Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure, And Other Essays

'Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure, And Other Essays': by Edward Carpenter is a book published in 1889, reflecting the scientific and philosophic thought of that period. The first observation goes like this. "Some of us are inclined to think that civilization is a kind of disease which the various races of man have to pass through—as children pass through measles or whooping cough."
Desire, or inward change, comes first, followed by action. That results in an organisation or outward structure. And on which, a civiliztion grows.
But, as the author says, the human mind is incapable of really defining even the smallest fact of nature. The simplest thing baffles us and, incapable of an answer, we resort to generalisations. So, sometimes we are idealists, and sometimes materialists. Sometimes we believe in mechanics, sometimes in human or spiritual forces. As we master more of these, we become civilized.
Other aspects of our society are examined in such unique ways. For example, what is wrong with a criminal. Is he really harmful to Society? When his only fault is to break a law: and the law being consolidated public opinion of Society, which the Society keeps changing. Contemplation into further topics, like the state of science, the way we appreciate morality, etc. follows this. Both from the point of view of western philosophy and the more mystical eastern thought.
Author makes it a point to clarify that while we are considering Morality as a foundation-element of Society, it must never be lost sight of that it is not the only element. Also, it would be comparatively senseless and useless to mould one's life on the basis of morality, unless grafted on and complemented by the other personal qualities that can influence a society's cause. Though the author does not explicitly mention this, the book makes one thing clear; our fascination with civilization should not lead us to lose whatever we hope to gain from it. A critical vision is always good, more so, here.
The constant disturbances we have been experiencing in human societies across the globe since time immemmorial, and the agitation we presently experience even on harmless issues like beauty contests or Valentine's day, tells this loud and clear. These essays are relevant now, more than before.