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In the second place, this great-man-theory commends itself as promising instruction along with amusement. What can be a more acceptable doctrine than that while you are satisfying an instinct not very remotely allied to that of the village gossip—while you are receiving through print instead of orally, remarkable facts concerning notable persons, you are gaining that knowledge which will make clear to you why things have happened thus or thus in the world, and will prepare you for forming a right opinion on each question coming before you as a citizen.
And then, in the third place, the interpretation of things thus given is so beautifully simple—seems so easy to comprehend. Just as that theory of the Solar System which supposes the planets to have been launched into their orbits by the hand of the Almighty; looks feasible so long as you do not insist on knowing exactly what is meant by the hand of the Almighty; and just as the special creation of plants and animals seems a tenable hypothesis until you try and picture to yourself definitely the process by which one of them is brought into existence; so the genesis of societies by the actions of great men, may be comfortably believed so long as, resting in general notions, you do not ask for particulars.
But now, if, dissatisfied with vagueness, we demand that our ideas shall be brought into focus and exactly defined, we discover the hypothesis to be utterly incoherent. If, not stopping at the explanation of social progress as due to the great man, we go back a step and ask whence comes the great man, we find that the theory breaks down completely.
The question has two conceivable Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] answers: his origin is supernatural, or it is natural. Is his origin supernatural?
Then he is a deputy-god, and we have Theocracy once removed—or, rather, not removed at all; for we must then agree with Mr. Is this an unacceptable solution? Then the origin of the great man is natural; and immediately this is recognized he must be classed with all other phenomena in the society that gave him birth, as a product of its antecedents.
Along with the whole generation of which he forms a minute part—along with its institutions, language, knowledge, manners, and its multitudinous arts and appliances, he is a resultant of an enormous aggregate of forces that have been co-operating for ages. True, if you please to ignore all that common observation, verified by physiology, teaches—if you assume that two European parents may produce a Negro child, or that from woolly-haired prognathous Papuans may come a fair, straight-haired infant of Caucasian type—you may assume that the advent of the great man can occur anywhere and under any conditions.
If, disregarding those accumulated results of experience which current proverbs and the generalizations of psychologists alike express, you suppose that a Newton might be born in a Hottentot family, that a Milton might spring up among the Andamanese, that a Howard or a Clarkson might have Fiji parents, then you may proceed with facility to explain social progress as caused by the actions of the great man.
But if all biological science, enforcing all popular belief, convinces you that by no possibility will an Aristotle come from a father and mother with facial angles of fifty degrees, and that out of a tribe of cannibals, whose chorus in preparation for a feast of human flesh is a kind of rhythmical roaring, there is not the remotest chance of a Beethoven arising; then you must admit that the genesis of the great man depends on the long series of complex Edition: current; Page: [ 35 ] influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown.
If it be a fact that the great man may modify his nation in its structure and actions, it is also a fact that there must have been those antecedent modifications constituting national progress before he could be evolved. Before he can re-make his society, his society must make him. So that all those changes of which he is the proximate initiator have their chief causes in the generations he descended from. If there is to be anything like a real explanation of these changes, it must be sought in that aggregate of conditions out of which both he and they have arisen.
Even were we to grant the absurd supposition that the genesis of the great man does not depend on the antecedents furnished by the society he is born in, there would still be the quite-sufficient facts that he is powerless in the absence of the material and mental accumulations which his society inherits from the past, and that he is powerless in the absence of the co-existing population, character, intelligence, and social arrangements.
Given a Shakspeare, and what dramas could he have written without the multitudinous traditions of civilized life—without the various experiences which, descending to him from the past, gave wealth to his thought, and without the language which a hundred generations had developed and enriched by use?
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Suppose a Watt, with all his inventive power, living in a tribe ignorant of iron, or in a tribe that could get only as much iron as a fire blown by hand-bellows will smelt; or suppose him born among ourselves before lathes existed; what chance would there have been of the steam-engine? Nay, the like questions may be put and have like answers, even if we limit ourselves to those classes of great men on whose doings hero-worshippers more particularly dwell—the rulers and generals.
Xenophon could not have achieved his celebrated feat had his Ten Thousand Edition: current; Page: [ 36 ] been feeble, or cowardly, or insubordinate. And, to take a recent instance, the strategical genius of Moltke would have triumphed in no great campaigns had there not been a nation of some forty millions to supply soldiers, and had not those soldiers been men of strong bodies, sturdy characters, obedient natures, and capable of carrying out orders intelligently.
