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nary degree of the faculty in question, a judicious teacher would find abundance of useful employment for it, without resorting to any that could possibly be detrimental to his future habits, moral, religious, or intellectual."
One very useful precept for students, is never to remain long puzzling out any difficulty; but lay the book and the subject aside, and return to it some hours after, or next day; after having turned the attention to something else. Sometimes a person will weary his mind for several hours in some efforts (which might have been spared) to make out some difficulty; and next day, when he returns to the subject, will find it quite easy.
The like takes place in the effort to recollect some name. You may fatigue yourself in vain for hours together; and if you turn to something else (which you might as well have done at once) the name will, as it were, flash across you without an effort.
There is something analogous to this, in reference to the scent of dogs. When a wounded bird, for instance, has been lost in the the thicket, and the dogs fail, after some search, to find it, a skillful sportsman always draws them off, and hunts them elsewhere for an hour, and then brings them back to the spot to try afresh; and they will often, then, find their game readily: though, if they had been bunt. ing for it all the time, they would have failed.
It seems as if the dog and the mind-having got into a kind of wrong track, continued in the same error, till drawn completely away elsewhere.
Always trust, therefore, for the overcoming of a difficulty, not to long continued study after you have once got bewildered, but to repeated trials; at intervals.
It may be here observed, that the student of any science or art should not only distinctly understand all the technical language, and all the rules of the art, but also learn them by heart, so that they may be remembered as familiarly as the alphabet, and employed constantly and with scrupulous exactness. Otherwise, technical language will prove an encumbrance instead of an advantage, just as a suit of clothes would be, if instead of putting them on and wearing them, one should carry them about in his hand.
“ There is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit
studies." It is a pity that Bacon did not more fully explain the mode in which different kinds of studies act on the mind. As an exercise of the reasoning faculty, pure mathematics is an admirable exercise, because it consists of reasoning alone, and does not encumber the student with any exercise of judgment : and it is well always to begin with learning one thing at a time, and to defer a combination of mental exercises to a later period. But then it is important to remember that mathematics does not exercise the judgment; and consequently, if too exclusively pursued, may leave the student very ill qualified for moral reasonings.
“The definitions, which are the principles of our reasoning, are very fero, and the axioms still fewer ; and both are, for the most part, laid down and placed before the stude in the outset ; the introduction of a new definition or axiom being of comparatively rare occurrence, at wide intervals, and with a formal statement, besides which, there is no room for doubt concerning either. On the other hand, in all reasonings which regard matters of fact, we introduce, almost at every step, fresh and fresh propositions (to a very great number) which had not been elicited in the course of our reasoning, but are taken for granted; viz., facts, and laws of nature, which are here the principles of our reasoning, and mazims, or
r.elements of belief,' which answer to the axioms in mathematics. If, at the opening of a treatise, for example, on chemistry, on agriculture, on political economy, &c., the author should make, as in mathematics, a formal statement of all the propositions he intended to assume as granted, throughout the whole work, both he and his readers would be astonished at the number; and, of these, many would be only probable, and there would be much room for doubt as to the degree of probability, and for judgment in ascertaining that degree.
“ Moreover, mathematical axioms are always employed precisely in the same simple form : e. g., the axiom that the things equal to the same are equal to one another,' is cited, whenever there is need, in those very words ; whereas the maxiins employed in the other class of subjects, admit of, and require, continual modifications in the application of them. E. g., 'the stability of the laws of nature,' which is our constant assumption in inquiries relating to natural philosophy, appears in many different shapes, and in some of them does not possess the same complete certainty as in others; e. g., when, from having always observed a certain sheep ruminating, we infer, that this individual sheep will continue to ruminate, we assume that the property which has hitherto belonged to this sheep will remain unchanged;' when we infer the same property of all sheep, we assume that the property which belongs to this individual belongs to the wbole species ;' if, on comparing sheep with some other kinds of horned animals,' and finding that all agree in ruminating, we infer that “all horned animals ruminate,' we assume that the whole of a genus or class are likely to agree in any point wherein many species of that genus agree :' or in other words, 'that if one of two properties, &c., has often been found accompanied by another, and never without it, the former will be universally accompanied by the latter ;' now all these are merely different forms of the maxim, that "nature is uniform in her operations, which, it is evident, varies in expression in almost every different case where it is applied, and the application of which admits of every degree of evidence, from perfect moral certainty, to mere conjectare.
