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Produced by Rebecca Trump, and Sue Asscher





FIRST AND LAST THINGS

A CONFESSION OF FAITH AND RULE OF LIFE


By H.G. Wells



CONTENTS.


INTRODUCTION.


BOOK 1. METAPHYSICS.

CHAPTER 1.1. THE NECESSITY FOR METAPHYSICS.

CHAPTER 1.2. THE RESUMPTION OF METAPHYSICAL ENQUIRY.

CHAPTER 1.3. THE WORLD OF FACT.

CHAPTER 1.4. SCEPTICISM OF THE INSTRUMENT.

CHAPTER 1.5. THE CLASSIFICATORY ASSUMPTION.

CHAPTER 1.6. EMPTY TERMS.

CHAPTER 1.7. NEGATIVE TERMS.

CHAPTER 1.8. LOGIC STATIC AND LIFE KINETIC.

CHAPTER 1.9. PLANES AND DIALECTS OF THOUGHT.

CHAPTER 1.10. PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS FROM THESE CONSIDERATIONS.

CHAPTER 1.11. BELIEFS.

CHAPTER 1.12. SUMMARY.


BOOK 2. OF BELIEFS.

CHAPTER 2.1. MY PRIMARY ACT OF FAITH.

CHAPTER 2.2. ON USING THE NAME OF GOD.

CHAPTER 2.3. FREE WILL AND PREDESTINATION.

CHAPTER 2.4. A PICTURE OF THE WORLD OF MEN.

CHAPTER 2.5. THE PROBLEM OF MOTIVES THE REAL PROBLEM OF LIFE.

CHAPTER 2.6. A REVIEW OF MOTIVES.

CHAPTER 2.7. THE SYNTHETIC MOTIVE.

CHAPTER 2.8. THE BEING OF MANKIND.

CHAPTER 2.9. INDIVIDUALITY AN INTERLUDE.

CHAPTER 2.10. THE MYSTIC ELEMENT.

CHAPTER 2.11. THE SYNTHESIS.

CHAPTER 2.12. OF PERSONAL IMMORTALITY.

CHAPTER 2.13. A CRITICISM OF CHRISTIANITY.

CHAPTER 2.14. OF OTHER RELIGIONS.

CHAPTER 2.15.


BOOK 3. OF GENERAL CONDUCT.

CHAPTER 3.1. CONDUCT FOLLOWS FROM BELIEF.

CHAPTER 3.2. WHAT IS GOOD?

CHAPTER 3.3. SOCIALISM.

CHAPTER 3.4. A CRITICISM OF CERTAIN FORMS OF SOCIALISM.

CHAPTER 3.5. HATE AND LOVE.

CHAPTER 3.6. THE PRELIMINARY SOCIAL DUTY.

CHAPTER 3.7. WRONG WAYS OF LIVING.

CHAPTER 3.8. SOCIAL PARASITISM AND CONTEMPORARY INJUSTICES.

CHAPTER 3.9. THE CASE OF THE WIFE AND MOTHER.

CHAPTER 3.10. ASSOCIATIONS.

CHAPTER 3.11. OF AN ORGANIZED BROTHERHOOD.

CHAPTER 3.12. CONCERNING NEW STARTS AND NEW RELIGIONS.

CHAPTER 3.13. THE IDEA OF THE CHURCH.

CHAPTER 3.14. OF SECESSION.

CHAPTER 3.15. A DILEMMA.

CHAPTER 3.16. A COMMENT.

CHAPTER 3.17. WAR.

CHAPTER 3.18. WAR AND COMPETITION.

CHAPTER 3.19. MODERN WAR.

CHAPTER 3.20. OF ABSTINENCES AND DISCIPLINES.

CHAPTER 3.21. ON FORGETTING, AND THE NEED OF PRAYER, READING,
DISCUSSION AND WORSHIP.

CHAPTER 3.22. DEMOCRACY AND ARISTOCRACY.

CHAPTER 3.23. ON DEBTS OF HONOUR.

CHAPTER 3.24. THE IDEA OF JUSTICE.

CHAPTER 3.25. OF LOVE AND JUSTICE.

CHAPTER 3.26. THE WEAKNESS OF IMMATURITY.

CHAPTER 3.27. POSSIBILITY OF A NEW ETIQUETTE.

CHAPTER 3.28. SEX.

CHAPTER 3.29. THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE.

CHAPTER 3.30. CONDUCT IN RELATION TO THE THING THAT IS.

