Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/505

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LANGUAGE AND LOGIC

much like the products of the mind in dreaming where it is not under the control of the intellect and the will. I find no difficulty in the comprehension of mathematical formulæ, or in grasping the idea of time and space, or of the persistence of force, or of the indestructibility of matter, apart from the terms in which they are stated; but these are propositions quite beyond the mental reach of the child. The theory that we use words as supports just as a lame man uses crutches until he is healed, breaks down before the fact that children do not need verbal crutches and are able to walk, figuratively speaking, without them. It is probable that every normal child born in a civilized community is endowed by nature with certain hereditary capacities which are then spontaneously developed up to a certain point under the influence of its environment. If the development is to be carried farther, the child's environment must become aggressive and begin a course of training. In fact, what we call culture or civilization is the result of an effort exerted continuously by a small part of the community under pressure of the state upon the whole. There is no doubt that men existed in South Africa as early as in northeast Africa; yet in the former region they never got far enough from the primitive stage to construct a government in the modern sense of the term. When in the course of time this small minority loses its efficiency, the disintegrating forces gain the upper hand and the state falls to pieces. This was the fate of all the pre-christian commonwealths and may be the ultimate fate of all that exists at the present time. The educational agencies of a culture-state are engaged in the endless task of rolling a stone up the hill of progress with more or less success. But as soon as the propelling force is relaxed it will probably begin to roll down. With each generation the work has to be done over again almost from the foundation; in other words, there is a constantly oncoming crop of young savages to be tamed and trained. The reason why the Mesopotamian and the Egyptian kingdoms, the Greek and Roman governments, decayed was that the intelligent minority was overslaughed and eventually destroyed by the atavistic agencies that had at no time ceased their activities. The state had foes within and foes without. It was able to withstand both for centuries, but not for ages. They had simply been kept in check. Heroes, as Carlyle would call them, endowed with varying degrees of efficiency built up states and their successors maintained them. The process was partly spontaneous, partly purposive. In like manner language is a spontaneous growth up to a certain point. It never passes beyond this point unless it becomes the object of mental effort. But even effort is powerless beyond a certain stage. No amount of education can make a great writer, or a great poet, or a great orator, notwithstanding Quintillian's dictum that the orator is made. Neither is any government sufficiently powerful to force a language upon a re-