebled by the victories of political autocracy or the military machine.  Thinkers, it may be said, ought to be above these mundane influences.  Philosophy should deal with what is in itself and eternally rational and just and wise.  But philosophy as it exists on earth is the work of philosophers, who, authority tells us, suffer as much from toothache as other mortals, and are, like others, open to the impressions of near and striking events and to the seductions of intellectual fashion.  Yet, if the larger thought is worth anything, it should enable those who follow it to look a little further beyond the present and a little deeper below the surface differences that distract the kindred peoples.  If the thinkers are true to their thought it may be that from them will come the beginnings of the healing process which Europe will need.  Much is being and will be said of the political reconstruction which is needed to restore and secure the civilized order.  But the commonwealth of thought will revive of itself from the day when peace is concluded.  German physiology will not be less learned, German scientists will not be less expert, German chemists will not be less pre-eminent because their military lords have plunged Europe into a disastrous war.  We shall need their services, shall watch their experiments, read their records, and utilize their brains as before.  Perhaps it may be some years before the international congresses can be resumed, but the internationalism of learning will revive of itself, against our wills if not by and with our wills, and in the world of science, and in this world alone, the event of war will make no difference.  Conqueror and conquered will work at the same task and meet as equals.  The scientific demonstration knows no more of the nationality of its originator than of his caste or colour, age or sex.  In this one real democracy the idea, the hypothesis, the proof, whatever it may be, stands or falls on its own merits with no questions asked as to its ancestors or country of origin.  In the growth of this commonwealth war is but a momentary check.  Its destiny is to become wider in extent, closer in its interconnexions, and not less rich in the diversities of its national centres.  Whether it is also destined to grow into a political unity the future must decide.  At least we can say that for any such unity it provides the only sure and solid foundation.

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The Unity of Civilization from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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