"In Europe we know that an age is dying. Here it would be easy to miss the signs of coming changes, but I have little doubt that it will come. A realization of the aimlessness of life lived to labor and to die, having achieved nothing but avoidance of starvation, and the birth of children also doomed to the weary treadmill, has seized the minds of millions."
Sir Auckland Geddes, British Ambassador to the U. S. 1920.
IN conclusion let me say very briefly, as I said in the beginning, that this little book has aimed to be only a sketch. The Problem of Life is old. I have endeavored to approach it afresh, with a new method, in a new spirit, from a new point of view. The literature of the subject is vast. It displays great knowledge and skill. Much of it is fitted to inform and to inspire such as really read with a genuine desire to understand. Its weakness is due to the absence of a true conception of what human beings are. That is what I miss in it and it is that lack of fundamental and central thought that I have striven to supply. If I have succeeded in that, I have no fear-all else will follow quickly, inevitably, as a matter of course. For a fundamental conception, once it is formed and expressed, has a strange power-the power of enlisting the thought and cooperation of many minds. And no conception can have greater power in our human world than a true conception of the nature of Man. For that most important of truths the times are ripe; the world is filled with the saddest of memories, with gloom, forebodings and fear. Without the truth in this matter, there can be no rational hope-history must go on in its dismal course; but with the truth, there is not only hope but certitude that the old order has; passed and that humanity's manhood dates from the present day. That I have here presented the truth in this matter-the true conception of the human class of life-I have personally no doubt; and I have no doubt that that conception is to be the base, the guide, the source of light, of a new civilization.. Whether I am mistaken or not, time will decide. I feel as Buckle felt in writing his History of Civilization:
"Whether or not I have effected anything of real value . . . is a question for competent judges to decide. Of this, at least, I feel certain, that whatever imperfections may be observed, the fault consists, not in the method proposed, but in the extreme difficulty of any single man putting into full operation all the parts of so vast a scheme. It is on this point, and on this alone, that I feel the need of great indulgence. But, as to the plan itself, I have no misgivings. Of defects in its execution I am not unconscious. I can only plead the immensity of the subject, the shortness of a single life and the imperfection of every single enterprise. I, therefore, wish this work to be estimated, not according to the finish of its separate parts, but according to the way in which those parts have been fused into a complete and symmetrical whole. This, in an undertaking of such novelty and magnitude, I have a right to expect, and I would moreover, add, that if the reader has met with opinions adverse to his own, he should remember, that his views are, perhaps, the same as those which I too once held, and which I have abandoned because, after a wider range of study, I found them unsupported by solid proof, subversive of the interest of Man, and fatal to the progress of his knowledge. To examine the notions in which we have been educated, and to turn aside from those which will not bear the test, is a task so painful, that they who shrink from the sufferings should pause before they reproach those by whom the suffering is undergone.... Conclusions arrived at in this way are not to be overturned by stating that they endanger some other conclusions; nor can they be even affected by allegation against their supposed tendency. The principles which I advocate are based upon distinct arguments supported by well ascertained facts. The only points, therefore, to be ascertained, are, whether the arguments are fair, and whether the facts are certain. If these two conditions have been obeyed, the principles follow by an inevitable inference."
And why have I sought throughout to follow the spirit of mathematics? Because I have been dealing with ideas and have desired, above all things else, to be right and clear. Ideas have a character of their own-they are right or wrong independently of our hopes and passions and will. In the connection of ideas there is an unbreakable thread of destiny. That is why in his Mathematical Philosophy Professor Keyser has truly said:
"Mathematics is the study of Fate-not fate in a physical sense, but in the sense of the binding thread that connects thought with thought and conclusions with their premises. Where, then, is our freedom? What do you love? Painting, Poetry? Music? The muses are their fates. Who so loves them is free. Logic is the muse of Thought."
No doubt mathematics is truly impersonal in method; too impersonal maybe to please the sentimentalists before they take the time to think; mathematical analysis of life phenomena elevates our point of view above passion, above selfishness in any form, and, therefore, it is the only method which can tell us genuine truths about ourselves. Spinoza even in the 17th Century had well realized this fact and although imperfect in many ways, his was an effort in the right direction and this quoted conclusion may well be a conclusion for ourselves in the 20th century:
"The truth might forever have remained hid from the human race, if mathematics, which looks not to the final cause of figures, but to their essential nature and the properties involved in it, had not set another type of knowledge before them.... When I turned my mind to this subject, I did not propose to myself any novel or strange aim, but simply to demonstrate by certain and indubitable reason, those things which agree best with practice. And in order that I might enquire into the matters of the science with the same freedom of mind with which we are wont to treat lines and surfaces in mathematics; I determined not to laugh or to weep over the actions of men, but simply to understand them; and to contemplate their affections and passions, such as love, hate, anger, envy, arrogance, pity and all other disturbances of soul not as vices of human nature, but as properties pertaining to it in the same way as heat, cold, storm, thunder pertain to the nature of the atmosphere. For these, though troublesome, are yet necessary, and have certain causes through which we may come to understand them, and thus, by contemplating them in their truth, gain for our minds much joy as by the knowledge of things that are pleasing to the senses."
If only this little book will initiate the scientific study of Man, I shall be happy; for then we may confidently expect a science and art that will know how to direct the energies of man to the advancement of human weal.
What else ? Many topics have not even been broached. Time-binding energy-what may it not achieve in course of the aeons to come? What light may it not yet throw upon such fundamental phenomena as Space, Time, Infinity, and so on? What, if any, are the limits of Time-binding? In it are somehow involved all the higher functions of mind. Is Time identical with Intelligence ? Is either of them the other's cause? Is Time in the Cosmos or is the latter in the former? Is the Cosmos intelligent? Many no doubt and marvelous are the fields which the scientific study of man will open for research.