“The same may be said of an infinite number of principles and maxims appropriated to, and employed in, each particular branch of study. Hence, all such reasonings are, in comparison of mathematics, very complex ; requiring so much more than that does, beyond the process of merely deducing the conclusion logically from the premises : so that it is no wonder that the longest mathematical demonstration should be so much more easily constructed and understood than a much shorter train of just reasoning concerning real facts. The former has been aptly compared to a long and steep, but even and regular, flight of steps, which tries the breath, and the strength, and the perseverance only; while the latter resembles a short, but rugged and uneven, ascent up a precipice, which requires a quick eye, agile limbs, and a firm step; and in which we have to tread now on this side, now on that ever considering, as we proceed, whether this or that projection will afford room for our foot, or whether some loose stone may not slide from
There are probably as many steps of pure reasoning in one of the longer of Euclid's demonstrations, as in the whole of an argumentative treatise on some other subject, occupying perhaps a considerable volume.
1 Viz., having horns on the skull. What are called the horns of the rhinoceros are quite different in origin, aud ia structure, as well as in situation, from what are properly called
" It may be observed here that mathematical reasoning, as it calls for no exercise of judgment respecting probabilities, is the best kind of introductory exercise ; and from the same cause, is apt, wheu too exclusively pursued, to make men incorrect moral reasoners.
“ As for those ethical and legal reasonings which were lately mentioned as in some respects resembling those of mathematics, (viz., such as keep clear of all assertions respecting facts,) they have this difference; that not only men are not so completely agreed respecting the maxims and principles of ethics and law, but the meaning also of each term can not be absolutely, and for ever, fixed by an arbitrary definition; on the contrary, a great part of our labor consists in distinguishing accurately the various senses in which men employ each term, -ascertaining which is the most proper,--and taking care to avoid confounding them together.
" It may be worth while to add in this place, that as a candid disposition, hearty desire to judge fairly, and to attain truth,-are evidently necessary with a view to give fair play to the reasoning powers, in subjects where we are liable to a bias from interest or feelings, so, a fallacious perversion of this maxim finds a place in the minds of some persons; who accordingly speak disparagingly of all exercise of the reasoning faculty in moral and religious subjects ; declaiming on the insufficiency of mere intellectual power for the attainment of truth in such matters,-on the necessity of appealing to the heart rather than to the head, &c., and then leading their readers or themselves to the conclusion that the less we reason on such subjects the safer we are.
“But the proper office of candor is to prepare the mind not for the rejection of all evidence, but for the right reception of evidence ;--not to be a substitute for reasons, but to enable us fairly to weigh the reasons on both sides. Such persons as I am alluding to are in fact saying that since just weights alone, without a just balance, will avail nothing, therefore we have only to take care of the scales, and let the weights take care of themselves.
“ This kind of tone is of course most especially to be found in such writers as consider it expedient to inculcate on the mass of mankind what there is reason to suspect-they do not themselves fully believe, and which they apprehend is the more likely to be rejected the more it is investigated."
A curious anecdote (which I had heard, in substance, some years before) was told me by the late Sir Alexander Johnstone. When he was acting as temporary governor of Ceylon, (soon after its cession,) he sat once as judge in a trial of a prisoner for a robbery and murder; and the evidence seemed to him so conclusive, that he was about to charge the jury (who were native Cingalese) to find a verdict of guilty. But one of the jury asked and obtained permission to examine the witnesses himself. He had them brought in one by one, and cross-examined them so ably as to elicit the fact that they were themselves the perpetrators of the crime, which they afterwards had conspired to impute to the prisoner. And they were accordingly put on their trial and convicted.
Sir A. J. was greatly struck by the intelligence displayed by this juror; the more, as he was only a small farmer, who was not known to have had any remarkable advantages of education. He sent for him, and after commending the wonderful sagacity he had shown, inquired eagerly what his studies had been. The inan replied that he had never read but one book, the only one he possessed, which had long been in bis family, and which he delighted to study in his leisure hours. This book he was prevailed on to show to Sir A. J., who put it into the hands of one who knew the Cingalese language. It turned out to be a translation into that language of a large portion of Aristotle's Organon. It appears that the Portuguese, when they first settled in Ceylon and other parts of the East, translated into the native languages several of the works then studied in the European Universities; among which were the Latin versions of Aristotle.
The Cingalese in question said that if his understanding had been in any degree cultivated and improved, it was to that book he owed it.
It is very important to warn all readers of the influence likely to be exercised in the formation of their opinions, indirectly, and by works not professedly argumentative, such as Poems and Tales. Fletcher of Saltoun said, he would let any one have the making of the laws of a country, if he might have the making of their ballads.
