This book contains two closely related studies of the consciousness of nations. It has been written during the closing months of the war and in the days that have followed, and is completed while the Peace Conference is still in session, holding in the balance, as many believe, the fate of many hopes, and perhaps the whole future of the world. We see focussed there in Paris all the motives that have ever entered into human history and all the ideals that have influenced human affairs. The question must have arisen in all minds in, some form as to what the place of these motives and ideals and dramatic moments is in the progress of the world. Is the world governed after all by the laws of nature in all its progress? Do ideals and motives govern the world, but only as these ideals and motives are themselves produced according to biological or psychological principles? Or, again, does progress depend upon historical moments, upon conscious purposes which may divert the course of nature and in a real sense create the future? It is with the whole problem of history that we are confronted in these practical hours. At heart our problem is that of the place of man in nature as a conscious factor of progress. This is a problem, finally, of the philosophy of history, but it is rather in a more concrete way and upon a different level that it is to be considered here,—and somewhat incidentally to other more specific questions. But this is the problem that is always before us, and the one to which this study aims to make some contribution, however small.
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