CHAPTER 3.31. CONDUCT TOWARDS TRANSGRESSORS.


BOOK 4. SOME PERSONAL THINGS.

CHAPTER 4.1. PERSONAL LOVE AND LIFE.

CHAPTER 4.2. THE NATURE OF LOVE.

CHAPTER 4.3. THE WILL TO LOVE.

CHAPTER 4.4. LOVE AND DEATH.

CHAPTER 4.5. THE CONSOLATION OF FAILURE.

CHAPTER 4.6. THE LAST CONFESSION.




INTRODUCTION.

Recently I set myself to put down what I believe. I did this with no
idea of making a book, but at the suggestion of a friend and to interest
a number of friends with whom I was associated. We were all, we found,
extremely uncertain in our outlook upon life, about our religious
feelings and in our ideas of right and wrong. And yet we reckoned
ourselves people of the educated class and some of us talk and lecture
and write with considerable confidence. We thought it would be of very
great interest to ourselves and each other if we made some sort of frank
mutual confession. We arranged to hold a series of meetings in which
first one and then another explained the faith, so far as he understood
it, that was in him. We astonished ourselves and our hearers by the
irregular and fragmentary nature of the creeds we produced, clotted at
one point, inconsecutive at another, inconsistent and unconvincing to a
quite unexpected degree. It would not be difficult to caricature one of
those meetings; the lecturer floundering about with an air of exquisite
illumination, the audience attentive with an expression of thwarted
edification upon its various brows. For my own part I grew so interested
in planning my lecture and in joining up point and point, that my notes
soon outran the possibilities of the hour or so of meeting for which I
was preparing them. The meeting got only a few fragments of what I had
to say, and made what it could of them. And after that was over I let
myself loose from limits of time and length altogether and have expanded
these memoranda into a book.

It is as it stands now the frank confession of what one man of the early
Twentieth Century has found in life and himself, a confession just as
frank as the limitations of his character permit; it is his metaphysics,
his religion, his moral standards, his uncertainties and the expedients
with which he has met them. On every one of these departments and
aspects I write - how shall I put it? - as an amateur. In every section of
my subject there are men not only of far greater intellectual power and
energy than I, but who have devoted their whole lives to the sustained
analysis of this or that among the questions I discuss, and there is a
literature so enormous in the aggregate that only a specialist scholar
could hope to know it. I have not been unmindful of these professors
and this literature; I have taken such opportunities as I have found, to
test my propositions by them. But I feel that such apology as one
makes for amateurishness in this field has a lesser quality of
self-condemnation than if one were dealing with narrower, more defined
and fact-laden matters. There is more excuse for one here than for the
amateur maker of chemical theories, or the man who evolves a system of
surgery in his leisure. These things, chemistry, surgery and so forth,
we may take on the reputation of an expert, but our own fundamental
beliefs, our rules of conduct, we must all make for ourselves. We may
listen and read, but the views of others we cannot take on credit; we
must rethink them and "make them our own." And we cannot do without
fundamental beliefs, explicit or implicit. The bulk of men are obliged
to be amateur philosophers, - all men indeed who are not specialized
students of philosophical subjects, - even if their philosophical
enterprise goes no further than prompt recognition of and submission to
Authority.

And it is not only the claim of the specialist that I would repudiate.
People are too apt to suppose that in order to discuss morals a man must
have exceptional moral gifts. I would dispute that naive supposition.
I am an ingenuous enquirer with, I think, some capacity for religious
feeling, but neither a prophet nor a saint. On the whole I should be
inclined to classify myself as a bad man rather than a good; not indeed
as any sort of picturesque scoundrel or non-moral expert, but as
a person frequently irritable, ungenerous and forgetful, and
intermittently and in small but definite ways bad. One thing I claim, I
have got my beliefs and theories out of my life and not fitted them to
its circumstances. As often as not I have learnt good by the method of
difference; by the taste of the alternative. I tell this faith I hold as
I hold it and I sketch out the principles by which I am generally trying
to direct my life at the present time, because it interests me to do so
and I think it may interest a certain number of similarly constituted
people. I am not teaching. How far I succeed or fail in that private and
personal attempt to behave well, has nothing to do with the matter of
this book. That is another story, a reserved and private affair. I offer
simply intellectual experiences and ideas.

