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universal cause of the misery of mankind; but men are reasonable beings; therefore truth will prevail over error; and of their own accord men will adopt the one perfect form of society, without laws or central government. In modern language, they will be not Socialists but Anarchists. In Platonic language, they will have no need of kings because they will be themselves philosophers. The idea is (as after 2,000 years it might easily be) larger than that of Plato, who thought that the redemption of society depended on the appearance of philosophic kings. But if the idea is greater, it is only the more impracticable. If it is a mistake to suppose men governed by a ruling passion, it is equally wrong to suppose them influenced by reason without any passion at all
. Godwin allows that the victory of reason will be slow in coming; but he seems wrong in imagining that it could ever be complete, even in a single man, at any time, however far in the future. He was abstract, too, in his conception of rational society ; it could only (he thinks) have one form, as opposed to the diversity that now prevails (III. vii. 181 seq.), the diversity allowed to individuals being denied to societies, for societies are mere aggregates of individuals, and have nothing that the units have not. Godwin's theory is the apotheosis of individualism and (in a sense) of Protestantism ; a purified and enlightened individualism is not to him (as to Rousseau) the beginning, but the end of all human progress.
He is the father not so truly of philosophical radicalism as of Anarchism.
The great objection to the theory is its violation of the axiom above quoted from Hume-of the uniformity of human nature. The axiom does not mean that men can never change for better or for worse, but that they cannot entirely lose an old attribute or gain an entirely new one,-men as such having specific qualities, the absence of which makes them cease to be men. While the race remaineth, reason and fancy, feeling and desire will not cease. We cannot suppose primitive man to be without intellect, and we cannot suppose millennial man to be without passion. But Godwin was not alone in those ideas.
Not long after the first appearance of Godwin's Political Justice, Condorcet, in hiding from the Committee of Public Safety (1794), was writing his Outlines of a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Intellect. Though “the rights of man are written in the book of nature,” by studying the laws of the development of the human faculties, as they present themselves in history, we learn (he thinks) how errors and prejudices arise, and therewith how they may be removed. He divides history into ten great epochs ; ist, that of hunters and fishermen ; 2nd, that of shepherds; 3rd, that of tillers of the soil ; 4th, that of commerce, science, and philosophy in Greece; 5th, that of science and philosophy from the conquests of Alexander to the decline of the Roman Empire ; 6th, that of the decadence of science till the Crusades ; 7th, from the latter date till the invention of Printing ; Sth, from the invention of Printing to the attacks on the principle of Authority, by Luther, Descartes, and Bacon; and 9th, from Descartes to the French Republic, when reason, tolerance, and humanity were becoming the watchwords of all. In conclusion, he looks forward to the future, and sees not only enlightenment extending, but science more and more completely mastering nature. The progress of the race, in every respect, is without limit; and it will result in equality of material, comfort and security of livelihood, as well as moral and intellectual perfection, universal peace, and political liberty Industry, by aid of the sciences, will make the soil capable of yielding support without limit.” He pauses to ask, Will not the increase of men be without limit, too? and answers, In any case, at a very distant time, and before that time arrives we shall no longer be prevented by “superstition ” from limiting our numbers in ways obvious enough, but not now followed.
The equality of the sexes, which progress will certainly bring with it, will make this consummation more easy of fulfilment. Progress in the art of medicine will so prolong life, that death will be the exception rather than the rule. Persecuted philosophers may console themselves by looking away from the present to this glorious future.
1 Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de i'esprit humain. 3rd ed., 1797
2 Esquisse, p. 334 ; cf. 345, 375 seq. p. 361 seq.
It was this picture of the future, drawn in similar outlines by Godwin and Condorcet, that impressed the French and English public at the end of last century. Malthus called on them to distrust the picture utterly. He drew attention to one appetite in particular, which was permanently hostile to systems of equality. This was the appetite of sex. Its economical effects had been noticed by Hume, Adam Smith, and lesser writers, but had been first directly brought to bear on systems of equality by Dr. Robert Wallace (Prospects of Mankind, 1761), who had failed to do it justice. Physical impulses (says Malthus) must have their satisfaction ; and the passion of sex has not been abolished, or even weakened by civilization; there is no “tendency” to remove it. And for the human beings that are thereby brought into the world food is always necessary. These two facts, taken together, make it impossible that a reign of equality should either come about, or if it did appear, should ever last.