Were any one to marvel over the potency of a grain of detonating powder, which explodes a cannon, propels the shell, and sinks a vessel hit—were he to enlarge on the transcendent virtues of this detonating powder, not mentioning the ignited charge, the shell, the cannon, and all that enormous aggregate of appliances by which these have severally been produced, detonating powder included; we should not regard his interpretation as very rational. But it would fairly compare in rationality with this interpretation of social phenomena which, dwelling on the important changes the great man works, ignores that vast pre-existing supply of latent power he unlocks, and that immeasurable accumulation of antecedents to which both he and this power are due.
Recognizing what truth there is in the great-man-theory, we may say that, if limited to early societies, the histories of which are histories of little else than endeavours to destroy or subjugate one another, it approximately expresses the fact in representing the capable leader as all-important; though even here it leaves out of sight too much the number and the quality of his followers.
But its immense error lies in the assumption that what was once true is true for ever; and that a relation of ruler and ruled which was possible and good at one time is possible and good for all time. Just as fast as this predatory activity of early tribes diminishes, just as fast as larger aggregates are formed by conquest or otherwise, just as fast as war ceases to be the business of the whole male population, so fast do societies Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] begin to develop, to show traces of structures and functions not before possible, to acquire increasing complexity along with increasing size, to give origin to new institutions, new activities, new ideas, sentiments, and habits: all of which unobtrusively make their appearance without the thought of any king or legislator.
Introduction: Arnold's Prose Today
And if you wish to understand these phenomena of social evolution, you will not do it though you should read yourself blind over the biographies of all the great rulers on record, down to Frederick the Greedy and Napoleon the Treacherous. In addition to that passive denial of a Social Science implied by these two allied doctrines, one or other of which is held by nine men out of ten, there comes from some an active denial of it-either entire or partial. Reasons are given for the belief that no such thing is possible.
The invalidity of these reasons can be shown only after the essential nature of Social Science, overlooked by those who give them, has been pointed out; and to point this out here would be to forestal the argument. Some minor criticisms may, however, fitly precede the major criticism. Let us consider first the positions taken up by Mr. If it is free to a man to choose what he will do or not do, there is no adequate science of him.
If there is a science of him, there is no free choice, and the praise or blame with which we regard one another are impertinent and out of place. It is in this marvellous power in men to do wrong Buckle would deliver himself from the eccentricities of this and that individual by a doctrine of averages Unfortunately the average of one generation need not be the average of the next There [in history] the phenomena never repeat themselves. There Edition: current; Page: [ 38 ] we are dependent wholly on the record of things said to have happened once, but which never happen or can happen a second time.
There no experiment is possible; we can watch for no recurring fact to test the worth of our conjectures. Here Mr. Froude changes the venue, and joins issue on the old battle-ground of free will versus necessity: declaring a Social Science to be incompatible with free will. Hence we are, in fact, carried back to that primitive form of interpretation contemplated at the outset.
A further comment is, that because volitions of some kinds cannot be foreseen, Mr. Froude argues as though no volitions can be foreseen: ignoring the fact that the simple volitions determining ordinary conduct, are so regular that prevision having a high degree of probability is easy. If, in crossing a street, a man sees a carriage coming upon him, you may safely assert that, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand, he will try to get out of the way.
If, being pressed to catch a train, he knows that by one route it is a mile to the station and by another two miles, you may conclude with considerable confidence that he will take the one-mile route; and should he be aware that losing the train will lose him a fortune, it is pretty certain that, if he has but ten minutes to do the mile in, he will either run or call a cab. If he can buy next door a commodity of daily consumption better and cheaper than at the other end of the town, we may affirm that, if he does not buy next door, some special relation between him and the remoter shop-keeper furnishes a strong reason for taking a worse commodity at greater cost of money and trouble.
Now, since the predominant activities of citizens are determined by motives of this degree of regularity, there must be resulting social phenomena that have corresponding degrees of regularity—greater degrees, indeed, since in them the effects of exceptional motives become lost in the effects of the aggregate of ordinary motives.
