H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

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NY PUBLIC LIBRARY THE BRANCH LIBRARIES



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By the Same Author



Short Stones

Thirty Strange Stories
Tales of Space and Time
Twelve Stories and a Dream

Romances

The Time Machine

The Wonderful Visit

The Island of Dr. Moreau

The War of the Worlds

The Invisible Man

The First Man in the Moon

The Sea Lady

When the Sleeper Wakes

In the Days of the Comet

Novels

The Wheels of Chance
Love and Mr. Lewisham
Kipps

Sociological Essays

Anticipations
Mankind in the Making
A Modern Utopia
The Future in America
New Worlds for Old



N First and Last Things

A Confession of Faith and a
Rule of Life



By

H. G. Wells



Author of " New Worlds for Old," ' The Time Machine,"

" The War of the Worlds," " The Future

in America," etc.



G. P. Putnam's Sons

New York and London

Cbe Hmfcfcerbocfter press

1908



COPYRIGHT, 1908

BY
H. G. WELLS



Ihnfcfeerbocfter press, flew







,






CONTENTS.

PAGE

INTRODUCTION ...... i

BOOK THE FIRST.

METAPHYSICS.

THE NECESSITY FOR METAPHYSICS Q

THE RESUMPTION OF METAPHYSICAL ENQUIRY. 13
THE WORLD OF FACT . . . . .15
SCEPTICISM OF THE INSTRUMENT 19

THE CLASSIFICATORY ASSUMPTION ... 22
EMPTY TERMS ..... 31

NEGATIVE TERMS ...... 33

LOGIC STATIC AND LIFE KINETIC . . -37
PLANES AND DIALECTS OF THOUGHT . . 39

PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS FROM THESE CONSID-
ERATIONS ...... 44

BELIEFS ....... 55

SUMMARY ....... 59



iv Contents

PACK

BOOK THE SECOND.

OF BELIEF.

MY PRIMARY ACT OF FAITH . . . .65

ON USING THE NAME OF GOD ... 68

FREE- WILL AND PREDESTINATION . 71

A PICTURE OF THE WORLD OF MEN. . 74

THE PROBLEM OF MOTIVES THE REAL PROBLEM

OF LIFE ...... 78

A REVIEW OF MOTIVES ..... 81

THE SYNTHETIC MOTIVE .... 87

THE BEING OF MANKIND .... 91

INDIVIDUALITY AN INTERLUDE ... 96

THE MYSTIC ELEMENT ..... 104

THE SYNTHESIS ..... 107

OF PERSONAL IMMORTALITY .... 109
A CRITICISM OF CHRISTIANITY . . .112

OF OTHER RELIGIONS ..... 120

BOOK THE THIRD.
OF GENERAL CONDUCT.

CONDUCT FOLLOWS FROM BELIEF . . 125

WHAT Is GOOD ...... 127

SOCIALISM ....... 129



Contents



PACK



A CRITICISM OF CERTAIN FORMS OF SOCIALISM . 133

HATE AND LOVE ...... 142

THE PRELIMINARY SOCIAL DUTY . . . 148

WRONG WAYS OF LIVING . . . 154

SOCIAL PARASITISM AND CONTEMPORARY IN-
JUSTICES . . . . . -157

THE CASE OF THE WIFE AND MOTHER . . 162
ASSOCIATIONS ...... 167

OF AN ORGANISED BROTHERHOOD . . . 173
CONCERNING NEW STATES AND NEW RELIGIONS 189
THE IDEA OF THE CHURCH .... 194

OF SECESSION ...... 202

A DILEMMA ...... 207

A COMMENT . . . . . .211

WAR . . . . . . . .213

WAR AND COMPETITION . . . .217

MODERN WAR ...... 223

OF ABSTINENCES AND DISCIPLINES . . . 228

ON FORGETTING, AND THE NEED OF PRAYER,

READING, DISCUSSION AND WORSHIP . 234

DEMOCRACY AND ARISTOCRACY . . . 239
ON DEBTS OF HONOUR ..... 244



vi Contents



PACK



THE IDEA OF JUSTICE .... 247

OF LOVE AND JUSTICE .... 252

THE WEAKNESS OF IMMATURITY . 255

POSSIBILITY OF A NEW ETIQUETTE . . . 259

SEX ........ 261

THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE . . . 265

CONDUCT IN RELATION TO THE THING THAT Is . 277

CONDUCT TOWARDS TRANSGRESSIONS . . 280

BOOK THE FOURTH.
SOME PERSONAL THINGS.

PERSONAL LOVE AND LIFE .... 285

THE NATURE OF LOVE ..... 288

THE WILL TO LOVE ..... 296

LOVE AND DEATH ..... 298

THE CONSOLATION OF FAILURE . . . 303

THE LAST CONFESSION ..... 305



First and Last Things



First and Last Things.



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



2 First and Last Things

fragmentary nature of the creeds we produced,
clotted at one point, inconsecutive at another,
inconsistent and unconvincing to a quite unex-
pected degree. It would not be difficult to
caricature one of those meetings; the lecturer
floundering about with an air of exquisite illumi-
nation, 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 per-
mit; 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



Introduction 3

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 amateurish-
ness in this field has a lesser quality of self-con-
demnation 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 our expert, but our
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 phi-
losophers, all men indeed who are not special-



4 First and Last Things

ised 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 in-
genuous 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 inter-
mittently 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



Introduction 5

far I succeed or fail in that private and personal
attempt to explain has nothing to do with the
matter of this book. That is another story, a
reserved and private affair. I offer simply in-
tellectual experiences and ideas.

It will be necessary to take up the most ab-
stract of these questions of belief first. 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.



PROPERTY OF THE COT OF NEW YORt
THE NEW YORE PUBLIC LIU
CENTRAL RJESERVE



I I-



THE NECESSITY FOR METAPHYSICS. As a pre-
liminary 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 meta-
physics as something at once difficult and fruit-
less, as an idle system of enquiries remote from
any human interest. I suppose this odd mis-
conception 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 strug-
gling to be explicit where a high degree of ex-
plicitness is impossible. But it needs erudition
and an accumulated and alien literature to make
metaphysics obscure, and some of the most



io First and Last Things

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 thought for a mo-
ment before we fall into a discussion of the broad
questions of life, lest we rush hastily into im-
possible and needless conflict. What is the exact
value of these things 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 con-
troversy 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 issues where now they
widely differ.

Most of the great controversies of the world,



Metaphysics



ii



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 dis-
cussion again when it must resume those sub-
tle 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



12 First and Last Things

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 apt to dismiss as Rot, and the young
classical student as Gas, and the austere student
of the science of Economics as Theorising, un-
suitable 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.



2-



THE RESUMPTION OF METAPHYSICAL ENQUIRY.
It seems to me that the Greek mind up to the
disaster of the Macedonian Conquest was elabo-
rately and discursively discussing these questions
of the forms and methods of thought and that
the discussion was abruptly closed and not nat-
urally 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 centuries went on
from Raphael and Michael Angelo. Effectual
criticism was absolutely silent until the Renais-
sance, 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 movement to affect
the general mind, a movement analogous to the
Pre-Raphaelite movement in art a Pre-Aristo-
telian movement, a scepticism about things

supposed to be settled for all time, a resumed

13



14 First and Last Things

enquiry into the fundamental laws of thought, a
harking back to positions of the older philosophers
and particularly to Heraclitus so far as the sur-
viving fragments of his teaching enable us to
understand him, and a new forward movement
from that recovered ground.



3-



THE WORLD OF PACT. Necessarily when one
begins an enquiry 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 per-
ception of a 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 unanalysable. 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 the
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 holds my loose memoranda together. Out-
side is a patch of lawn and then a fringe of winter-
bitten iris leaves and then the sea, greatly wrinkled

15



16 First and Last Things

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 per-
ceived 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 dust-bin, 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 jampots, 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 on 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,



Metaphysics 1 7

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 curi-
osity 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 His-
tory Museum, through the geological drawers of
the College of Science, through a year of dissec-
tion 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



1 8 First and Last Things

in my body upon this planet Earth, was the out-
come 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 ques-
tion as facts. For instance, I think I see an
unseasonable yellow wallflower from my windows,
but you may dispute that and show 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 persuasion and obdurate to one's will, re-
mains invincible.



4-



SCEPTICISM OF THE INSTRUMENT. At first I
took the world of fact as being exactly as I per-
ceived it. I believed my eyes. Seeing was be-
lieving 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



20 First and Last Things

Oblique to them one draws a series of lines; so




and instantly the parallelism seems to be dis-
turbed. 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 dis-
tance 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 re-
main 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 incom-



Metaphysics 2 1

patible with fact as to endanger the lives of the
beings labouring under such infirmities, they
would tend to be eliminated from the species.

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 percep-
tions. The mind of a man may be primarily
only a food-seeking, danger-avoiding, mate-find-
ing 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 reasons there
are for entertaining the supposition 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.



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 sup-
plement my untutored conception of teach-
ing 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 Pre-
ceptors 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 ordin-
ary text-books, it presented itself as the
science of inference with the syllogism as its
principal instrument. Now I was first struck
by the fact that while my teachers in Logic



22



Metaphysics 23

seemed to be assuring me I always thought in
this form \

MisP
S isM
S isP

the method of my reasoning was almost always
in this form;

S r is more or less P.

5 2 is very similar to S,.

5 3 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 text-
books of logic disposed to ignore my customary
method of reasoning altogether or to recognise
it only where S z and S 2 could be lumped to-
gether under a common name. Then they put it
something after this form as Induction;

S,, S 2 , S 3 , and S 4 are P.

S x + S 3 + S 3 + S 4 + . . . are all S.

All S is P.

I looked into the laws of thought and into the



24 First and Last Things

postulate 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 em-
phasised it in order to develop a system of reason-
^ing 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 trust-
worthy 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


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