Page images
PDF
EPUB

ation and keen insight fixes his attention upon one important fact, seizes the law revealed therein, and holds fast that law, the results that he brings to pass are more far-reaching in their scope and influence, than when an adust and hackneyed plodder, wearys himself through long years in a methodical heaping together of myriads of isolated and less important facts, without once detecting the character and essence of the simplest of them all. For consider how truth flashed in upon the mind of Galileo, while watching the vibrations of a pendant chandelier, “a striking proof,” says Goethe, “ that for the man of genius, one fact is better than a thousand.” For, according to himn, in scientific researches every thing depends on what may be styled the “ aperçu," or the instantaneous, intuitive recognition of the principle that underlies a given phenomenon.

But some one will ask, “ do you then reject Bacon's method of induction in all its particulars ?" By no means. It is only this idea of an equalizing scale applied to the mind, and his view that there is no other road to knowledge than the one that he has marked out, that merit our reproof.

In fact, Bacon himself, with a most happy inconsistency, often employs expressions that disarm all attack. For instance, take the following : “ When a man brings to the contemplation of nature an open sense and a mind that is unentangled by the prejudices of tradition, he needs no such method.” The favorites of fortune, the miracleworkers, as Luther calls them, are gifted with this unclouded vision; to this class Goethe himself belonged. With a lively sensibility, a refined organism, and a passionate love for nature, he needed not that any should say to him, “open thine eyes and look around thee.' To him, the author of the lines,

“ Nature is good and kind

Who clasps me to her breast," a marriage between the soul and the outward world was already a settled fact. “They that are whole need not a physician.” But these miracle-workers are, alas, too rare; and most men must make use of a method which shall stimulate their sluggish spirits into life

and energy

As it regards the manner in which Bacon illustrated his method, as in the “ History of the Winds," so severely commented upon by Goethe, he should be judged, in a measure, by the general tone of natural science in his own age. To Goethe's eloquent apology for “ aperçus" or intuitive perceptions, Bacon might have replied, “your principles underlying phenomena, are what I have denominated .forms, which I nevertheless can not unveil by means of a single fact taken symbolically, but only by induction, by a comparison of many facts, representing the varied shapes of one and the same Proteus."

In short, despite the objectionable manner in which Bacon, here and there, endeavored, in the concrete, to maintain, realize, and prove the deep and solid foundation-principles which he advanced, the truth of those principles remains yet unassailed; and, like a vital germ, they have grown, and are bearing fruit even to the present day. Bacon originated no school, but something greater and wider in its scope. He was the founder of the direct mode of questioning nature, a mode open alike to all, whatever their talent or abilities. He was, as we have before intimated, the creator of the practical experimentalism of the present day, which explores the world for material to work up into manufactured fabrics, and to him may be ascribed the present prevailing tendency, of the English nation especially, to utilitarianism, to that perfect subjection of nature, by the aid of science, that will lead men finally to a true rational magic.

[blocks in formation]

I have now endeavored to present a brief abstract of Bacon's philosophy. I have also occasionally adverted to the influence which it has exerted upon mental culture, and, as a consequence, upon methods of instruction; an influence which, at the distance of two centuries, is still in the ascendant. But there are also many passages in the “ De augmentis scientiarum" which have a direct bearing upon education. Of this nature is the second chapter of the Sixth Book, in which he treats of " prudentia traditiva," or knowledge delivered, and characterizes various methods of teaching. He gives the preference to the genetic method, where the teacher " transplants knowledge into the scholar's mind, as it grew in his own.” Whatever is imparted in this way, will take root, flourish, and bear fruit. He commends aphorisms: "For representing a knowledge broken, they do invite men to inquire farther; whereas systems, carrying a show of a totål, do secure men as if they were at farthest.” “Methods should vary according to the subject to be taught, for in knowledge itself there is great diversity.”

In one place he treats most strenuously and earnestly of the importance of education. “A gardener,” he says,

“ takes more pains with the young than with the full-grown plant; and men commonly find it needful, in any undertaking, to begin well. We give scarce a thought to our teachers, and care little for what they may be, and yet we are forever complaining, because rulers are rigid in the matter of laws and penalties, but indifferent to the right training of the young."

To this Bacon adds a panegyric upon the schools of the Jesuits, by way of introduction to another paragraph on education. It is as follows:

“As it regards teaching, this is the sum of all direction : take example by the schools of the Jesuits; for better do not exist. However, I will add, according to my wont, a few scattered thoughts on this head. Collegiate training for young men and boys excels, in my opinion, that of the family or of the school. For not only are greater incentives to action to be found at colleges, but there too the young have ever before their eyes men of dignified bearing and superior scholarship, who command their respect, and whom they grow insensibly to imitate. In short, there is hardly a particular in which colleges do not excel. In regard to the course and order of instruction, my chief counsel would be to avoid all digests and epitomes of learning; for they are a species of imposture, giving men the means to make a show of learning, who have it not. Moreover, the natural bent of individual minds should be so far encouraged, that a scholar, who shall learn all that is required of him, may be allowed time in , which to pursue a favorite study. And furthermore, it is worth while to consider, and I think this point has not hitherto received the attention that its importance demands, that there are two distinct modes of training the mind to a free and appropriate use of its faculties. The one begivs with the easiest, and so proceeds to the more difficult; the other, at the outset, presses the pupil with the more difficult tasks, and, after he has mastered these, turns him to pleasanter and easier ones: for it is one method to practice swimming with bladders, and another to practice dancing with heavy shoes. It is beyond all estimate, how much a judicious blending of these two methods will profit both the mental and the bodily powers. And

