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Spain under Philip III. was probably less civilized than it had been under Abderahman III.
In view of these considerations, but little need be said in criticism of the doctrine of cyclical progression,* which was formerly asserted with more or less clearness by several philosophers, but which owes its thorough elaboration to Vico. At present this theory is likely to find but few advocates; and its clandestine influence upon speculation is fortunately insignificant. We have never known the beginning or the end of a historic cycle, and have no inductive warrant for believing that we are now traversing one; while the analogies drawn from the solar system, which probably first suggested the theory, are sufficiently disposed of by the fact that even the planetary motions were not cyclical so long as they were progressing toward mobile equilibrium.
Fortified by the foregoing reflections, we are now in a condition to examine a very remarkable theory respecting the constitution and development of society, which, though long in a rudimentary form familiar to the minds of scholars, has only within the present century exerted a notable influence. I refer to the doctrine of "the social organism,” of which it will be convenient to begin by scrutinizing the earliest form,—that, namely, in which the whole human race, with respect to its development, is likened to an individual man.f The conception is an old one. Plato, in his “Republic," instituted an elaborate comparison between the chief divisions of society and the faculties of the human mind; and Hobbes, long after him, endeavored to trace with still greater precision a resemblance between society and the human body, expending in the effort much laudable but bootless ingenuity. More recently, Rotteck, in the introduction to his Allgemeine Geschichte, has defined universal history as the biography of mankind. The same conception frequently appears in the great work of
“ Jam redit et virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna,
Alter erit tum Tiphys, et altera quæ vehat Argo
Atque iterum ad Trojam magnus mittetur Achilles.” – Virg. Ecl. IV. † The doctrine is admirably stated in the famous remark of Pascal, –“ Toute la succession des hommes, pendant la longue suite des siècles, duit etre considérée comme un seul homme, qui subsiste toujours, et qui apprend continuellement."
Comte, and the part played by collective humanity in his later speculations is well known. But no previous writer has pushed the analogy between individual and social development so far as Dr. Draper. It is the central idea which serves, though not always efficiently, to bind together the immense heterogeneous mass of facts accumulated in his “ History of the Intellectual Development of Europe.” Premising that “man is the archetype of society, and that individual development is the model of social progress,” Dr. Draper proceeds to divide the history of civilization into five distinct periods, namely, the ages of Credulity, Inquiry, Faith, Reason, and Decrepitude ; answering respectively to the periods of Infancy, Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age, in the individual*. It soon appears, however, that collective humanity corresponds not to one individual, but to several; for Grecian civilization having passed through all these epochs, and having expired, modern civilization entered upon its career, in which it has by this time attained the estate of manhood. Roman history is treated as a digression, and its position in the scale of development is not clearly indicated. The intellectual development of the ancient Jews, so essential an element in the history of civilization, is entirely passed over. And as to Egypt and the great Asiatic communities, we are led to infer that, after running through the earlier stages of national life, they had, by the dawn of authentic history, arrived at old age.
The mere statement of this arrangement is doubtless enough to reveal its purely arbitrary character. But the importance of the subject will justify a closer examination. Let us note the chronological limits assigned by Dr. Draper to his successive epochs. The Greek age of credulity, ending with Thales, is followed by the age of inquiry, which closes with the Sophists. The age of faith extends from Sokrates to Karneades; the age of reason from Aristotle to Claudius Ptolemæus ; the age of decrepitude from Philo to the closing of the Attic schools by Justinian.' Forbearing to criticise the earlier parts of this scheme, it may be remarked that the age of faith is an entirely superfluous interpolation. In so far as the labors of Sokrates resulted in the application of dialectics to logical and ethnical
* Draper, pp. 1, 11, 15.
philosophy, the period in question was an age of inquiry; in 50 far as they resulted in the establishment of an improved scientific method, it was an age of reason. It is indeed difficult to see how Pyrrho and the New Academy can be regarded as the culminating products of an age of faith ; or how Sokrates, the
originator of the most powerful scientific impulse which the Greek mind ever underwent," * can be said to have ushered in such a period. It may likewise be asked, In what respect does an age of faith differ from an age of credulity ? If by faith we mean the attitude assumed by thoroughly religious minds in contemplating the universe under its unknowable aspect, then an age of faith has not yet been reached, and, instead of corresponding to the youth of mankind, it would answer to its fullest maturity. The only other correct definition of faith is that which makes it synonymous with credulity. And whichever of the two we adopt, Dr. Draper's classification must equally be pronounced a failure.
