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advance I have briefly sketched is not an affair of the moment, but formidable in character and likely to last at least one swing of the pendulum of time. Are we not indeed forced to ask if this phrase does not imply something of its real character? Is it a swinging back of the pendulum? Is this disturbance in our province, this recrudescence of philosophy, symptomatic of what is occurring in the whole realm of thought? Are we passing from an age of investigation to an age of speculation? There are I think on all sides, in many ways, signs that this may very possibly be the case. My immediate predecessor in this office paid his respects to the vagaries of Christian Science. I do not think he would disagree with me
I in seeing in the wide vogue of that cult a significant sign of farreaching popular reaction away from science towards speculation. Christian Science as properly calls itself Christian as any of its pietistic forerunners in the history of religion, but it ludicrously miscalls itself science. It is rather, as a little intelligent study of its literature makes clear, a denial of validity to the fundamental principles upon which all science rests. Even in the field of physical science itself, in some of its most rapidly advancing branches, in the writings of some who are considered among its foremost representatives, there may be seen some faint signs of a similar revival of philosophy in speculations on the immortality of the soul, on the earth as the only abode of life, on the habitability of Mars, and in some of those on the ultimate bearings of the discovery of radium.
Whether this be true or not, and the prediction of a general reaction is too venturesome to be made here, it seems certain to me at least that in our own field a reaction is well under way and not to be avoided. For more than fifty years the historian has had possession of the field and has deemed it his sufficient mission to determine what the fact was, including the immediate conditions which gave it shape. Now he finds himself confronted with numerous groups of aggressive and confident workers in the same field who ask not what was the fact-many of them seem to be comparatively little interested in that—but their constant question is what is the ultimate explanation of history, or, more modestly, what are the forces which determine human events and according to what laws do they act. This is nothing else than a new flaming up of interest in the philosophy, or the science of history. No matter what disguise may be worn in a given case, no matter what the name may be by which a given group elects to call itself, no matter how small, in the immensity of influences which make the whole, may be the force in which it would find the final explanation of history, the emphatic assertion which they all make is that history is the orderly progression of mankind to a definite end, and that we may know and state the laws which control the actions of men in organized society. This is the one common characteristic of all the groups I have described; and it is of each of them the one most prominent characteristic. We must also recognize the special significance of the fact that this demand for a philosophy of history is not now made by poets, philosophers, or theologians. The men who make it invoke the name of science. Some of them indeed acknowledge a close alliance with the philosophers and conjure much with metaphysics, but others of the same name will warmly repudiate such an alliance and speak of metaphysics in disrespectful language. All alike, however, lay claim in special degree to the methods, purposes and results of science as their own. All of them seem to look with more or less well-concealed contempt on the historian, and to regard their own work as of a higher type, more truly scientific, and more nearly final in character than ours.
What is the historian to do about it? It is useless to pooh-pooh this movement, or to underestimate it, to call it a passing wave of thought which will soon sink to its real level and lose the relative importance which it now assumes. It must be confessed that this is the attitude which trained historians, at least those of us who have lived most of our active lives in the sharper air of science, are still inclined to take. But it is an impossible attitude. The new interpretation of history brings us too much that is convincing, despite all the mere speculation that goes with it; its contribution to a better understanding of our problems is already too valuable; we are ourselves too clearly conscious in these later days of the tangled network of influences we are striving to unravel; of the hidden forces upon the borders of whose action we arrive in our own explorations, to justify us in ignoring or in denying the worth of those results which are reached by other ways than ours. We may perhaps find warrant for an exercise of discrimination, which does not always seem possible to them, but further than that it is not likely that we can go.
Nor is it of any use to deny the possibility of a science, or a philosophy of history. The existence of such a possibility is one of the most profound questions which has ever occupied human thought. Since man first began to ask about the destiny of the race, as I have already said, he has been trying to find the answer, and some of the most comprehensive philosophic systems that have been constructed in the history of thought, like that of Hegel for instance, are really nothing more than attempts to formulate, and show the operation of, the one controlling principle that has shaped all human achievement, or indeed all action, material as well as human, since the spirit of God first moved upon the face of the waters. The revived interest in this problem during the past twenty-five years has already produced a great literature. If we do not misread the signs of the present they point plainly to a still more active discussion of this question during the next twenty-five years, and to a still larger literature about it. Whatever may be true of those of us who may now look forward to the not distant enjoyment of a well-earned pension, it certainly behooves the young historian to obtain a clear understanding of exactly what this question means, and what its relation is to the work which he proposes to do.
The question what the science, or philosophy of history is, or whether such things are possible to our knowledge, I do not propose to discuss here. It would be absurd within the limits of time, it would be equally absurd within the limits of the occasion of this address to undertake such a discussion. And did time and the stage both permit, such a discussion could only be undertaken by one who had devoted long study to the question, as I certainly have not. There are, however, certain distinctions which it seems necessary to make at the outset of all thinking on the subject, which may perhaps well be stated by an outsider and which may be found useful by the historian who is often puzzled, I think, by the things which are said by the newcomers about his field of work.
