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ideals does not give them. I am thinking of Comte's fantastic attempt to rejuvenate the forms of medieval cathol. icism, of Mill's posthumous essays on religion, and of the attempts, in our own times, of Pragmatism to ally itself with religion, or even to pose as the defender of man's religious interests. These things witness to some deep-seated if vague consciousness in the mind of the nineteenth century that it needs something comprehensive and inclusive, something ultimate and absolute, which the knowledge alone cherished by the mind of the Enlightenment cannot furnish.
Let us look in another quarter for an illustration and confirmation of our thesis. We are frequently reminded by critics and historians that the nineteenth century differed from the preceding two centuries in the depth and sympathy of its historical interests. Now the eighteenth century was interested in history, but its real interest pointed to the future, and not to the past. If it studied the life of the past, it was chiefly for the purpose of gaining some knowledge useful for the statesman and legislator in planning for the future. Its motive was pragmatic and utilitarian. Knowledge of the past was an instrument, useful if not indispensable, for the intelligent guidance of the future. I have said that the nineteenth century is conscious of some fundamental need not satisfied by that type of knowledge, and turns elsewhere than to knowledge for its spiritual and even intellectual guidance. Yet, in its hunger for something absolute and inclusive, it does turn eagerly to a knowledge of its own past, of the historical roots of its culture and its life. And it seeks to appropriate that world of the past, not primarily to discover laws for guiding its present conduct, but simply in order to gain spiritual and intellectual content and substance for its life. Such appropriation and possession of its own past traditions is its own justification; it seems to promise something solid, a knowledge of ends to be achieved, not merely of means and utilities, a background of values in some measure absolute and permanent, not merely things relative and pragmatic. Yet here, too, we are justified in saying that there has been disappointment and disillusion. The nineteenth century turned to the past, to find the permanent framework of human culture and human good, to find values worthy of its best loyalty. But as its historical sympathy has thus broadened, it has seen in everything human, in every ideal, every religion, every morality, a relative justification. It has tended to let intellectual indifference and detachment supplant preferential loyalty, and the discipline of yielding to an absolute Good. You remember the words I have already quoted from Renan, who best typifies this tragic union of splendid intellectual sympathy and a kind of moral indifference: “Formerly, every man had a system; he lived and died by it; now we pass successively through all systems, or better still, comprehend them all at once.
The nineteenth century is conscious of this dilemma, of this possibility of antagonism between the life of reason and knowledge, and the life of loyalty. Loyalty and devotion are impossible without preferences, but to have preferences and to be selective would seem inevitably to be narrow and dogmatic, exclusive in one's intellectual sympathies. It is not strange, then, that the nineteenth century should distrust knowledge, if comprehensive knowledge is incompatible with loyal devotion to something known to be good and worthy. For an age needs its loyalties, no less than an individual.
I have given some cursory indications of the sense in which it is possible to say that the nineteenth century's pervasive distrust of knowledge and intelligence, its appeal to intuition and tradition, is its way of expressing its need of another kind of knowledge than that which the Enlightenment had looked to as utterly sufficient. For men need a knowledge of the total drift of their fortunes and their enterprises, as well as a knowledge of the detailed order of nature's ways; men need a knowledge of that residual environment, of those more ultimate ends which make their various and scattered deeds intelligible and coherent. If such knowledge had been forgotten and neglected in the centuries when men were bending every energy to secure that instrumental knowledge which is power, is it any wonder, I ask, that men should turn to something else than knowledge to give them some total meaning of things without which even power itself is hollow and empty?
But in their response to the total environment of their lives, men are not long content with that which has nothing to do with knowledge. Is there not in all this looking of the nineteenth century to intuition and feeling, to instinct and tradition, a wistful longing that these things might in some fashion conceal within themselves that which is entitled to rank as knowledge! No one can doubt it. And in this wistful longing there is the echo of hopes and beliefs, of religions and philosophies, which the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had almost forgotten, but whose fruitful synthesis with the ideals of the Enlightenment has been the task, not only of the nineteenth century, but of our own age as well.
“SIMEON OF THE PILLAR'*
I am young Simeon of the Pillar, I
I set, and know that, whatsoe'er befall, * The Phi Beta Kappa poem read at the annual meeting of the Society on May 12, 1914.
This broken, frozen, tempest-stricken flesh