Gambar halaman

If I am correct in this analysis, it is no derogation of the rank and position of history in the hierarchy of knowledge to say that it is an ethical rather than a mathematical science. And if this is so, then it is evident that the function of the historian in dealing with historical material is an ethical function; not simply because it is his duty, in common with all other men of science, to discover and to state the truth with a high sense of his responsibility to mankind, but because the whole substance of history is of an ethical nature. It is the work of the historian to trace the upward or downward curve of man's development as displayed in the various forms of human conduct, such as art, industry, thought, literature and politics; and, if possible, to bring to light by following the successive transformations that have affected that development the forces and conditions that have in fact produced it, and the effect of particular instances of conduct upon it.

In using the expression “ ethical function ", I do not mean that the historian is to set himself up as a moral judge, and to pass mere private judgments upon historical events. What I mean to affirm is, that the purpose and use of history are found in the truthful record and just estimate of human conduct, which is the outward expression of the real nature of man as a being capable of varying degrees of success or failure in realizing the ends of rational activity. It is with this success or failure that history has to deal, and it is these that the historian is especially called upon to appreciate. To illustrate my meaning, the interest of history does not lie in the fact that so many painters and sculptors lived in a certain period of time and produced so many works, but in the quality of the pictures and statues they created; not in the fact that so many soldiers fought in so many battles and succeeded in killing so many of their number, but in the social purpose for which they fought and the effect of their victory upon human happiness; not in the fact that so many rulers bearing such and such names reigned during so many dynasties, but in the arts they promoted, the legislation that was enacted and the growth of civilization under their rule.

The necessity of this ethical function on the part of the historian grows directly out of the nature of the historic process. Although the life of mankind in its totality may be, and in some sense is, dependent upon the natural energies that underlie human existence, there is in every individual a sense of relation to the past and to the future; that is, a historic consciousness, that distinguishes man from his fellow-creatures of the organic world.

And this historic con


sciousness not only includes a certain sense of indebtedness for the labors and solicitude of the past, but there is, perhaps, no human individual, certainly no typical individual, who does not feel that the forces acting in and through him, whatsoever they are, have ends that ought to be accomplished. And this sense of what ought to be, as distinguished from what is, whether heeded or neglected in practice, is universally recognized as furnishing a standard for the judgment of conduct as good or bad, useful or useless, wise or unwise, noble or ignoble. Further than this, the character of a social community, or of a phase or a period in its development, is determined, and takes its place in the scale of civilization, in accordance with the degree of success or failure in conforming to the norms or standards of conduct as existing in the consciousness of the time.

There is, therefore, in the nature of man a scale of values by which progress or decadence in art, industry, economy, politics, literature and philosophy may be estimated. Alongside the problems of explanation, for the solution of which we appeal to the abstract sciences, are problems of attainment, for whose solution we appeal to history. In the complex of active forces by which we are surrounded there is also a hierarchy of motives by which men are actuated. Whether these motives are absolute or relative, whether the ends at which we aim are attainable or unattainable, does not in any way alter the fact that we are conscious agents in the historic process, as well as observers of its development. Vot to feel its inspiration is utterly to miss its meaning, for the true essence of history lies far more in the will to attain than in the power to explain.

For this reason, namely, that the chief factor of the historic process is the will rather than the intellect, the prediction of the future is impossible. Every great historic movement is a struggle in which contending forces are opposed. Every individual in the social mass in every age is aiming at the realization of his desires. What the net result will be in any particular time and place is difficult to estimate. The mathematical method upon which the physical sciences are based fails us utterly; for in this calculation all the units are different, and all are liable to sudden changes of value. When therefore we apply a systematic, or a strictly genetic, method to a period of history, we are employing a false assumption ; for arts, nations and institutions do not grow like plants, they develop by a series of explosions.

The one constant factor in the historic process is human nature, which is sometimes governed by reason, but generally moved by impulse. The business of the historian therefore is not to make history seem reasonable by placing upon it a scientific stamp foreign to its nature; but to display the motives that have determined the historic process as it has in reality been unfolded. If he is thus faithful in his exposition of motive and result, his work will have a far greater scientific value than if he imports into it principles and methods borrowed from other sciences dealing with materials of a different nature, or products of purely intellectual abstraction ; for the effect of this importation is to impart to history an appearance of reasonableness that it does not in reality possess.

