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when in the other way of assent it only hovers about it, is amused with uncertainties. In this superficial way, indeed, the mind is capable of more variety of plausible talk, but is not enlarged, as it should be, in its knowledge. It is to this same haste and impatience of the mind also, that a not due tracing of the arguments to their true foundation is owing; men see a little, presume a great deal, and so jump to the conclusion. This is a short way to fancy and conceit, and (if firmly embraced) to opinionatry, but is certainly the farthest way about to knowledge. For he that will know, must by the connexion of the proofs see the truth, and the ground it stands on; and therefore, if he has for haste skipped over what he should have examined, he must begin and go over all again, or else he will never come to knowledge.
ANOTHER fault of as ill consequence as this, which proceeds also from laziness, with a mixture of vanity, is the skipping from one sort of knowledge to another. Some men's tempers are quickly weary of any one thing. Constancy and assiduity is what they cannot bear the same study long continued in is as intolerable to them as the appearing long in
the same clothes, or fashion, is to a courtlady.
OTHERS, that they may seem universally knowing, get a little smattering in every thing. Both these may fill their heads with superficial notions of things, but are very much out of the way of attaining truth or knowledge.
I Do not here speak against the taking a taste of every sort of knowledge; it is certainly very useful and necessary to form the mind ; but then it must be done in a different way, and to a different end. Not for talk and vanity to fill the head with shreds of all kinds, that he who is possessed of such a frippery may be able to match the discourses of all he shall meet with, as if nothing could come Iamiss to him; and his head was so well stored a magazine, that nothing could be proposed which he was not master of, and was readily furnished to entertain any one.This is an excellency, indeed, and a great one too, to have a real and true knowledge in all, or most of the objects of contemplation. But it is what the mind of one and the same
man can hardly attain unto; and the instances are so few of those who have, in any measure, approached towards it, that I know not whether they are to be proposed as examples in the ordinary conduct of the understanding. For a man to understand fully the business of his particular calling in the commonwealth, and of religion, which is his calling as he is a man in the world, is usually enough to take up his whole time; and there are few that inform themselves in these, which is every man's proper and peculiar business, so to the bottom as they should do. But though this be so, and there are very few men that extend their thoughts toward universal knowledge; yet I do not doubt, but if the right way were taken, and the methods of inquiry were ordered as they should be, men of little business and great leisure might go a great deal farther in it than is usually done. To return to the business in hand; the end and use of a little insight in those parts of knowledge, which are not a man's proper business, is to accustom our minds to all sorts of ideas, and the proper ways of examining their habitudes and relations. This gives the mind a freedom, and the exercising the understanding in the several ways of inquiry and reasoning, which the most skilful have made use of, teaches the mind sagacity and wariness, and a suppleness to apply itself
more closely and dexterously to the bents and turns of the matter in all its researches Besides, this universal taste of all the sciences, with an indifferency before the mind is possessed with any one in particular, and grown into love and admiration of what is made its darling, will prevent another evil, very commonly to be observed in those who have from the beginning been seasoned only by one part of knowledge. Let a man be given up to the contemplation of one sort of knowledge, and that will become every thing. The mind will take such a tincture from a familiarity with that object, that every thing else, how remote soever, will be brought under the same view. A metaphysician will bring ploughing and gardening immediately to abstract notions: the history of nature shall signify nothing to him. An alchymist, on the contrary, shall reduce divinity to the maxims of his laboratory; explain morality by sal, sulphur, and mercury; and allegorize the Scripture itself, and the sacred mysteries thereof, into the philosopher's stone. And I heard once a man, who had a more than ordinary excellency in music, seriously accommodate Moses's seven days of the first week to the notes of music, as if from thence had been taken the measure and method of the creation. It is of no small consequence to keep the mind from such a possession,
which I think is best done by giving it a fair and equal view of the whole intellectual world, wherein it may see the order, rank, and beauty of the whole, and give a just allowance to the distinct provinces of the several sciences in the due order and usefulness of each of them.
If this be that which old men will not think necessary, nor be easily brought to; it is fit, at least, that it should be practised in the breeding of the young. The business of education, as I have already observed, is not, as I think, to make them perfect in any one of the sciences, but so to open and dispose their minds, as may best make them capable of any, when they shall apply themselves to it. If men are, for a long time, accustomed only to one sort or method of thoughts, their minds grow stiff in it, and do not readily turn to another. It is, therefore, to give them this freedom, that I think they should be made to look into all sorts of knowledge, and exercise their understandings in so wide a variety and stock of knowledge. But I do not propose it as a variety and stock of knowledge, but a variety and freedom of thinking, as an increase of the powers and activity of the mind, not as an enlargement of its possessiors.