« السابقةمتابعة »
infinite use, even to grown men; first, by experimentally convincing them, that to make any one reason well, it is not enough to have parts wherewith he is satisfied, and that serve him well enough in his ordinary course. A man in those studies will see, that however good he may think his understanding, yet in many things, and those very visible, it may fail him. This would take off that presumption that most inen have of themselves in this part; and they would not be so apt to think their minds wanted no helps to enlarge them, that there could be nothing added to the acuteness and penetration of their understandings.
Secondly, The study of mathematics would show them the necessity there is in reasoning, to separate all the distinct ideas, and see the habitudes that all those concerned in the present inquiry have to one another, and to lay by those which relate not to the proposition in hand, and wholly to leave them out of the reckoning. This is that which in other subjects, besides quantity, is what is absolutely requisite to just reasoning, though in them it is not so easily observed, nor so carefully practised. In those parts of knowledge where it is thought demonstration has nothing to do, men reason as it were in the lump; and if, upon a summary and confused view, or upon a partial consideration, they can raise the ap
pearance of a probability, they usually rest content; especially if it be in a dispute where every little straw is laid hold on, and every thing that can but be drawn in any way to give colour to the argument is advanced with ostentation. But that mind is not in a posture to find the truth, that does not distinctly take all the parts asunder, and, omitting what is not at all to the point, draw a conclusion from the result of all the particulars which any way influence it. There is another no less useful habit to be got by an application to Lathematical demonstrations, and that is, of using the mind to a long train of consequences; but having mentioned that already, I shall not again here repeat it.
As to men whose fortunes and time are narrower, what may suffice them is not of that vast extent as may be imagined and so comes not within the objection.
Nobody is under an obligation to know every thing. Knowledge and science in general is the business only of those who are at ease and leisure. Those who have particular callings ought to understand them; and it is no unreasonable proposal, nor impossible to be compassed, that they should think and reason right about what is their daily employment. This one cannot think them incapable of, without levelling them with the brutes,
and charging them with a stupidity below the rank of rational creatures.
§ 8. Religion.
BESIDES his particular calling for the support of this life, every one has a concern in a future life, which he is bound to look after, This engages his thoughts in religion; and here it mightily lies upon him to understand and reason right. Men, therefore, cannot be excused from understanding the words, and framing the general notions relating to religion, right. The one day of seven, besides other days of rest, allows in the Christian world time enough for this (had they no other idle hours) if they would but make use of these vacancies from their daily labour, and apply themselves to an improvemnt of knowledge with as much diligence as they often do to a great many other things that are useless, and had but those that would enter them according to their several capacities in a right way to this knowledge. The original make of their minds is like that of other men, and they would be found not to want understanding fit to receive the knowledge of religion, if they were a little encouraged and helped in it, as they should be. For there are instances of very mean people, who have raised their minds to a great sense and understanding of
religion and though these have not been so frequent as could be wished; yet they are enough to clear that condition of life from a necessity of gross ignorance, and to show that more might be brought to be rational creatures and Christians (for they can hardly be thought really to be so, who, wearing the name, know not so much as the very principles of that religion) if due care were taken of them. For, If I mistake not, the peasantry lately in France (a rank of people under a much heavier pressure of want and poverty than the day-labourers in England) of the reformed religion understood it much better, and could say more for it than those of a higher condition among us.
But if it shall be concluded that the meaner sort of people must give themselves up to brutish stupidity in the things of their nearest concernment, which I see no reason for, this excuses not those of a freer fortune and education, if they neglect their understandings, and take no care to employ them as they ought, and set them right in the knowledge of those things for which principally they were given them. At least those, whose plentiful fortunes allow them the opportunities and helps of improvements, are not so few, but that it might be hoped great advancements might be made in knowledge of all kinds, especially in that of the greatest con
cern and largest views, if men would make a right use of their faculties, and study their own understandings.
§ 9. Ideas.
OUTWARD Corporeal objects, that constantly importune our senses, and captivate our appetites, fail not to fill our heads with lively and lasting ideas of that kind. Here the mind needs not to be set upon getting greater store; they offer themselves fast enough, and are usually entertained in such plenty, and lodged so carefully, that the mind wants room or attention for others that it has more use and need of. To fit the understanding therefore for such reasoning a I have been above speaking of, care should be taken to fill it with moral and more abstract ideas; for these not offering themselves to the senses, but being to be framed to the understanding people are generally so neglectful of a faculty they are apt to think wants nothing, that I fear most men's minds are more unfurnished with such ideas than is imagined. They often. use the words, and how can they be suspected to want the ideas? What I have said in the third book of my Essay, will excuse me from any other answer to this question. But to convince people of what moment it is to their understandings to be furnished with