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THE LITERATURE OF THE VICTORIAN ERA

by Hugh Walker (1910)

22

Previous Page  ...took its rise from the speculations of Malthus, and the classical economists were all in more or less intimate relation with the Utilitarians. Further, the agnostic tendencies of the biological evolutionists are in harmony with the scepticism of the school of Mill. On the other hand, however, the fundamental conception of evolution has no place at all in the earlier phases of the utilitarian system, while it is the master-thought of the other great school which struggled with the Utilitarians and their allies for the allegiance of thinking men; and so supremely important is this conception in the thought of the century that disagreement with regard to it is of more moment than agreement in all other respects.

The greatest of the opponents of Utilitarianism went back for their inspiration to Germany. Not Hume but Immanuel Kant, the great thinker who was roused by Hume from his "dogmatic slumber," was their spiritual father. To describe them we must discard the adjective "utilitarian" and substitute for it "transcendental." The word is probably most familiarly known from the works of Emerson, but the thing it signifies inspires also the prose of Coleridge and of Carlyle. This too lets in once more that sense of mystery which is scarcely consistent with a conception of life as made up of pleasures and pains capable of being weighed and numbered, added, multiplied and divided. Through their transcendentalism the philosophers share, with the poets, the architects, the painters and the Catholic party, that very complex thing which we call the spirit of romance. So powerful, indeed, is the romantic strain that Hoffding in his History of Modern Philosophy calls Hegel and the Hegelians "the romantic school." They, however, make a momentous addition to transcendentalism, the addition of the conception of development, which, more than anything else, has made modern thought what it is. Like all great conceptions it has a long history and springs from many roots; but, except Darwin, no single man has done so much as Hegel to establish its authority over the human mind. Hence in part the immense significance of that intellectual affiliation to Germany which must be discussed in the next chapter.




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