An observation in the Lectures on Political Economy on one cause which has contributed to foster an erroneous opinion of the superior moral purity of poor and half-civilized countries, is equally applicable to a multitude of other cases, on various subjects. “ “One powerful, but little suspected cause, I take to be, an early familiarity with poetical descriptions of pure, unsophisticated, rustic life, in remote, sequestered, and unenlightened districts ;-of the manly virtue and praotical wisdom of our simple forefathers, before the refinements of luxury had been introduced ;-of the adventurous wildness, so stimulating to the imagination, of savage or pastoral life, in the midst of primæval forests, lofty mountains, and all the grand scenery of uncultivated nature. Such subjects and scenes are much better adapted for poets, than thronged cities, workshops, coalpits, and iron-foundries. And poets, whose object is to please, of course keep out of sight all the odious or disgusting circumstances pertaining to the life of the savage or the untutored clown, and dwell exclusively on all the aniable and admirable parts of that simplicity of character which they feign or fancy. Early associations are thus formed, whose influence is often the stronger and the more lasting, from the very circumstance that they are formed unconsciously, and do not come in the form of propositions demanding a deliberate assent. Poetry does not profess to aim at conviction; but it often leaves impressions which affect the reasoning and the judgment. And a false impression is perhaps oftener conveyed in other ways than by sophistical argument; because that rouses the mind to exert its powers, and to assume, as it were, a reasoning mood.”'
The influence exercised by such works is overlooked by those who suppose that a child's character, moral and intellectual, is formed by those books only which are put into his hands with that design. As hardly anything can accidentally touch the soft clay without stamping its mark on it, so, hardly any reading can interest a child without contributing in some degree, though the book itself be afterwards totally forgotten, to form the character; and the parents, therefore, who, merely requiring from him a certain course of study, pay little or no attention to story-books, are educating him they know not how.
And here, I would observe that in books designed for children there are two extremes that should be avoided. The one, that reference to religious principles
1 In an article in a Review I have seen mention made of a person who discovered the falsity of a certain doctrine (which, by the way, is nevertheless a true one, that of Malthus,) instinct. dely. This kind of instinct, i. c. the habit of forming opinions at the suggestion rather of feeling than of reason, is very common.
in connection with matters too trifling and undignified, arising from a well-intentioned zeal, causing a forgetfulness of the maxim whose notorious truth has made it proverbial, “Too much familiarity breeds contempt.” And the other is the contrary, and still more prevailing extreme, arising from a desire to preserve a due reverence for religion, at the expense its useful application in conduct. But a line may be drawn which will keep clear of both extremes. We should not exclude the association of things sacred with whatever are to ourselves trifling matters, (for “ these little things are great" to children,) but, with whatever is viewed by them as trifling. Every thing is great or small in reference to the parties concerned. The private concerns of any obscure individual are very insig vificant to the world at large, but they are of great importance to bimself. And all worldly affairs must be small in the sight of the Most High ; but irreverent familiarity is engendered in the mind of any one, then, and then only, when things sacred are associated with such as are, to bim, insignificant things.
And here I would add that those works of fiction are worse than unprofitable that inculcate morality, with an exclusion of all reference to religious principle. This is obviously and notoriously the character of Miss Edgeworth's moral tales. And 80 entire and resolute is this exclusion, that it is maintained at the expense of what may be called poetical truth; it destroys, in many instances, the probability of the tale, and the naturalness of the characters. That Christianity does exist, every one must believe as an incontrovertible truth ; nor can any one deny that, whether true or false, it does exercise,
at least is supposed to exercise,-an influence on the feelings and conduct of some of the believers in it. To represent, therefore, persons of various ages, sex, country, and station in life, as practicing, on the most trying occasions, every kind of duty, and encountering every kind of danger, difficulty, and hardship, while pone of them ever makes the least reference to a religious motive, is as decidedly at variance with reality,—what is called in works of fiction unnatural,- , -as it would be to represent Mahomet's enthusiastic followers as rushing into battle without any thought of his promised paradise. This, therefore, is a blemish in point of art, which every reader possessing taste must perceive, whatever may be his religious or non-religious persuasion. But a far higher, and more important, question than that of taste is involved. For though Miss Edgeworth may entertain opinions which would not permit her, with cousistency, to attribute more to the influence of religion than she bas done, and in that case may stand acquitted, in foro conscientiæ, of willfully suppressing anything which she acknowledges to be true and important; yet, as, a writer, it must still be considered as a great blemish, in the eyes at least of those who think differently, that virtue should be studiously inculcated, with scarcely any reference to what they regard as the mainspring of it,—that vice should be traced to every other source except the want of religious principle,—that the most radical change from worthlessness to excellence should be represented as wholly independent of that Agent which they consider as the only one that can accomplish it,--and that consolation under affliction should be represented as derived from every source, except the one which they look to as the only true and sure one. “Is it not because there is no God in Israel, that ye have sent to inquire of Baalzebub, the God of Ekron?” This vital defect in such works should be constantly pointed out to the young reader; and he should be warned that, to realize the picture of noble, disinterested, thorough-going virtue, presented in such and such an instance, it is absolutely necessary to resort to thuse