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And therefore the proper remedy here is but to set the mind to work, and apply the thoughts vigorously to the business; for it holds in the struggles of the mind as in those "Dum putant se vincere vicere ;" a persuasion that we shall overcome any difficulties that we meet with in the sciences, seldom fails to carry us through them. Nobody knows the strength of his mind, and the force of steady and regular application, till he has tried. This is certain, he that sets out upon weak legs will not only go farther, but grow stronger too, than one who, with a vigorous constitution and firm limbs, only sits still.
Something of kin to this men may observe in themselves, when the mind frights itself (as it often does) with any thing reflected on in gross, and transiently viewed confusedly, and at a distance. Things thus offered to the mind carry the show of nothing but difficulty. in them, and are thought to be wrapt up in impenetrable obscurity. But the truth is, these are nothing but spectres that the understanding raises to itself to flatter its own laziness. It sees nothing distinctly in things remote, and in a huddle; and therefore concludes too faintly, that there is nothing more clear to be discovered in them. It is but to approach nearer, and that mist of our own raising that enveloped them will remove; and those that in that mist appeared hideous giants
not to be grappled with, will be found to be of the ordinary and natural size and shape. Things, that in a remote and confused view seem very obscure, must be approached by gentle and regular steps; and what is most visible, easy, and obvious in them first considered. Reduce them into their distinct parts; and then in their due order bring all that should be known concerning every one of those parts into plain and simple questions; and then what was thought obscure, perplexed, and too hard for our weak parts, will lay itself open to the understanding in a fair view, and let the mind into that which before it was awed with, and kept at a distance from, as wholly mysterious. I appeal to my reader's experience, whether this has never happened to him, especially when, busy on one thing. he has occasionally reflected on another. I ask him whether he has never thus been scared with a sudden opinion of mighty difficulties, which yet have vanished, when he has seriously and methodically applied himself to the consideration of this seeming terrible subject, and there has been no other matter of astonishment left, but that he amused himself with so discouraging a prospect, of his own raising, about a matter which in the handling was found to have nothing in it more strange nor intricate than several other things which he had long since and with ease mastered? This
experience would teach us how to deal with such bugbears another time, which should rather serve to excite our vigour than enervate our industry. The surest way for a learner in this, as in all other cases, is not to advance by jumps and large strides ; let that which he sets himself to learn next be indeed the next; i. e. as nearly conjoined with what he knows already as is possible; let it be distinct but not remote from it let it be new, and what he did not know before, that the understanding may advance; but let it be as little at once as may be, that its advances may be clear and sure. All the ground that it gets this way it will hold. This distinct gradual growth in know!edge is firm and sure; it carries its own light with it in every step of its progression, in an easy and orderly train; than which there is nothing of more use to the understanding. And though this perhaps may seem a very slow and lingering way to knowledge, yet I dare confidently affirm, that whoever will try it in himself, or any one he will teach, shall find the advances greater in this method than they would in the same space of time have been in any other he could have taken. The greatest part of true knowledge lies in a distinct perception of things in themselves distinct. And some men give more clear light and knowledge by the bare distinct stating of a
question, than others by talking of it in gross whole hours together. In this, they who so state a question do no more but separate and disentangle the parts of it one from another, and lay them, when so disentangled, in their due order. This often, without any more ado, resolves the doubt, and shews the mind where the truth lies. The agreement or disagreement of the ideas in question, when they are once separated and distinctly considered, is, in many cases, presently perceived, and thereby clear and lasting knowledge gained; whereas things in gross taken up together, and so lying together in confusion, can produce in the mind but a confused, which in effect is no knowledge; or at least, when it comes to be examined and made use of, will prove little better than none. I therefore take the liberty to repeat here again what I have said elsewhere, that in learning any thing as little should be proposed to the mind at once as is possible; and, that being understood and fully mastered, to proceed to the next adjoining part yet-unknown, simple, unperplexed proposition belonging to the matter in hand, and tending to the clearing what is principally designed.
$ 40. Analogy.
ANALOGY is of great use to the mind in many cases, especially in natural philosophy; and
that part of it chiefly which consists in happy and successful experiments. But here we must take care that we keep ourselves within that wherein the analogy consists. For example, the acid oil of vitriol is found to be good in such a case, therefore the spirit of nitre or vinegar may be used in the like case. If the good effect of it be owing wholly to the acidity of it, the trial may be justified; but if there be something else besides the acidity in the oil of vitriol which produces the good we desire in the case, we mistake that for analogy, which is not, and suffer our understanding to be misguided by a wrong supposition of analogy where there is none
THOUGH I have, in the second book of my Essay concerning Human Understanding, treated of the association of ideas; yet having done it there historically, as giving a view of the understanding in this as well as its several other ways of operating, rather than designing there to inquire into the remedies that ought to be applied to it; it will under this latter consideration, afford other matter of thought to those who have a mind to instruct themselves thoroughly in the right way of conducting their understandings; and that the rather, because this, if I mistake not, is as