The Unity of Civilization eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about The Unity of Civilization.

Marivaux, Marianne; Prevost, Manon Lescaut.

Richardson, Clarissa; Goethe, Werther.

Goethe, Faust; Wordsworth, Michael, &c..

Victor Hugo, Legende des Siecles.

There are English translations of the greater number of these.



Some political thinkers have taken the State for the highest form of human association.  Humanity is for them a mere abstract idea.  It is no organized whole; owns, they think, no common allegiance, pursues no common aim.  To find such an organized whole, such an allegiance, such an aim, we must look to the State and to nothing beyond it.  We find such a whole in Germany, in France, in England, but not in anything common to the three and to other States as well.  This opinion, due in its modern shape to Hegel and his followers, is false to history, false in political theory, and mischievous in ethics, but it is nowhere more false than in relation to the world of thought.  The essential unity of Western civilization as an intellectual, moral, and spiritual commonwealth is indeed illustrated—­unfortunately illustrated as it happens—­by this very theory of the State which denies it.  For the theory is of German make.  It arose out of the historical conditions of Prussia in the early years of the nineteenth century, was fostered in Germany by the peculiar method by which the unity of the nation was effected, and, setting out from its home, has permeated much of the thought of the West, effectively combating the Liberal humanitarianism which was the especial contribution of England to the movement of the nineteenth century.  The reaction of the German idea of the State on the English conception of liberty is the dominating influence of the last forty years in English political thought and progress.  There can hardly be a more striking testimony to the reality of that unity which the theorists who embody it seek to depreciate or deny.

When we speak of unity in this connexion we may mean one of three things.  There is a unity of character or type.  There is the unity involved in continuous unbroken descent from a common origin, and there is unity of effective interconnexion and mutual dependence.  These senses of the term unity are confused by some writers, but must clearly be distinguished before any useful inquiry can be made.  Unity of character, for example, is a different thing from continuity of historical development, for a civilization might radically change its character in the course of generations.  It might lose all the specific features of its own family and come into closer resemblance with others of quite distinct parentage.  Again unity of character is not the same thing as the effective interconnexion and co-operation of different centres.  On the contrary, such co-operation is of most value where

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The Unity of Civilization from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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