Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

by making it an indispensable part of the Examination for the first Degree. This last circumstance, however, I am convinced, has, in a great degree, produced an effect opposite to what was designed. It has contributed to lower instead of exalting, the estimation of the study; and to withhold from it the earnest attention of many who might have applied to it with profit. I am not so weak as to imagine that any System can ensure great proficiency in any pursuit whatever, either in all students, or in a very large proportion of them : “ we sow many seeds to obtain a few flowers ;” but it might have been expected (and doubtless was expected) that a majority at least of successful candidates would derive some benefit worth mentioning from their logical pursuits ; and that a considerable proportion of the distinguished candidates would prove respectable, if not eminent logicians. Such expectations I do not censure as unreasonable, or such as I might not have formed myself, had I been called upon to judge at that period when our experience was all to come.

But that ex perience has shown that those expectations have been very inadequately realized. The truth is, thai a very small proportion, even of distinguished students, ever become

b

proficients in Logic; and that by far the greater part pass through the University without knowing anything at all of the subject. I do not mean that they have not learned by rote a string of technical terms; but that they understand absolutely nothing whatever of the principles of the Science.

I am aware that some injudicious friends of Oxford will censure the frankness of this avowal. I have only to reply that such is the truth; and that I think too well of, and know far too well, the University in which I have been employed in various academical occupations above a quarter of a century, to apprehend danger to her reputation from declaring the exact truth. With all its defects, and no human institution is perfect, the University would stand, I am convinced, higher in public estimation than it does, were the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in all points respecting it, more fully known. But the scanty and partial success of the measures employed to promote logical studies is the consequence, I apprehend, of the universality of the requisition. That which must be done by every one, will, of course, often be done but indifferently; and when the belief is once fully established, which it certainly has long been, that anything which is

indispensable to a testimonial, has little or nothing to do with the attainment of honors,* the lowest standard soon becomes the established one in the minds of the greater number; and provided that standard be once reached, so as to secure the candidate from rejection, a greater or less proficiency in any such branch of study is regarded as a matter of indifference, as far as any views of academical distinction are concerned.

Divinity is one of these branches; and to this also most of what has been said concerning Logic might be considered as equally applicable; but, in fact, there are several important differences between the two cases. In the first place, most of the students who are designed for the Church, and many who are not, have a value for theological knowledge, independently of the requisition of the schools; and on that ground do not confine their views to the lowest admissible degree of proficiency: whereas this can be said of

very few in the case of Logic. And moreover, such as design to become candidates for holy Orders, know that another examination in Theology awaits them. But a consideration,

* In the last-framed Examination-statute an express declaration has been inserted, that proficiency in Logic is to have weight in the assignment of honors.

which is still more to the present purpose, is, that Theology, not being a Science, admits of infinite degrees of proficiency, from that which is within the reach of a child, up to the highest that is attainable by the most exalted genius; every one of which degrees is inestimably valuable as far as it goes.

If any one understands tolerably the Churchcatechism, or even the half of it, he knows something of divinity; and that something is incalculably preferable to nothing. But it is not so with a Science: one who does not understand the principles of Euclid's demonstrations, whatever number of questions and answers he may have learnt by rote, knows absolutely nothing of geometry: unless he attain this point, all his labour is utterly lost; worse than lost, perhaps, if he is led to believe that he has learnt something of a Science, when, in truth, he has not. And the same is the case with Logic, or any other Science. It does not admit of such various degrees, as a knowledge of religion. Of course I am far from supposing that all who understand anything at all of Logic stand on the same level; but I mean, what is surely undeniable, that one who does not embrace the fundamental principles, of that, or any other Science, whatever he

may have

1

taken on authority, and learned by rote, knows, properly speaking, nothing of that Science. And such, I have no hesitation in saying, is the case with a considerable proportion even of those candidates who obtain testimonials, including many who gain distinction. There are some persons, (probably not so many as one in ten, of such as have in other respects tolerable abilities,) who are physically incapable of the degree of steady abstraction requisite for really embracing the principles of Logic or of any other Science, whatever pains may be taken by themselves or their teachers. But there is a much greater number to whom this is a great difficulty, though not an impossibility; and who having, of course, a strong disinclination to such a study, look naturally to the very lowest adınissible standard. And the example of such examinations in Logic as must be expected in the case of men of these descriptions, tends, in combination with popular prejudice, to degrade the study altogether in the minds of the generality.

It was from these considerations, perhaps, that it was proposed, a few years ago, to leave the study of Logic altogether to the option of the candidates ; but the suggestion was rejected; the majority appearing to

« AnteriorContinuar »