» » Evolution Social and Organic

Evolution Social and Organic

Evolution Social and Organic
Title: Evolution Social and Organic
Release Date: 2018-08-11
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 51
Read book
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 19
Transcriber’s Note:
Cover created by Transcriber and placed in the Public Domain.









The contents of this volume consist of thefirst ten lectures of the thirty-five in the Wintercourse of 1907–08. They were delivered inthe Garrick Theater, Chicago, on Sunday morningsto crowded houses. On several occasionshalf as many people were turned away asmanaged to get in. If these lectures meet withas warm a reception when read as they didwhen heard, I shall be more than satisfied. Fora fuller discussion of the Greek period, brieflydealt with in the first lecture, see EdwardClodd’s “Pioneers of Evolution” to which workthe early part of this lecture is greatly indebted.

Every lecture proceeds on the assumption,that a knowledge of the natural sciences, andespecially the great revolutionizing generalizationswhich they have revealed, is indispensableto a modern education.

This position is by no means new. It pervadesthe classic literature of Socialismthroughout. Liebknecht, speaking of Marxand himself says: “Soon we were on the fieldof Natural Science, and Marx ridiculed thevictorious reaction in Europe that fancied ithad smothered the revolution and did not4suspect that Natural Science was preparing anew revolution.”

The only thing I have succeeded in doingwhich is at all new, is presenting these so-calledheavy subjects in a way that attractsand retains a large and enthusiastic audienceSunday after Sunday eight months of the year.

These lectures, nothwithstanding theirphenomenal success, have aroused some opposition,in certain quarters among Socialists.This opposition arises almost wholly from thefact that the Socialists in question have yet tolearn what their own standard literature contains.When they make that discovery theywill be obliged to do one of two things, rejectthe Socialist philosophy or cease opposing itspublic presentation.

A second thought will show that they maydo neither. There is a type of brain thespecimens of which are very numerous, whichseems to possess the faculty of keeping differentkinds of knowledge and contradictoryideas, in separate, water-tight compartments.Thus, as these ideas never come together thereis no collision.

The most conspicuous example of this is theman who accepts and openly proclaims thetruth of the materialistic conception of history—thetheory that, among other things, explains5the origin, functions, and changes of religion,just as it does those of law—yet the very manwho boasts of his concurrence in this epoch-makingtheory, using one lobe of his brain,will, while using the other lobe, and with stillgreater fervency, maintain that the Socialistphilosophy has nothing to do with religion atall, but is an “economic” question only. Theleft lobe knows not what the right lobe isdoing. Dietzgen described these Comrades as“dangerous muddle-heads.” He might haveomitted the adjective. A brain of this orderrenders its possessor harmless.

These well-meaning friends have offered agreat deal of advice as to how to conduct ourmeeting without “driving people away.” Yetstrangely enough our audience grew by leapsand bounds, until from seventy-five at thefirst lecture we are now crowding and oftenovercrowding one of the largest and finesttheaters inside the loop. Meanwhile theyfollowed their own advice and saw what wasat the beginning a fine audience of five hundredgrow less and less until it is less than fifty andsometimes falls below thirty. This does notseem to justify the cry that the working classis hungering for Christian Socialism.

Further volumes of these lectures will carry6the theories of Socialism into yet other fieldsof science and philosophy.

In conclusion let me ask a certain type ofcorrespondents to save my time and their own.They say they agree with my views entirely;there is no question but I am right. And thelectures would be in place if delivered beforeuniversity men. But workingmen (my top-loftycorrespondents not included of course)have so many ignorant prejudices that fearlessscientific teaching is not acceptable to them.The size of my audience is sufficient disproofof the last statement. As to the rest, it is justthe existence of ignorant prejudices that makesthe fearless teaching of science necessary.Again, I have yet to be convinced that there isany kind of knowledge which is good foruniversity men, but unfit for workingmen.Moreover, I positively refuse to have one kindof knowledge for myself, and another to giveout to my audience. This is the fundamentalprinciple of priestcraft, and the working classhas had far too much of it already.

On this ground—that there is nothing higherthan reality, that Socialism is in harmony withall reality and that in the end reality musttriumph—the future lectures of these courseswill stand or fall.

Arthur M. Lewis.

Chicago, Dec. 27, ’07.




“Early ideas,” says Herbert Spencer, “areusually vague adumbrations of the truth,” andhowever numerous may be the exceptions, thiswas undoubtedly the case with the evolutionaryspeculations of the ancient Greeks.The greatness of that remarkable republic findsone of its most striking manifestations in thefact that so many great modern ideas tracetheir ancestry back to Greece. Sir HenryMaine, the historical jurist, said that, “exceptthe blind forces of nature, nothing moves thatis not Greek in its origin.” Compared with herdreamy oriental neighbors, Greece shone like ameteor in a moonless night. As ProfessorBurnet says, “They left off telling tales. Theygave up the hopeless task of describing whatwas, when as yet there was nothing, and askedinstead what all things really are now,” whilethe Oriental shrunk from the search after8causes, looking, as Professor Butcher aptlyremarks “on each fresh gain of earth as somuch robbery of heaven.”

