The Influence of Monarchs: Steps in a New Science of History

By Frederick Adams Woods | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY AND HISTORIOMETRY

THE present indifference to any systematic outlook on history is not hard to understand. Although the most brilliant and gifted minds have worked in the field of historical interpretation, it is not surprising that little advance has been made. The famous champions lie will in the past. They could hardly have been expected to have any clear conception of human development if they lived and died before the days or Darwin, Wallace, and Spencer. Evolution in some form was, it is true, already the conviction of nearly every great thinker from Thales to Goethe. They guessed at the continuity from general considerations, but they did not know it until the naturalists proved it; and, furthermore, the ideas of natural selection, survival of the fittest, heredity, and modification from the environment were practically non-existent, or at least not utilizable as they are to-day.

Not only did the pre-Darwinian philosophers of history lack assurance for the correct genetic point of view in regard to the development of human society, but, more baneful still, their systems were developed in a way to give free rein to the most rampant theories. Never once did the preconvinced, if earnest and erudite, apostles of historico-political doctrinaires devise any check to curb their waywardness, or recognize the dangers of the personal equation. The result has been that the well-known writers who have attempted to interpret historical meaning are always found unconvincing. They have been one-sided in their devotions, or narrow in their scope, and always deficient in scientific method. The partisanship of each famous writer is so evident that it is

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