As things are now, there is a perpetual pressure by population, on the supplies of food. ' Vice and misery cut down the numbers of men when they grow beyond the food. The increase of men is rapid and easy; the increase of food is, in comparison, slow and toilsome. They are to each other as a geometrical increase to an arithmetical. In the United States of North America, the people double their numbers in twenty-five years ; and yet they have not perfectly healthy conditions of life, nor perfect immunity from vice. Godwin's regenerated race would, by supposition, be free from vice, and they would increase faster than the Americans. The result would be a struggle for existence, and the reappearance of inequality. The causes are acting now; and, as they act now, they would act then. Godwin believes that, if the allurements of fancy and ornament were removed, and the appetites were presented to us in bare simplicity, their attractiveness would vanish,—that we should see what a
3 Essay, ist ed., p. 8.
mean thing they are. But (says his critic) so long as men are men, the fancy and ornament will be part and parcel of the attraction of appetite ; asceticism can never be universal, or even general. There will be families wherever there is food for them, and even (sadly enough) where there is not. This is a source of suffering with which human institutions have little or nothing to do. But it is one of the great causes of human activity. Adam Smith had dwelt on the powerful influence of commercial ambition in modifying society and securing progress in spite of bad political institutions. Godwin had considered the love of praise as a great motive to exertion, which would not disappear, but only take a higher form in his ideal society (VIII. IV. 825). Neither of them sufficiently noticed the sharpness of the spur applied by the pressure of population on the food. It is this ever-recurring necessity that keeps human wits constantly on the stretch. The Maker of the World takes this way. of drawing out the faculties of man, which would otherwise languish. Leisure for all would be apt to mean indolence for all."
When Malthus re-wrote his Essay, in 1803, he amended his argument considerably. He felt that, as a controversialist, he had been tempted to meet one abstraction by another. His second statement of his position is more guarded. The tendency of population to increase beyond subsistence may be checked (he now allows) not only by vice and misery, but by an effort of will, which he calls “moral restraint,” though it need not be more moral than the temperance which Plato describes as due to a kind of intemperance, the essence of it being simply that the appetite is not gratified. The power of reason over passion is thus conceded, and the critic's point of view is made less remote from that of the author originally criticised. Moreover, the teleological argument is weakened, for it is now admitted that below a certain grade of misery the fear of starvation leaves men helpless and hopeless and does not lead to progress. But the question is now discussed more fairly on its own
1 For the theology of Malthus, see Malthus and His Work. Bk. I., ch. i., 35, and Bk. III.
merits, apart from the particular application to Godwin's political philosophy. As Adam Smith traced the effects of one particular kind of ambition on human industry and human progress, so Malthus traces the effects of one particular appetite. He takes the whole series of nations known characteristically as savage, barbarian, and civilized, and considers how far this particular appetite has been checked in its effect upon them by moral restraint, and how far simply by the “positive checks” of vice and misery. Like Adam Smith, he has an idea of how one cause would operate if taken by itself; and, like that author, he observes how, as a matter of fact, it is modified by other causes. The modifications are by far the larger part of his completed Essay. The desirable state of things (in Malthus' opinion) is that in which the various aims of civilized men, including commercial ambition, enter in and prevent or delay the gratification of this appetite, giving the tortoise a long start before the swift hare, Instead of plain living and high thinking, he desires high living (in the sense of a high standard of living) and high thinking together. We need not (he thinks) wait till all men are perfectly disinterested, and absolutely raised above the temptations of appetite, before hoping for them a comfortable life. On the other hand, he agrees with Godwin that, if anything is to be done, it must be by individual conviction, responsibility, and initiative, and not by laws and institutions; he condemns all attempts to regulate population by laws, almost as heartily as Godwin condemns such attempts to regulate human thought and conduct in general. Like Godwin, he was a Utilitarian, and like Godwin, an individualist, —two features which were to be associated with English economists for a long time to come. On the other hand, he stands almost alone among English economists in his strong regard for the principle of Nationality, which led him, amongst other things, to countenance the Corn Laws.
The amended argument of Malthus against Godwin undoubtedly brings him nearer to the latter. It is admitted to be possible for men to remain in a state of equality on the supposition that all are perfectly prudent and self-restrained in the matter of marriage. The main