It will be necessary to take up the most abstract of these questions of
belief first, the metaphysical questions. It may be that to many readers
the opening sections may seem the driest and least attractive. But I
would ask them to begin at the beginning and read straight on, because
much that follows this metaphysical book cannot be appreciated at its
proper value without a grasp of these preliminaries.




BOOK THE FIRST. - METAPHYSICS.




1.1. THE NECESSITY FOR METAPHYSICS.

As a preliminary to that experiment in mutual confession from which this
book arose, I found it necessary to consider and state certain truths
about the nature of knowledge, about the meaning of truth and the value
of words, that is to say I found I had to begin by being metaphysical.
In writing out these notes now I think it is well that I should state
just how important I think this metaphysical prelude is.

There is a popular prejudice against metaphysics as something at once
difficult and fruitless, as an idle system of enquiries remote from any
human interest. I suppose this odd misconception arose from the vulgar
pretensions of the learned, from their appeal to ancient names and
their quotations in unfamiliar tongues, and from the easy fall into
technicality of men struggling to be explicit where a high degree of
explicitness is impossible. But it needs erudition and accumulated
and alien literature to make metaphysics obscure, and some of the most
fruitful and able metaphysical discussion in the world was conducted by
a number of unhampered men in small Greek cities, who knew no language
but their own and had scarcely a technical term. The true metaphysician
is after all only a person who says, "Now let us take a thought for a
moment before we fall into a discussion of the broad questions of life,
lest we rush hastily into impossible and needless conflict. What is the
exact value of these thoughts we are thinking and these words we are
using?" He wants to take thought about thought. Those other ardent
spirits on the contrary, want to plunge into action or controversy
or belief without taking thought; they feel that there is not time to
examine thought. "While you think," they say, "the house is burning."
They are the kin of those who rush and struggle and make panics in
theatre fires.

Now it seems to me that most of the troubles of humanity are really
misunderstandings. Men's compositions and characters are, I think, more
similar than their views, and if they had not needlessly different modes
of expression upon many broad issues, they would be practically at one
upon a hundred matters where now they widely differ.

Most of the great controversies of the world, most of the wide religious
differences that keep men apart, arise from this: from differences in
their way of thinking. Men imagine they stand on the same ground and
mean the same thing by the same words, whereas they stand on slightly
different grounds, use different terms for the same thing and express
the same thing in different words. Logomachies, conflicts about
words, - into such death-traps of effort those ardent spirits run and
perish.

This is now almost a commonplace; it has been said before by numberless
people. It has been said before by numberless people, but it seems to
me it has been realised by very few - and until it is realised to the
fullest extent, we shall continue to live at intellectual cross purposes
and waste the forces of our species needlessly and abundantly.

This persuasion is a very important thing in my mind.

I think that the time has come when the human mind must take up
metaphysical discussion again - when it must resume those subtle but
necessary and unavoidable problems that it dropped unsolved at the close
of the period of Greek freedom, when it must get to a common and general
understanding upon what its ideas of truth, good, and beauty amount to,
and upon the relation of the name to the thing, and of the relation of
one mind to another mind in the matter of resemblance and the matter of
difference - upon all those issues the young science student is as apt to
dismiss as Rot, and the young classical student as Gas, and the austere
student of the science of Economics as Theorising, unsuitable for his
methods of research.

In our achievement of understandings in the place of these evasions
about fundamental things lies the road, I believe, along which the human
mind can escape, if ever it is to escape, from the confusion of purposes
that distracts it at the present time.





1.2. THE RESUMPTION OF METAPHYSICAL ENQUIRY.

It seems to me that the Greek mind up to the disaster of the Macedonian
Conquest was elaborately and discursively discussing these questions of
the forms and methods of thought and that the discussion was abruptly
closed and not naturally concluded, summed up hastily as it were, in the
career and lecturings of Aristotle.

Since then the world never effectually reopened these questions until
the modern period. It went on from Plato and Aristotle just as the
art of the seventeenth and eighteenth century went on from Raphael and
Michael Angelo. Effectual criticism was absolutely silent until
the Renaissance, and then for a time was but a matter of scattered
utterances having only the slightest collective effect. In the past
half century there has begun a more systematic critical movement in the
general mind, a movement analogous to the Pre-Raphaelite movement in
art - a Pre-Aristotelian movement, a scepticism about things supposed to
be settled for all time, a resumed inquiry into the fundamental laws
of thought, a harking back to positions of the older philosophers and
particularly to Heraclitus, so far as the surviving fragments of his
teaching enable one to understand him, and a new forward movement from
that recovered ground.