The Greeks very largely discarded the theologicalmind, peopled with its pious phantasms,and sought to probe into the nature of thematerial universe. This is why we discover afairly distinct, and sometimes startlingly clear“adumbration” of the theory of evolutionrunning like a chain of gold through the immortalfragments of their greatest thinkers.

What is it that really is, and what that onlyseems to be? What is real, and what is onlyapparent? This is the theme which Greek philosophyhas in common with modern thought,and this is why the remnants of Greek literatureare so precious in the twentieth century.

Thales, of Miletus, in Asia Minor, is concededto have been the founder of Greek philosophy.“He asserted water to be the principleof all things,” says Diogenes Laertius, and heregarded all life as coming from water, a positionby no means foreign to modern science.

Anaximander, also a Milesian and a youngercontemporary of Thales, who like him flourishedbetween 500 and 600 B. C., said that thematerial cause of all things was the Infinite.“It is neither water nor any other of what arenow called the elements, but a substance9different from them which is infinite, fromwhich arise all the heavens and the worldswithin them.” “Man,” he boldly asserts, “islike another animal, namely, a fish, in the beginning,”a shrewd guess which is now anestablished fact.

Anaximenes, the third and last of theMilesian philosophers, while following hispredecessors closely in time, disagreed withthem as to the raw material of the universe.He declares it to be air which, “when it isdilated so as to be rarer becomes fire whilewinds, on the other hand, are condensed air,Cloud is formed from air by ‘felting’ and this,still further condensed, becomes water. Water,condensed still more, turns to earth; and whencondensed as much as it can be, to stones.”All of which proves that Anaximenes had avery fertile brain.

Herakleitos, one of the greatest of all Greekthinkers, lived for a time at Ephesus and expressedthe following forceful opinion of hisfellow citizens: “The Ephesians would do wellto hang themselves, every grown man of them,and leave the city to beardless youths; for theyhave cast out Hermodoros, the best manamong them, saying: ‘We will have none whois best among us; if there be any such, let himbe so elsewhere and among others.’” According10to him everything comes from and returnsto fire and “all things are in a state of flux likea river.” Here is the intellectual ancestor ofHegel with his great saying. “Nothing is,everything is becoming.” Herakleitos sagaciouslyobserved: “You cannot step twice intothe same rivers, for fresh waters are ever flowingin upon you.”

Parmenides, born at Elea about 515 B. C.,was poet and philosopher both, and insisted inhis hexameter verse that the universe is aunity, which neither came out of nothing, norcould, in any degree, pass away, thus anticipatingby over 2,000 years Lavoisier’sdoctrine of the permanence of matter.

Empedocles, of Akragas in Sicily, about thesame time, stated this great truth with stillgreater force and clearness: “Fools!—for theyhave no far-reaching thoughts—who deem thatwhat before was not, comes into being or thataught can perish and be utterly destroyed. Forit cannot be that aught can arise from what inno way is, and it is impossible and unheard ofthat what is should perish; for it will alwaysbe, wherever one may keep putting it.” Healso endeavored to combine and reconcile theideas of some of his predecessors, teaching thatall things come from four roots—water, air,fire and earth.

11Anaxagoras, born about 500 B. C., was thefirst Greek to suffer for science. He wasbrought to trial for asserting the sun to be ared hot stone, and it would have probably gonehard with him had not the mighty Periclesbeen his friend. If the sun was merely a fieryball, what became of the religion founded onthe worship of Apollo?

Nearly a half a century earlier Xenophanes,of Colophon, had ventilated ideas muchmore obnoxious to the priests. He haddone for his age what Feuerbach didto the Nineteenth century—he had explainedthe origin of the gods by Anthropomorphism.Said he: “If oxen or lions had hands,and could paint with their hands and produceworks of art as men do, horses wouldpaint the forms of the gods like horses andoxen like oxen. Each would represent themwith bodies according to the form of each. Sothe Ethiopians make their gods black andsnubnosed; the Thracians give theirs red hairand blue eyes.” Had Xenophanes lived atAthens, where a religious revival had justtaken place, he would have shared the fatewhich later overtook the impious Socrates.Luckily for Xenophanes, in the colony wherehe lived “the gods were left to take care ofthemselves.” Anaxagoras was the first to12determine what causes the eclipses and theillumination of the moon:—“The moon has nota light of her own but gets it from the sun.The moon is eclipsed by the earth screeningthe sun’s light from it. The sun is eclipsed atthe new moon, when the moon screens it fromus.”

The Pythagoreans who must be distinguishedfrom the medicine man Pythagoras,from whom they only take their name indirectly,and not as disciples, believed the reality ofthe universe was to be found in numbers.They were deceived into this absurdity by theexactness of mathematical conclusions. Thiswas excusable among the Greeks to whomarithmetical combinations were as wonderfulas electrical phenomena are to us, but its revivalin our day by astrologers and theosophistshas no such justification.

Socrates, born about 470 B. C., at Athens, isdescribed as “pug-nosed, thick-lipped, big-belliedand bulging-eyed”—the very

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 19
Comments (0)
Free online library ideabooks.net