Another comment may be added. Froude exaggerates the antithesis he draws by using a conception of science which is too narrow: he speaks as though there were no science but exact science. Scientific previsions, both qualitative and quantitative, have various degrees of definiteness; and because among certain classes of phenomena the previsions are approximate only, it is not, therefore, to be said that there is no science of those phenomena: if there is some prevision, there is some science. Take, for example, Meteorology. The Derby has been run in a snow-storm, and you may occasionally want a fire in July; but such anomalies do not prevent us from being perfectly certain that the coming summer will be warmer than the past winter.
Our south-westerly gales in the autumn may come early or may come late, may be violent or moderate, at one time or at intervals; but that there will be an excess of wind from the south-west at that part of the year we may be sure. The like holds with the relations of rain and dry weather to the quantity of water in the air and the weight of the atmospheric column: though exactly-true predictions cannot be made, approximately-true ones can. So that, even were there not among social phenomena more definite relations than these and the all-important ones are far more definite , there would still be a Social Science.
Once more, Mr. Froude here touches on one of the great difficulties of the Social Science that social phenomena are in so considerable a degree different in each case from what they were in preceding cases , I still find a sufficient reply. For in no concrete science is there absolute repetition; and in some concrete sciences the repetition is no more specific than in Sociology. Even in the most exact of them, Astronomy, the combinations are never the same twice over: the repetitions are but approximate. And on turning to Geology, we find that, though the processes of denudation, deposition, upheaval, subsidence, have been ever going on in conformity with laws more or less clearly generalized, the effects have been always new in their proportions and arrangements; though not so completely new as to forbid comparisons, consequent deductions, and approximate previsions based on them.
Were there no such replies as these to Mr. Against his professed theory may be set his actual practice, which, as it seems to me, tacitly asserts that explanations of some social phenomena in terms of cause and effect are possible, if not explanations of all social phenomena.
Thus, respecting the Vagrancy Act of , which made a slave of a confirmed vagrant, Mr. Yet again, Mr. Justice and truth alone endure and live. Injustice and falsehood may be long-lived, but doomsday comes at last to them, in French revolutions and other terrible ways. So that we must not interpret Mr. Another writer who denies the possibility of a Social Science, or who, at any rate, admits it only as a science which has its relations of phenomena so traversed by providential influences that it does not come within the proper definition of a science, is Canon Kingsley.
Be it so: but in what sense are the laws of matter inevitable?
Potentially or actually? Even in the seemingly most uniform and universal law, where do we find the inevitable or the irresistible? Is there not in nature a perpetual competition of law against law, force against force, producing the most endless and unexpected Edition: current; Page: [ 42 ] variety of results? Cannot each law be interfered with at any moment by some other law, so that the first law, though it may struggle for the mastery, shall be for an indefinite time utterly defeated? The law of gravity is immutable enough: but do all stones veritably fall to the ground?
Certainly not, if I choose to catch one, and keep it in my hand. It remains there by laws; and the law of gravity is there, too, making it feel heavy in my hand: but it has not fallen to the ground, and will not, till I let it. So much for the inevitable action of the laws of gravity, as of others.
Potentially, it is immutable; but actually, it can be conquered by other laws. This passage, severely criticized, if I remember rightly, when the address was originally published, it would be scarcely fair to quote were it not that Canon Kingsley has repeated it at a later date in his work, The Roman and the Teuton.
The very unusual renderings of scientific ideas which it contains, need here be only enumerated. He enunciates, too, a quite-exceptional view of gravitation. As conceived by astronomers and physicists, gravitation is a universal and ever-acting force , which portions of matter exercise on one another when at sensible distances; and the law of this force is that it varies directly as the mass and inversely as the square of the distance.
Further, the theory of natural processes which Mr. Kingsley has arrived at, seems to be that when two or more forces or laws, if he prefers it come into play, there is a partial or complete suspension of one by another. Whereas the doctrine held by men Edition: current; Page: [ 43 ] of science is, that the forces are all in full operation, and the effect is their resultant; so that, for example, when a shot is fired horizontally from a cannon, the force impressed on it produces in a given time just the same amount of horizontal motion as though gravity were absent, while gravity produces in that same time a fall just equal to that which it would have produced had the shot been dropped from the mouth of the cannon.
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In an edition of Alton Locke published since the delivery of the address above quoted from, there is a new preface containing, among others, the following passages:—. Whenever any class has conceived the hope of being fairly represented, it is certain to fulfil its own hopes, unless it employs, or provokes, violence impossible in England.