so to select and assign topics of instruction, as to adapt them to the • individual capabilities of the pupils,—this, too, requires a special ex

perience and judgment. A close observation and an accurate knowledge of the different natures of pupils is due from teachers to the parents of these pupils, that they may choose an occupation in life for their sons accordingly. And note further, that not only does every one make more rapid progress in those studies to which his nature inclines him, but again that a natural disinclination, in whatever direction, may be overcome by the help of special studies. For instance, if a boy has a light, inattentive, and inconstant spirit, so that he is easily diverted, and his attention can not be readily fixed, he

will find advantage in the mathematics, in which a demonstration must be commenced anew whenever the thoughts wander even for a moment.

These cautions respecting mental training may not, at the first glance, appear to abound either in weight or wisdom; but, acted on, they are both fruitful and efficient. For as the wronging or cherishing of seeds or young plants is that, that is most important to their thriving, and as it was noted that the first six kings, being in truth as tutors of the state of Rome in the infancy thereof, was the principal cause of the eminent greatness of that state which followed; so the culture and manurance of minds in youth hath such a forcible, though unseen operation, as hardly any length of time or contention of labor can countervail it afterward. And it is not amiss to observe how small and mean faculties, gotten by education, yet when they fall into great men or great matters, do work great and important effects, whereof I will give a notable example. And the rather, as I find that the Jesuits also have not neglected the cultivation of these lesser graces of the scholar, in which, 'as it seems to me, they have

shown sound judgment. I speak of that art which, followed for a • livelihood, brings reproach, but, used in education, does the best of

service,- 1 mean the acting of plays. This strengthens the memory, gives volume to the voice, power to the expression, ease to the bearing, grace to the gestures, and imparts a wonderful degree of selfconfidence, thus thoroughly fitting young men for the demands of a public career. Tacitus relates that a certain stage-player, Vibulenus, by his faculty of playing, put the Panonnian armies into an extreme tumult and combustion. For there arising a mutiny among them, upon the death of Augustus Cæsar, Blæsus, the lieutenant, had committed some mutineers, which were suddenly rescued; whereupon Vibulenus got to be heard speak, which he did in this manner : * These poor innocent wretches, appointed to cruel death, you have restored to behold the light; but who shall restore my brother to me, or life unto my brother, that was sent hither in message from the legions of Germany, to treat of the common cause? And he hath murdered him this last night by some of his fencers and ruffians,

that he hath about him for his executioners upon soldiers. Answer, Blæsus, what is done with his body? The mortalest enemies do not deny burial ; when I have performed my last duties to the corpse, with kisses, with tears, command me to be slain besides him, so that these my fellows, for our good meaning, and our true hearts to the legions, may have leave to bury us. With which speech he put the army into an infinite fury and uproar; whereas truth was, he had no brother, neither was there any such matter, but he played it merely as if he had been upon the stage."

It should be understood, however, that this passage on education is isolated, and by no means in connection with the general philosophical system of Bacon. It is surprising that the man who said, " It is no less true in this human kingdom of knowledge than in God's kingdom of heaven, that no man shall enter into it, except he become first as a little child,” did not adhere to this sentiment, and carry it into all his speculations. When he taught that “men must abjure all traditional and inherited views and notions, so that with an open and unworn sense they might come to the observation of nature,” why did he not apply bis doctrine to that class, who know nothing by tradition, and who have nothing to unlearn,--I mean to children? Why did he not build anew the science of education upon the solid basis of realism? Instead of this, we find nothing but an ill-assorted farrago of good, bad, and indifferent. I have already expressed my disapproval of the pernicious influence of the educational tenets of the Jesuits, which Bacon so highly recommends, especially their pri. mum mobile, the principle of emulation. Much might be urged also against some of the features of seminaries and colleges. His advocacy of theatrical representations in schools is, singularly enough, supported by the above example from Tacitus ; which, more nearly considered, is truly hideous, an example of a stage-player, who, in the reign of Tiberius, with the aid of surpassing eloquence, palmed off upon the Pannonian legions a wholesale lie, and so instigated them to a rebellion against their general. But he forgot to add, that Drusus most fitly recompensed the ill-omened orator for his all too potent speech with the loss of his head. Why did not Bacon, keen as he ordinarily proved himself in argument, rather use this example to condemn theatrical representations in schools, inasmuch as these representations very often pass from a mimic jest into a too serious familiarity with lies and deceit?

Meanwhile some of his views in the passage above quoted, as, against over hasty methods of imparting instruction, in favor of a judicious interchange between the easier and the more difficult branches of learning, and the like, are timely and encouraging.

But, though these doctrines insure their own reception, we ought not too hastily to conclude that Bacon's highest claims in the cause of education are based upon them. These claims proceed much rather from the fact, which I can not too often repeat, that he was the first to break out of the beaten track, and to address scholars, who lived and moved in the languages and writings of antiquity, yea, who

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »