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Theory And Practice
by [?]

Kant’s purpose, as elsewhere we shall show, was not primarily with the maxim: that was but a secondary purpose. His direct and real object lay in one or two of the illustrative cases under the maxim. With this particular obliquity impressed upon the movement of his own essay, we can have no right to quarrel. Kant had an author’s right to deal with the question as best suited his own views. But with one feature of his treatment we quarrel determinately. He speaks of this most popular (and, we venture to add, most wise and beneficial) maxim, which arms men’s suspicions against all that is merely speculative, on the ground that it is continually at war with the truth of practical results, as though it were merely and blankly a vulgar error, as though sans phrase it might be dismissed for nonsense. But, because there is a casual inaccuracy in the wording of a great truth, we are not at liberty to deny that truth, to evade it, to ‘ignore’ it, or to confound a faulty expression with a meaning originally untenable. Professor Kant, of all men, was least entitled to plead blindness as to the substance in virtue of any vice affecting the form. No man knew better the art of translating so wise and beneficial a sentiment, though slightly disfigured by popular usage, into the appropriate philosophic terms. To this very sentiment it is, this eternal protest against the plausible and the speculative, not as a flash sentiment for a gala dinner, but as a principle of action operative from age to age in all parts of the national conduct, that England is indebted more than she is to any other known influence for her stupendous prosperity on two separate lines of progress: first, on that of commercial enterprise; secondly, on that of political improvement. At this moment there are two forces acting upon Christendom which constitute the principles of movement all over Europe: these are, the questions incident to representative government, and the mighty interests combined by commercial enterprise. Both have radiated from England as their centre. There only did the early models of either activity prosper. Through North America, as the daughter of England, these two forces have transplanted themselves to every principal region (except one) of the vast Southern American continent. Thus, to push our view no further, we behold one-half of the habitable globe henceforth yoked to the two sole forces of permanent movement for nations, since war and religious contests are but intermitting forces; and these two principles, we repeat, have grown to what we now behold chiefly through the protection of this one great maxim which throws the hopes of the world, not upon what the scheming understanding can suggest, but upon what the most faithful experiment can prove.