In the first place, the phrase "the science of history” is used in contemporary discussion in certain quite distinct meanings which it should be the first duty of the disputant who speaks in the name of science to discriminate and keep clearly apart in his argument. They are, however, as a matter of fact oftentimes so inextricably mixed that not merely is the reader confused, but it is evident that the writer's own thought has arrived at no clear understanding of the terms he is using. One of these meanings we have in the question, Is history a science or an art? I should feel that I ought to apologize for raising this question here, had not so much been written upon it. To any clear thinking, in my opinion, the question is absurd, and one with which no working historian need concern himself. It attempts to make a distinction which does not exist. It goes on the supposition that two things are mutually exclusive between which there exists no incompatibility, no anthesis, no contradiction. It carries on its face the indication that he who asks it is thinking chiefly of history as a branch of literature and that he has no clear conception of what he means by history as a science, for certainly whether he means this phrase to refer to the method of collecting historical material, or to the character of the problems which history raises, history as an art is not thereby affected. Any historian, of any school of thought, may make his history art if he is able to do so. History must remain one of the highest branches of literature. In some future time the drama of human action on the stage of the world's history will be unfolded in a great work of art, immortal in itself like all great works of art, but this will only be when the facts of history which are necessary to its truth, and therefore to its permanence as art, are finally established. Till that time comes the work of the man who writes history as literature will be more ephemeral than that of the man who records his scientific work upon the facts of the past, even though the latter's monograph be forgotten and his name perish. May I add that the approach of that day is not hastened by the criticisms of estimable gentlemen who desire to find, in pleasant reading, relaxation and entertainment at the close of an arduous day and to cherish at the same time the fond imagination that they are cultivating their minds in the acquirement of historical knowledge? It would seem at times as if this were the source from which comes at present the chief demand for history as an art, and as if this were the audience chiefly sought by the artistic historian. I would not, however, unduly disparage the writing of history as literature. I do desire to emphasize strongly the difference between the literary historian and the one whose ambition it is not to produce fine art but to add something to the sum of human knowledge.
A second use of the phrase "the science of history” is with reference to the method of historical investigation and to the validity of its results. In ascertaining and classifying the objective facts with which history deals can methods which are really scientific be employed—and this includes the somewhat different and subordinate question, can the same methods be employed as in the ascertaining and classifying of facts in the natural and physical sciences? Upon our answer to this question depends our answer to another; viz., have the conclusions established by these methods a degree of validity really scientific? These questions are of course most fundamental for every man who concerns himself with the facts of history, no matter from what point of view he regards them. The answer which is to be given to them is of vital importance alike to the political historian and to the sociologist, but it should be clearly perceived that they concern methods of work only and the trustworthiness of data. They are wholly different questions from that which is raised by the five groups of students whom I have especially named in their demand for a science of history, and the unqualified affirmative with which, as I have already said, I believe we must answer the former questions, has no bearing on our mental attitude towards the latter demand. Vor has it indeed upon the somewhat different and subordinate question whether the scientific method of historical investigation is the same as that employed in the natural and physical sciences. ('pon this question I have nothing to say in this place.
A third meaning of the phrase " the science of history” is that in which the sociologist or the social psychologist uses it when he is speaking with care. In this sense it raises the question, Are the objective facts with which the historian deals, the past actions of the race, determined in their occurrence by forces acting according to fixed laws, and similar in character and method of operation to the forces which are at work in the sphere of the natural and physical sciences ? This is the one question which the new movement in history, from the days of Comte and Buckle, has persistently pushed to the front. It is towards the solution of this question that, in my opinion, its most important contributions have been made, more important than the light, nevertheless great, which it has thrown on particular historical problems, and also notwithstanding the baseless speculation which has attended, and does attend, its work. This is, in my opinion again, the most proper meaning of the phrase “the science of history”, and the possibility of such a science I believe to be the great question of the future in the new study and writing of history. May I venture to say that I am convinced that in this sense history is a science, that the events with which it is concerned have been determined by forces which act according to fixed law, and that most of the objections which have been urged against this view are due to misapprehensions, or incomplete reflection ?
If a fourth point to which I would call attention is not strictly speaking a distinct meaning of the phrase “the science of history”, it is an idea which has played a large part in the discussion of the subject. This is the assertion that even if laws control the destinies of men, those laws are unknowable, that no amount of investigation and study will ever enable us to formulate them, or to come to a knowledge of the great system, the universe of conscious action, in which they work together in one harmonious whole. While I believe it is possible to show that an argument of this kind is also founded on misapprehension, my purpose here is merely to point out that however clearly one may seem to prove that the laws of history are beyond our grasp, he has taken no step towards proving that they do not exist; this argument should be confined to showing that a science of history is beyond our comprehension and construction, and not be used to prove that there is in reality no such thing.