In "Signs of the Times," Thomas Carlyle laments not only the mechanistic nature of science, but also that of politics, philosophy, and religion. He makes a distinction between the mechanical (that which describes the external) and the dynamic (that which describes the internal) and complains that the mechanical has become a metaphor by which humans not only understand the external, but also the internal. Admitting that the mechanical has led to great advancements in society, Carlyle seems to believe that in an ideal world the mechanical and dynamic, and thus the external and internal, would remain in separate spheres, both influencing society for the better in a balanced relationship. He writes:
Undue cultivation of the inward or Dynamical province leads to idle, visionary, impracticable courses, and, especially in rude eras, to Superstition and Fanaticism, with their long train of baleful and well-known evils. Undue cultivation of the outward, again, though less immediately prejudicial, and even for the time productive of many palpable benefits, must, in the long-run, by destroying Moral Force, which is the parent of all other Force, prove not less certainly, and perhaps still more hopelessly, pernicious. (p. 76)
It seems to me that in Carlyle's own writing there are elements of both the mechanical and dynamic. In what ways does Carlyle's argument for a balance of the mechanical and dynamic serve as a metatextual discussion of his own style? What elements of his prose might we consider mechanical and what elements might we consider dynamic? How does Carylyle "give a voice to Poetry, Religion, and Morality" (p. 76) while at the same time employing a highly organized rhetorical strategy?
Last modified 20 February 2002