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THOUGHTS ON SOME ERRORS OF OPINION IN RESPECT TO THE ADVANCEMENT
AND DIFFUSION OF KNOWLEDGE.
All attempts at bringing knowledge demonstrating a function, has cleared into encyclopedic forms seem to in- up a darkness he himself never felt:clude an essential fallacy. Knowledge that now gives to every man, generally is advanced by individual minds wholly and indefinitely, whose thoughts ever devoting themselves to their own part travel out of the sphere of his personal of inquiry. But this is a process of se. interests to consider the fortunes of paration, not of combination. The his kind, a buoyant sense of superiofacts of every Science become thus in- rity and power subsisting in the incredibly multiplied. The books in tellectual spirit of his age, a sanguine, each, in which well-examined facts of though aimless, anticipation of entervalue are recorded, in which original prizes yet to be carried through, of and true reasonings are delivered, grow effects still to be accomplished, and very numerous. The library of a Phy- every day accomplishing, by the insician, a Lawyer,- of a Naturalist, an dustry and daring of human genius. Antiquary,-of the Scholar, the Me. But it is evident that only while extaphysician, of the Student (may we plained by the notion of such an ideal so speak ?) of Poetry, is large. Each, community is it even intelligible to excepting disability in himself, may speak of the acquisitions made by OUR in his own pursuit attain the proficien- Mind, of the provinces it has subcy of his time. But to do so, he will jected to itself, of the kingdom it has need to give to it something like the won. The knowledge actually possame devoted labour, something like sessed by men, must needs transcend the same exclusive zeal, by which in by almost infinite degrees—the capaother hands it is making progress. city, and means, of knowing, of the As knowledge is advanced, from the most fortunate and gifted understandmere amount of each science, the di- ing. How much the capacity and vision of minds from one another be- means of those many who neverthecomes more and more the principle, or less please themselves with the imacondition, of attainment to the indi- gination of sharing in the “sovereign vidual mind, of farther advancement sway and masterdom" of Intellect ! to the separate Sciences.
The Mind is no where, the single Meanwhile we say that the Human mind is not, cannot be, in which that Mind is extending its empire: and we collected wisdom and power of all, conhave a feeling as if every one in some templated by us, has its seat: but by the manner partook of the triumphs and fancied inter-communion among all of the dominion achieved, even when we rights, and interchange of powers, by do not suppose him to be in any way the felt union of desires to the same affected by the results, or even to have great common ends, the innumerable the kuowledge, of what is discovered or associated multitude of minds appear done. All are confederated, who pro to us as one. secute, or support, or love the labours Nor, in truth, if we consider more of intellect, in the great warfare of attentively the relation of the different knowledge : bent to overcome, by the works of the human understanding to power of thought, evil, physical or one another, is this idea of a fellowmoral, in our condition : burning with ship in labour among minds differently more splendid desires, with the ambi employed, of the acquisition of one in tion of-if in intellect that is possible the attainment of another, a mere no-even unfruitful glory, of conquests, tional impression. The system of huin which no use is foreseen beyond the man thought is bound together not pleasure and exultation of success. It merely in its origin, by the identity of is the consciousness of our common the powers from which it proceeds, cause, that gives us sympathy and par- and in its result by a unity of purticipation with what is gained in fields pose in all the purposes it accomplishes, of speculation on which we have never but intermediately and throughout its set foot : that may enable a moral phi- progress, by mutual dependence and losopher in England to rejoice, that a reciprocal action of its several parts. chemist at Upsala, an anatomist at No man—whatever his own parts, wheFlorence, by detecting a principle, by ther of speculative inquiry or of prace
tical art, may be knows from what parts of knowledge : there is a real quarter, from what region of inquiry strong bond of co-operation between or of art, he shall see it receive its its variously-employed followers.next aid. As little does he know to And this, in truth, to an extent not what necessity of human nature, to easily limited. The living strive for what difficulty of human reason, he one another, and for the ages to come. himself, if the faculty of discovery have The dead have striven for those that fallen to him, or even the chance, with- now are. The imaginary community out the faculty, shall next bring relief. of which we spoke binds together, no -The curious artist who learnt to bend less, successive generations, and divided the lines of sight on their way into ages. We call ouus all that is yet unthe eye, and the Philosopher who perished of the past