Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/630

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after, and his native hue of resolution has been sicklied over by thought." True, and with this increase of self-consciousness have increased the binding force of the subjective feelings upon which right and wrong depend; we expect more of ourselves, and we expect more of our fellow-men. "Three hundred years before" (I am quoting again from Mr. Shorthouse), "in the child-like unconsciousness of spiritual conflict which the unquestioned rule of Rome for so long produced, it had been possible, in the days of Boccaccio, for cultivated and refined society to shut itself up in some earthly paradise, and, surrounded by horrors and by death, to spend its days in light wit and anecdote, undisturbed in mind, and kept in bodily health by cheerful enjoyment; but the time for such possibilities as these had long gone by." And if this was true of life in the seventeenth century, as compared with the fourteenth, with how much greater force does it apply to life in the nineteenth century!

I will approach the same subject from another point of view. It is possible to allow—in fact, it is impossible to deny—that conscience has not lost its force, notwithstanding the apparent weakening of the supernaturalism to which it has been usual to ascribe its origin and binding force. But the necessity of recognizing some supreme personal will is often urged as a mental necessity, at least as a convenient theory. If the Supreme Being did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. We can often see our own fallacies in a clearer light by comparing them with modes of thought in the past, now recognized to be no longer sound. And this struck me very forcibly the other day when I was reading Dante's pleading for the maintenance of the supreme power of the emperor in the middle ages. These arguments, I thought, in the "Be Monarchia," are exactly the arguments we hear urged every day in favor of the existence of a personal will in the government of the universe. Yet it may be possible that, as society has managed to exist and to improve without the existence of the former, so our moral and religious life will continue practically unaltered without the conscious recognition of the latter. I will illustrate by extracts.

Dante points out what may be called the physical necessity for a single monarch: "Since the whole heaven is regulated with one motion, to wit, that of the primum mobile, and by one mover, who is God, in all its parts, movements, and movers (and this human reason readily seizes from science); therefore, if our argument be correct, the human race is at its best state when, both in its movements and in regard to those who move it, it is regulated by a single Prince, as by the single movement of heaven, and by one law, as by a single motion. Therefore, it is evidently necessary for the welfare of the world for there to be a Monarchy, a single Princedom, which men call the Empire."[1]

  1. De Monarchia," Book I, chap. ix.