The most powerful temptation that assails the historian, and the one most fatal to the truly scientific character of his work—that is, the one which is likely to introduce into it the largest element of unreality--is the desire to make the historic process seem systematic, orderly and logical. This temptation is especially strong in the treatment of national history, for the reason that a writer is predisposed to see in it the realization of predetermined national ideals through the development of special national qualities. But, in reality, was there ever a historic nation that was not more or less composite in its origin, or that was permitted to develop logically and normally its own inner life? Does not history, truthfully written, show that the life of every people has been perturbed and its normal development perverted or arrested, if not by its own exploits and adventures, by the rivalry, the ambitions, or the hostility of its neighbors? Have not the policies of nearly every nation been deeply influenced, and sometimes almost wholly determined, by the general political system of which it has formed a part? It is not perhaps unfitting, therefore, to point out in an international congress of historians how much the truth of history is liable to suffer from regarding the historic process from a purely national point of view. In reality, nothing can be more deceptive. Are not art, trade, industry, education, literature and even the forms of government profoundly affected by the contact and influence of other nations ? Why, then, from a scientific point of view should historians be reproached, as they sometimes have been, for busying themselves with international treaties and conventions? Are not these conventions, whether enforced by arms or entered into voluntarily, the most vital expressions of international development? And what more distinctly marks the progress of civilization than the mutual obligations which sovereign states are disposed to assume in their relations with one another?

I do not mean to disparage the pragmatic world, but until the historic process is entirely governed by fixed and definite principles of conduct, how can history be scientifically written upon the assumption that it is the product of universal forces acting under universal laws? Thus, from every point of view, it is evident that the function of the historian is not to deal with uniformities or with universal formulas, but with the variations of human conduct as measured by its success and its failure upon the scale of rational endeavor ; for history is nothing more nor less than the record of man's efforts to solve the problems with which he is confronted by his nature and his environment.

It is good for mankind to realize that, although living in a universe governed by law, as a result of its freedom it has sometimes gone wrong; and that, without a loyal adherence to great principles, it may go wrong again. The best antidote to this eventuality is a true science of the past. But, whether it be for good or for evil, as men of science, dealing with the largest and most instructive aspect of human development, historians are bound by that scientific conscience which is the test, the badge and the glory of their profession to unveil reality and give meaning to the words, ** Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht."

DAVID J. Hill.



[ocr errors]

For every student of monasticism the moment will come when, weary of following the general movement through its complicated stages of growth and power, he will turn into the bypaths of his subject in order to establish an immediate contact with the human lives which fed the orders with their boundless hopes and energies. Arrived at this point of view, he will do well to concentrate his attention on the origin and development of some typical foundation. By mastering its surviving records he may succeed not only in peopling the deserted dormitory and weed-choked garden with some semblance of forgotten life, but also in throwing a not unwelcome light on the whole movement of which the single monastery was a vital link. In the hope of bringing the perhaps greatest moral force of the twelfth century, the Cistercian reform, within the range of our common understanding, I venture to present in the following pages the story of an Italian offshoot of the famous French order, the story of the abbey of San Galgano.

In the rolling country of southern Tuscany, where the Verse River begins its winding course, lies the little town of Chiusdino, crowning a hill, which is remarkable, like almost all the domiciles of medieval men, by reason of its wide survey and splendid inaccessibility. In the twelfth century, when our story begins, Chiusdino with the neighboring hills and valleys belonged to the diocese of the bishop of Volterra, who, under the added title of count of the empire, exercised also civil authority in this region. Here, shortly after the year 1180, tidings of strange and miraculous import began to pass from mouth to mouth. The simple peasant-folk told one another as they sat before their doors at eventide or paced the road together to the neighboring market that a knight, Galgano by name and a citizen of Chiusdino, forswearing the delights of the flesh, had abandoned family and friends, that he had gone to dwell as an anchorite in the forest solitudes around his home, and that when, after a year of unexampled hardships, he had died and been buried, immediately, in sign of the favor which he enjoyed with the Lord, wonderful cures began to be effected at his tomb. Presently a pious stream of pilgrimage began to flow toward Monte Siepi, as the wooded hill was called which was the scene of the good man's rigor

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »