Part III
WHAT COULD BE DONE

12. Political Aims and Social Facts

IT MAY BE that the course of history, of social and political life, is determined. It may be, in other words, that the laws of historical development are independent of any influence from human reason or voluntary human choice. The growth and decline of peoples, the rise and fall of civilizations, the spread and dissolution of churches, all may occur in some sequence that has no causal reference to our own rational nature. Many philosophers have thought so, and have traced the causal root of history to the Will of an Absolute God or to rainfall, to Destiny or Race or the accidental meetings of atoms.

If so, then all political debate and all discussion of social reform, all our arguments and supposed decisions about elections and wars and statutes and revolutions, are neurotic illusions, meaningless scrawls on a blank façade. All, then, that we could intelligibly do about history would be to contemplate it with a detached aesthetic interest.

This may be so, but we must, and we do, assume that it is not so. We believe, and we cannot help believing, that what we think and decide makes some difference to the course of history.

The question then arises: how much difference? We must beware of this assumption of ours. If we assume, and are perhaps justified in assuming, that our thoughts and decisions make some difference to history, it does not follow that they make very much difference. It is, indeed, fairly easy to demonstrate that they make, at most, very little difference. If we have any freedom in relation to the course of history, to political and social affairs, it is a narrowly restricted freedom.

-144-

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