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EARTH HUNGER AND OTHER ESSAYS

exercise. There is never any correct process by which we can realize an ideal. The fashion of forming ideals corrupts the mind and injures character. What we need to practise, on the contrary, is to know, with the greatest exactitude, what is, and then plan to deal with the case as it is by the most approved means.

Let me add a word about the ethical views which go with the scientific-critical way of looking at things. I have mentioned already our modern view of manufactured documents, which we call forged. In regard to history it seems to me right to say that history has value just on account of the truth which it contains and not otherwise. Consequently the historian who leaves things out, or puts them in, for edifying, patriotic, or other effect, sins against the critical-scientific method and temper which I have described. In fact, patriotism is another root of non-reality, and the patriotic bias is hostile to critical thinking.

It must be admitted that criticism is pessimistic. I say that it must be admitted, because, in our time, optimism is regarded as having higher merit and as a duty; that which is pessimistic is consequently regarded as bad and wrong. That is certainly an error. Pessimism includes caution, doubt, prudence, and care; optimism means gush, shouting, boasting, and rashness. The extreme of pessimism is that life is not worth living; the extreme of optimism is that everything is for the best in the best of worlds. Neither of these is true, but one is just as false as the other. The critical temper will certainly lead to pessimism; it will develop the great element of loss, disaster, and bad luck which inheres in all human enterprises. Hence it is popularly considered to consist in fault-finding. You will need to guard against an excess of it, because if you yield to it, it will lame your energies