In his arrangement of the epochs of European history, there is a still more striking anomaly. The age of credulity is not distinctly marked. The age of inquiry embraces the period of the formation of Christian doctrine, ending with the capture of Rome by Alaric. The age of faith extends from the foundation of imperial Constantinople to the Renaissance. Thus it will be noticed that the first five Christian centuries are assigned at
Grote, History of Greece, Vol. VIII., Preface. † Dr. Draper's whole account of Greek philosophy is strangely inaccurate ; but no part of it betrays so much carelessness as his treatment of Sokrates. He neither understands his relation to the Sophists nor his attitude toward physical investigation, quietly ignoring all that great scholars, like Mr. Grote, have written on the subject. His treatment of Bacon is equally perverse, consisting chiefly of wholesale abuse directed against the great master of inductive philosophy because he did not profit by the discoveries of Copernicts and Gilbert. If great men were to be measured by their shortcomings instead of their achievements, they might all have to step from their pedestals. Leibnitz rejected the law of gravitation ; Laplace heaped contumely on the theories of Fresnel ; Comte eschewed the results of psychologic research ; Harvey contradicted Aselli's discovery of the lacteals; and how often has Bichat's unlucky definition of life been quoted in derision of one of the greatest thinkers and most consummate observers the world has ever seen. In Bacon's day there were grave difficulties attending the Copernican theory, which were first solved by Newton, half a century later. If it is a mark of genius readily to accept new discoveries, it is no less a mark of wisdom to be dissatisfied with imperfect evidence. (See Powell, Order of Nature, 65; and Laplace, Essai sur les Probabilités, 252.)
once to the European ages of inquiry and faith, and to the Greek ages of reason and decrepitude. Now, who were the Europeans who are represented as emerging at that time from intellectual childhood into intellectual youth? They were for the most part the very Greeks who, by the same philosophical indications, are said to have been passing from manhood into old age. The same influx of Oriental upon Hellenic thought is judged to be at once an index of senile decay and of youthful vigor. Can anything more clearly show the arbitrary character of the whole arrangement ? Christianity was as much a product of ancient thought as Neo-Platonism. Porphyry and Proklos were no whit more Hellenic than Clement and Origen. It was the advent of the German tribes which introduced the modern state of things; and the closing ages of antiquity cannot be rightly called either decrepit or immature. The elaboration of the Christian system was their absorbing work; and Christianity was in nowise the offspring of undeveloped intelligence. It comprised whatever there was of greatest practical efficiency in Hebrew theosophy, in Greek dialectic, and in Roman jurisprudence; and all this diversified material it fashioned into the enduring mould upon which the features of modern society were destined to be modelled. Symptoms of the childhood of society would more judiciously be sought for among the barbarian followers of Odoacer and Clovis; and the degenerate continuation of ancient life might perhaps be assigned to the Byzantine empire, which lingered through the Middle Ages, neither adding to the past achievements of the Grecian prime, nor taking part in the energetic movements going on by its side, until its profitless existence was terminated by the sharp scymitar of the Mussulman.
The history of the Arabs, when carefully studied, yields to Dr. Draper's theory no better support. There is no evidence that the period of faith ushered in by Mohammed was preceded by anything which could be called an age of inquiry. The century of glorious religious and military activity which followed the death of the Prophet undoubtedly culminated in a brilliant age of reason, which, long surviving the political decay of the Arabian empire, was only extinguished by the arrival of brute force in the shape of half-civilized Spaniards and bar
barous Turks. Herein lies the difficulty of assigning to Arabian civilization an age of decrepitude. From political considerations alone, that age may be said to have commenced in the East with the accession of Motassem (A. D. 838), and in the West one hundred and fifty years later, with the death of the hagib Almanzor. Yet the most illustrious scientific achievements of the Arabs took place long after this. The great names of Averroes, Arzachel, Geber, Alhazen, Algazzali, and Avicenna, are all comprised within the eleventh century and the first half of the twelfth. The dreary epoch of Almoravide supremacy was at the same time an epoch of active intellectual progress.
For the eminent rank which he assigns to Arabic civilization, and for calling attention to the innumerable ways, hitherto not sufficiently recognized, in which it has stimulated the subsequent development of mankind, Dr. Draper is entitled to receive signal praise. But so much cannot be said for the odd disposition exhibited throughout his work, not only to refer the best part of Greek culture to an Egyptian source,* but uniformly to exalt the non-European civilizations at the expense of the European. This tendency has an obvious connection with his opinion that the great Asiatic nations passed in remote antiquity through the earlier stages of collective life, and arrived long ago at a stationary but vigorous old age. History, however, does not afford the requisite data for enabling us to reason upon the early state of Asia with much certainty. Neither Chinese, Hindus, Assyrians, nor Egyptians seem ever to have possessed the art of insuring authenticity in their records; and if we apply to the accounts of these ancient nations the rigorous canons of criticism laid down by Lewis and Grote, we shall come to the conclusion that we really know but little about them. But it will be well to note that the extremely rude and barbarous structure of the Chinese language is decidedly at war with the theory that the Chinese people have at any time been notably progressive ; and the most cursory perusal
* The extravagant theory of a profound science possessed by the Egyptian priesthood from a remote antiquity, and imparted to itinerant Greek philosophers, has been utterly destroyed by Sir G. C. Lewis, in his learned work on the “Astronomy of the Ancients.” VOL. CIX. - NO. 224.