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CONDUCT OF THE UNDERSTANDING.
Quidatam ternerarium tamque inclignum sapientis gravda tate atque constantia, quam aui falsum sentire, aut quod non satis explorate perceptum sit et cognitum sine urla dubitatiore defendere ? Cic. de Natura Deorum, lib. 1.
$ 1. Introduction. The last resort a man has recourse to in the conduct of bimself, is his understanding : for though we distinguish the faculties of the mind, and give the supreme command to the will, as to an agent; yet the truth is, the man who is the agent determines himself to this or that voluntary action, upon some precedent knowledge, or appearance of knowledge in the understanding. No man ever sets himself about any thing but upon scmc view or other, which serves him for a reason for what he does : and whatsoever faculties he employs, the understanding with such light as it has, well or ill informed, constantly lea:ls; and by that light, true or false, all his operative powers are directed. The will itself, how absolute and uncontrollable soever it may be thought, never fails in its obedience to the dictates of the understanding. Tem
ples have their sacred images, and we sce what influence they have always had over a great part of mankind. But in truth, the ideas and images in men's minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them ; and to these they all universally pay a ready submission. It is, therefore, of the highest concernment, that great care should be taken of the understanding, to conduct it right in the search of knowledge, and in the judgments it makes.
The logic now in use, has so long possessed the chair, as the only art taught in the schools for the direction of the mind in the study of the arts and sciences, that it would perhaps be thought an affectation of novelty to suspect, that rules, that have served the learned world these two or three thousand years, and which without any complaint of defects, the learned have rested in, are not sufficient to guide the understanding.–And I should not doubt but this attempt would be censured as vanity or presumption, did not the great lord Verulam's authority justify it: who, not servilely thinking learning could not be advanced beyond what it was, because for many ages it had not been, did not rest in the lazy approbation and applause of what was, because it was ; but enTarged his mind to what it might be. In his preface to his Novum Organum concerning lo
pronounces thus: Qui summas dialectica
partes tribuerunt, alque inde fidissima scientiis prosidia comparari putarunt, verissime et optime viderunt intellectum humanum sibi permissum merito suspectum esse debere. Verum infirmior omnino est malo medicina ; nec ipsa mali expers. Siquidem dialectica, quæ recepta est, licet ad civilia et artes, quæ in sermone et opinione posito sunt, reclissime adhibeatur ; naturæ tamen subtilitatem longo intervallo non attingit, et prensando quod non capit, ad errores potius slabiliendos et quasi figendos, quam ad viam veritati aperiendam valuit.
“ They, says he, who attributed so much to logic, perceived very well and truly, that it was not safe to trust the understanding to itself, without the guard of any rules. But the remedy reached not the evil, but became a part of it: for the logic which took place, though it might do well enough in civil affairs, and the arts which consisted in talk and opinion ; yet comes very far short of subtilty in the real performances of nature, and catching at what it cannot reach, has served to confirm and establish errors, rather than to open a way to truth.” And therefore a little after he says, “That it is absolutely necessary that a better and perfecter use and employment of the mind and understanding should be introduced.” “ Necessario requiretur ut inelior et perfectior mentis et intellectus humani uses et adoperatio introducatur.”
$ 2. Parts.
There is, it is visible, great variety in men's understandings, and their natural constitutions put so wide a difference between some men in this respect, that art and industry would never be able to master ; and their
very tures seem to want a foundation to raise on it that which other men easily attain unto Amongst men of equal education there is great inequality of parts. And the woods of America, as well as the schools of Athens, produce men of several abilities in the same kind. Though this be so, yet I imagine most men come very short of what they might attain unto in their several degrees by a neglect of their understandings. A few rules of logic are thought sufficient in this case for those who pretend to the highest improvement; whereas, I think there are a great many natural defects in the understanding capable of amendment, which are overlooked aud wholly neglected. And it is easy to perceive that men are guilty of a great many faults in the exercise and improvement of this faculty of the mind, which hinder them in their progress, and keep them in ignorance and error all their lives. Some of them I shall take notice of, and endeavour to point out proper remedies for in the following discourse.