1.3. THE WORLD OF FACT.

Necessarily when one begins an inquiry into the fundamental nature
of oneself and one's mind and its processes, one is forced into
autobiography. I begin by asking how the conscious mind with which I am
prone to identify myself, began.

It presents itself to me as a history of a perception of the world
of facts opening out from an accidental centre at which I happened to
begin.

I do not attempt to define this word fact. Fact expresses for me
something in its nature primary and unanalyzable. I start from that. I
take as a typical statement of fact that I sit here at my desk writing
with a fountain pen on a pad of ruled scribbling paper, that the
sunlight falls upon me and throws the shadow of my window mullion across
the page, that Peter, my cat, sleeps on the window-seat close at hand
and that this agate paper-weight with the silver top that once was
Henley's holds my loose memoranda together. Outside is a patch of lawn
and then a fringe of winter-bitten iris leaves and then the sea, greatly
wrinkled and astir under the south-west wind. There is a boat going out
which I think may be Jim Pain's, but of that I cannot be sure...

These are statements of a certain quality, a quality that extends
through a huge universe in which I find myself placed.

I try to recall how this world of fact arose in my mind. It began with a
succession of limited immediate scenes and of certain minutely perceived
persons; I recall an underground kitchen with a drawered table, a window
looking up at a grating, a back yard in which, growing out by a dustbin,
was a grape-vine; a red-papered room with a bookcase over my father's
shop, the dusty aisles and fixtures, the regiments of wine-glasses and
tumblers, the rows of hanging mugs and jugs, the towering edifices
of jam-pots, the tea and dinner and toilet sets in that emporium, its
brighter side of cricket goods, of pads and balls and stumps. Out of the
window one peeped at the more exterior world, the High Street in front,
the tailor's garden, the butcher's yard, the churchyard and Bromley
church tower behind; and one was taken upon expeditions to fields
and open places. This limited world was peopled with certain familiar
presences, mother and father, two brothers, the evasive but interesting
cat, and by intermittent people of a livelier but more transient
interest, customers and callers.

Such was my opening world of fact, and each day it enlarged and widened
and had more things added to it. I had soon won my way to speech and was
hearing of facts beyond my visible world of fact. Presently I was at a
Dame's school and learning to read.

From the centre of that little world as primary, as the initiatory
material, my perception of the world of fact widened and widened, by new
sights and sounds, by reading and hearing descriptions and histories, by
guesses and inferences; my curiosity and interest, my appetite for fact,
grew by what it fed upon, I carried on my expansion of the world of fact
until it took me through the mineral and fossil galleries of the
Natural History Museum, through the geological drawers of the College of
Science, through a year of dissection and some weeks at the astronomical
telescope. So I built up my conceptions of a real world out of facts
observed and out of inferences of a nature akin to fact, of a world
immense and enduring, receding interminably into space and time. In that
I found myself placed, a creature relatively infinitesimal, needing and
struggling. It was clear to me, by a hundred considerations, that I in
my body upon this planet Earth, was the outcome of countless generations
of conflict and begetting, the creature of natural selection, the heir
of good and bad engendered in that struggle.

So my world of fact shaped itself. I find it altogether impossible to
question or doubt that world of fact. Particular facts one may question
as facts. For instance, I think I see an unseasonable yellow wallflower
from my windows, but you may dispute that and show that it is only a
broken end of iris leaf accidentally lit to yellow. That is merely a
substitution of fact for fact. One may doubt whether one is perceiving
or remembering or telling facts clearly, but the persuasion that there
are facts, independent of one's interpretations and obdurate to one's
will, remains invincible.





1.4. SCEPTICISM OF THE INSTRUMENT.

At first I took the world of fact as being exactly as I perceived it.
I believed my eyes. Seeing was believing, I thought. Still more did I
believe my reasoning. It was only slowly that I began to suspect that
the world of fact could be anything different from the clear picture it
made upon my mind.

I realised the inadequacy of the senses first. Into that I will not
enter here. Any proper text book of physiology or psychology will supply
a number of instances of the habitual deceptions of sight and touch and
hearing. I came upon these things in my reading, in the laboratory, with
microscope or telescope, lived with them as constant difficulties. I
will only instance one trifling case of visual deception in order to
lead to my next question. One draws two lines strictly parallel; so

(two horizontal and parallel lines.)

Oblique to them one draws a series of lines; so

(a series of parallel and closely-spaced lines drawn through each
horizontal line, one series (top) sloping to the right, the other
(bottom) to the left)

and instantly the parallelism seems to be disturbed. If the second
figure is presented to any one without sufficient science to understand
this delusion, the impression is created that these lines converge to
the right and diverge to the left. The vision is deceived in its mental
factor and judges wrongly of the thing seen.

In this case we are able to measure the distance of the lines, to find
how the main lines looked before the cross ones were drawn, to bring
the deception up against fact of a different sort and so correct the
mistake. If the ignorant observer were unable to do that, he might
remain permanently under the impression that the main lines were out of
parallelism. And all the infirmities of eye and ear, touch and taste,
are discovered and checked by the fact that the erroneous impressions
presently strike against fact and discover an incompatibility with it.
If they did not we should never have discovered them. If on the other
hand they are so incompatible with fact as to endanger the lives of
the beings labouring under such infirmities, they would tend to be
eliminated from among our defects.

The presumption to which biological science brings one is that the
senses and mind will work as well as the survival of the species may
require, but that they will not work so very much better. There is no
ground in matter-of-fact experience for assuming that there is any more
inevitable certitude about purely intellectual operations than there
is about sensory perceptions. The mind of a man may be primarily only a
food-seeking, danger-avoiding, mate-finding instrument, just as the mind
of a dog is, just as the nose of a dog is, or the snout of a pig.

You see the strong preparatory reason there is in this view of life for
entertaining the suppositions that: -

The senses seem surer than they are.

The thinking mind seems clearer than it is and is more positive than it
ought to be.

The world of fact is not what it appears to be.





1.5. THE CLASSIFICATORY ASSUMPTION.

After I had studied science and particularly biological science for some
years, I became a teacher in a school for boys. I found it necessary
to supplement my untutored conception of teaching method by a more
systematic knowledge of its principles and methods, and I took the
courses for the diplomas of Licentiate and Fellow of the London College
of Preceptors which happened to be convenient for me. These courses
included some of the more elementary aspects of psychology and logic
and set me thinking and reading further. From the first, Logic as it was
presented to me impressed me as a system of ideas and methods remote and
secluded from the world of fact in which I lived and with which I had to
deal. As it came to me in the ordinary textbooks, it presented itself
as the science of inference using the syllogism as its principal
instrument. Now I was first struck by the fact that while my teachers in
Logic seemed to be assuring me I always thought in this form: -

"M is P,
S is M,
S is P,"

the method of my reasoning was almost always in this form: -

"S1 is more or less P,
S2 is very similar to S1,
S2 is very probably but not certainly more or less P.
Let us go on that assumption and see how it works."

That is to say, I was constantly reasoning by analogy and applying
verification. So far from using the syllogistic form confidently, I
habitually distrusted it as anything more than a test of consistency
in statement. But I found the textbooks of logic disposed to ignore my
customary method of reasoning altogether or to recognise it only where
S1 and S2 could be lumped together under a common name. Then they put it
something after this form as Induction: -

"S1, S2, S3, and S4 are P
S1 + S2 + S3 + S4 +... are all S
All S is P."

I looked into the laws of thought and into the postulates upon which the
syllogistic logic is based, and it slowly became clear to me that from
my point of view, the point of view of one who seeks truth and reality,
logic assumed a belief in the objective reality of classification of
which my studies in biology and mineralogy had largely disabused me.
Logic, it seemed to me, had taken a common innate error of the mind and
had emphasised it in order to develop a system of reasoning that should
be exact in its processes. I turned my attention to the examination
of that. For in common with the general run of men I had supposed that
logic professed to supply a trustworthy science and method for the
investigation and expression of reality.

A mind nourished on anatomical study is of course permeated with the
suggestion of the vagueness and instability of biological species.
A biological species is quite obviously a great number of unique
individuals which is separable from other biological species only by
the fact that an enormous number of other linking individuals are
inaccessible in time - are in other words dead and gone - and each
new individual in that species does, in the distinction of its own
individuality, break away in however infinitesimal degree from the
previous average properties of the species. There is no property of any
species, even the properties that constitute the specific definition,
that is not a matter of more or less.

If, for example, as species be distinguished by a single large red spot
on the back, you will find if you go over a great number of specimens
that red spot shrinking here to nothing, expanding there to a more
general redness, weakening to pink, deepening to russet and brown,
shading into crimson, and so on and so on. And this is true not only of
biological species. It is true of the mineral specimens constituting a


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