genius of mantraced with his rod,* and he who ur kind :— And the canvass and the gorravelled the mazes of the sky, were geous wall, starting into life in colours guiding,-could they foreknow it-on of the Italian sun, the eloquence “since the paths of every sea, the Ships of mute” that thundered in "free Rome," Commerce and of War. The Philolo, and the “ builder's skill” that " was gist has given Hippocrates to the Phy- known” “ to Greece,” and “ the light sician, to the Mathematician, Euclid chisel” that “ brush’d” her “ Parian and Archimedes, to the Theologian he stone,” bring to us the consciousness has delivered the volume of his high- of THE RACE WHICH we are, kindle est Science, to the lowly believer, of our thoughts with the recollection of his morals and his faith. One man what we have DONE, of what we in his laboratory holds a gauze of wire HAVE BEEN, raise instead of depressing over a burning lamp, and observes that us, and seem to require of us now, for the flame will not pass through. His our right in them, no more than that observation, cast into another mind, we should understand, not that we turns into a talisman for the safeguard should imitate them,- while we purof human lives.-Some arts, some
sue with strenuous endeavour and sciences, have in themselves a neces elated hearts, the different toils of the sary universality :
:-as he who fused same mind, of which our destiny opens an ore, ministered the strength and the way before us. They warn us inskill of every hand-as he who wrote deed of the spirit which we bear. They the articulations of the voice, pre- remind us what faculties we have to pared glory, durability, self-diffusing, unfold: in what liberty of power we self-augmenting might, to all the should walk: with what fires we are modes of action, to all the deeds in all made to burn. If we decline,—if we vail the undertakings, of the restless, un the eyes of intellect,-if we stoop the deterred, unsatisfied, all-aspiring, alle majesty of our nature,—if we grovel enterprising spirit of men. The in- in desire,-they reproach our sordid vestigator of the problems of NUMBER degeneracy. But the proud monuand EXTENSION, and of the yet more ments of old time challenging our adabstruse relations which these embody, miration, impose no domineering recan he labour and not for a thousand striction on our march of mind. They inquirers, of whose specific researches give no law. They point us to seek he has no understanding ?-He treats impulse, regulation, direction within universal elements, and what he finds ourselves. They call upon us not to of them, must be of scarce narrower revive arts, but to maintain power. application. Thought is the germ of What we have to do we must learn thoughts. · T'he act is the father of from our own time, and the voices that acts to be. We may comprehend in speak within us. Only let us take some degree the past which we tra care that the soul which has descendversed, not the future of which we left ed to us do not in our bosoms expire. the seeds beneath our feet.
There is great philosophical wisdom There are then links of connexion in that high and eloquent passage of strict and solid, among the veral the Roman poet, -who, putting into
Virgil's description of the elder Astronomers.
the mouth of the imagined ancestor of There seems reason to believe, that, bis countrymen the prophecy of their for utmost intellectual advancement, greatness, by him apostrophizes, and nations and single minds should purexhorts them, abandoning to other na- sue their own cultivation, accomplish tions other modes of glory, to attach their own power,—the extent of every them selves to that which was allotted species of kuowledge in one case, the peculiarly to be their own. There is nature of the human mind in both, so a division of genius to nations, as to requiring. Contrary opinions, of later individuals: and each will most ex- time, appear to be in some degree, and cel, will do more for itself, for its own as we must think, injuriously prevarenown, and for mankind, by follow lent. They have shewn themselves ing the light of this inward determi- variously : a little in Literature. Of nation.
one such manifestation of them we If Italy painted, if France bright- would say a few words. ened the manners of civilized men, if When in the middle of the last cenGermany thinks, if Britain acts, if tury the chief men of letters and Spain could have cherished the soul science in France applied themselves of romance, if India could have pre- to unite in one work, all parts, howserved to the world's late day the mys ever apparently divided from each terious sublimity of its early dreams, other, of human knowledge, they be-are not these all distinct gains, are lieved, we must naturally think, that they not separate forms of power, en- they were at once advancing Science joyed, possessed by Man,-and would itself, and conferring important indihe not, -might he but know them to- vidual benefit on all those, to whom gether continued to him,-feel him- they should bring, thus in one gift as self rich and strong in these diversities it were, the collected and digested reof his talents, of his cultivation, in sult of the manifold and long labours this various developement of his natu- of Intellect. ral welfare ?
Yet in one respect their plan should In nations, and in individual minds, seem scarcely to have been well devione principle appears to hold. We owe sed for advancing Science, since the much to one another, undoubtedly: close limits to which it unavoidably guidance and urgency, as well as re- confined the numerous subjects it instraint. But to every one his chief cluded, must in no slight degree have source of impulsion, motive in con- both restrained and embarrassed oriduct, direction and incitation in ge- ginal inquiry. And in what other way nius, is given in himself. He will ef- they might hope to attain such an end, fect most by relying upon this : by exceptinginasmuch as todiffuse Science withholding himself from courses of is to advance it, is not easy to see :moral, of intellectual exertion, which excepting, in other words, as such an belong to others, and applying his force end might be attained by the benefit of desire, his full effort, to those which tendered by their design to the indiviare properly his own, opening of dual mind. themselves, and yielding way to his Now This could not consist in anynatural aspirations. The energy of thing that was to be gained to the erpower will be greatest, when it is the position of Science, itself labouring eflux from an original nature. The under-what alone necessarily distinsum of power, of advancement then, guished it-the very disadvantage we to the world must be greatest, when have just adverted to, of a forced comevery one disregarding the avocation pression. The benefit intended could of others, or looking to it for incite consist only in the UNIVERSALITY of ment only not for example, well dis- the Science offered, in placing the tinguishing generous rivalry from de whole mass of what was KNOWN, withpressing imitation, pursues with his in the survey and under the power, entire strength of means, of ability and before the sight and in the very grasp, of will, -no higher, no nearer, no im- if it might be so thought, of the single perious consideration interposing and Mind. prohibiting,—that path of labour, for We will draw no reasoning from the utility, for honour, for conscious uncertainties, which in many places achievement, and for mere indulgence cloud our knowledge, making the namnc in delight, to which his means, his of Science with us, in some instances, ability, and his will call him.
more suitable to the intention than to the success of inquiry, but will admit tellect may, in different minds, exthat our understanding has obtained plore, were left still in some way imthe truths it has perseveringly sought. perfect, or did not yet truly exist, un
The question will then remain whe- til it were materially constructed. ther the opinion just now urged, in Of other views which might enter respect to the acquisition of know- into the composition of that memorledge that it is best, and only effec- able work, of the elements of thought tually, made, by limiting, almost by in the minds of its Authors, of opisingling to the mind, the objects of nions held and diffused by them, we attainment, by confining the direction have not now to speak. We are con-not the reach-of its progress-(we sidering it merely in the light,-in have gone farther, but this is not here which, as a new project in literature necessary to be insisted on, in alleging it offered itself to the world, -of A the principle that should guide this SCIENTIFIC METHOD. As such, it restraint) is or is not grounded. appeared to us an illustration not a
If it is just, the very conceived little striking and important of error, ground of intellectual utility disap- as we must conceive it to be, prevailpears.-And this mis-judgment, as ing more or less in these latter days, we must suppose it to be, of utility, in respect to the real nature of knowthis endeavour to effect an important ledge, and its relation to the mind improvement to the mind against the which entertains it. very principles on which its improve- This error, we should more properment depends, is what indeed strikes ly say these errors include a concepus as the prominent character and un- tion of knowledge which may perlaps conquerable fault of the undertaking. be expressed by saying, that it is view-We will make yet another remark. ed, or reasoned of, as if it consisted
It will seem an extraordinary sug- solely in the perception of relations: gestion to hazard, in respect to a work Secondly, a conception of it, as being of so great attempt and labour- a species of definite possession to the TANTÆ MOLIS-imagined, moved, and mind, not a power of thought, necesexecuted by men of distinguished abi- sarily indefinite:-assomething, thirdlity, highest in their day, and yet ly, in itself limited, and already comhigh in literary and scientific reputa- pleted: In the fourth place, a fallation,—but we cannot resist a persua- cious idea of the participation of any sion, that there was implied in the one in the light and progress of his very ground and first conception of it, age as requiring, and consisting in, the not only a negligence of reflexion, but knowledge by him of what is known to -what we almost hesitate to say-an his age :-Fifthly, to go no further, illusion of thought. A want of under misconceptions, to which we have standing-we cannot suppose,--but a more than once adverted, of the unity want of regarding and of duly appre- of knowledge. ciating the effective, practical con- Our Knowledge--it is manifest to nexions of the Sciences, appears to us every one who has ever in the least to have prepared the way for a misc degree reflected upon his own,-howconception,-a singular one indeed ever it may become at last condensed under the circumstances,-of THEIR and summed up to our mind, is gaIMAGINARY CONJUNCTION, before thered by an almost infinite number spoken of by us, in the idealized and of its acts, and drawn from, or comgeneral mind of the species, as if this pounded of, elements innumerable and must needs be found somewhere, em- endless.-From what impressions has bodied and real. We shall seem, we a poet gathered his knowledge? They fear, to press fancy too far, and to have flowed in upon him from the hunt, ourselves, after illusion: yet first opening of his senses on the world. know not how to avoid the belief which What day has he lived that has not forces itself upon us, that, in the ori. from earth and sky, from the face of ginal IDEA of this work, we distinguish men, from books, from the joy and the traces, or shall we rather say dis- sorrow of his own heart, brought some cover the reflexion, of a not very phi- contribution to that inexhaustible melosophical, not very metaphysical, im- mory of all things of soul and sense, pression, as if that CIRCLE of the Sci- in which he finds the materials of ences, which has been much spoken verse ?-that has not added some of, and which perhaps the human in- strength, some tenderness, some depth, to those faculties of thought and feel- much self-reflexion, much self-reliing, which are made to him the everance.-Both seem to require an aptinew subjects of fresh knowledge, of tude of ability, both also an aptitude unexhausted discovery-and which of desire, or attachment, for the partiare more than the sacred well of Me- cular subject of their application. mory, the living fountains of his song? Both advance and improve, in part
That process of the accumulation by their own effort and purpose : in and perfecting of knowledge which, if BOTH in part their progress is spontawe could behold it as it advances in neous and unconscious. Nature carthe mind of imagination and feeling, rying on her original work, unfolding would appear to us, as some beautiful the powers she gave, and converting growth takes place, though in forms into the nourishment of their strength Jess interesting, in every mind which and growth, the materials their own collects and frames its own—that is, activity has provided. in every mind which ever possesses We observed a little while since that real—knowledge. The original, ele- it was one inclination of error in the mentary impressions of numberless age, to conceive and reason of knowallied and corresponding objects are ledge as if it consisted solely in the inendlessly multiplied and diversified, telligence of relations. If it did, it the same impressions from the same might be more quickly learnt. For objects are stamped deep and indelible that intelligence is a swift act of the by an endless repetition. Nor is only understanding and needs to be but litremembrance richly stored, which is tle repeated to be confirmed. Besides, ever but one part, and perhaps not it would be more easily imparted. For the most important, certainly not the relations, for the most part, are defimost difficult, of the mind's work in nite, and admit of being distinctly exits composition of knowledge ; but, posed by one mind to another. But whatever the matter may be on which one object of our last observations has it is employed, it trains to observation been to represent that one part, the the faculties of observation, to thought slowest perhaps, if not the most diffithe faculties of thought, which it in- cult, and often difficult, of our inteldustriously and incessantly exercises. lectual progress is the acquisition of The eye is quickened to see. Reflec- the original impressions, among which tion becomes more prompt, more just, the relations* subsist, the familiar inmore acute, more extended. The last timate acquainting of the mind with discovery suggests the next. What the matter in which they are discernwas understood yesterday, explains ed. We come slowly to know the multhe new difficulty of to-day. The dif. tiplicity of objects, interminably variference between the mind of genius, ed in themselves, which our intelliand that powerful in knowledge, is gence would infold. We come slowly not altogether so great perhaps, as we to understand, to fix, and to acquire are sometimes inclined to imagine.- the power of recalling, as distinct subBoth are necessarily endowed with jects of conception, the affection of our
• There is great difficulty and risk in the use of this, as indeed of any, exceedingly abstract and metaphysical term, in inquiry not rigorously metaphysical. The philosopher has learnt that in the composition of the idea of every object we know, to the simplest, ideas of relation are involved : that these objects themselves appear, such as to our formed senses they do appear, only by force of many such ideas of relation, on the instant supplied to them by our intellect. Yet it is not possible in any discourse of a more general nature, to speak of such objects, and of our idea of them, according to this true knowledge. They must then be spoken of, as in the ordinary language of men they are,-as they appear to us, not as they are known to us. The various objects which the world supplies, appear, each, one and entire. They appear to be shewn to the simple, natural sense, what they are to the instructed sense. We must speak of them as if the complex resulting impression, which they at present make, were the same with, or not essentially different from, their simple original impression. We can refer in no wise to those first inseparable ideas of relation which are included in the idea and knowledge of the objects themselves ; but must begin to speak of relation with the objects given, as if the secondary relations, which connect the objects with one another, were indeed the first, which our understanding had known. The danger of using such terms is that of inconsistency in using them sometimes more, sometimes less rigorously, or of ambiguity from being understood as having done so. We fear the text explains this.