by Mrs. Dowson, L.R.C.P & S.,I.
Volume 11, 1900, pgs. 83-92
The immediate purpose of all discipline is the same. It is, in every case, that process by which, in the opinion of those who apply it, a given material may be induced to take a certain form and display certain qualities and powers. Whatever our material may be, success depends upon our following its laws. We choose one element to be repressed and another to be encouraged and brought out in form and in function; but if, instead of obeying laws and trying to work with them, we employ, as our ordinary method, arbitrary dominance and ill-considered force, we must always fail in the long run, if not in the short. We fail because the material with which we deal has laws of its own, powers and qualities, springs of activity, which we cannot do without if our end is to be attained, and which, in the case of a human being, assert themselves sooner or later in their native independence, frustrating any purpose their owner has not been led on to share.
If we look at the particular instance with which we are concerned to-day--that of the child--we see that much of his intellectual education, if it is worthy of the name, is, in fact, a double discipline, a discipline of his mental powers and a discipline or organizing of his mental health, of the varied items of the knowledge he acquires. The process he goes through is one in which formative, selective, and developing influences are brought to bear both upon him and upon the contents of his mind, in order that we may help him, intelligently and sympathetically, to become what we think best. This is the process of a right educational discipline, but, plainly, we must some time or other give grave consideration to the end we seek for him. In any treatment of the whole problem, we are thrown back on the question of the final purpose of the discipline we apply. We have to consider, some time or other, as everybody does who is in earnest with the matter, what we think a child is really meant to be, whether, in fact, we have found out, or are taking due pains to find out, not what we ourselves admire and wish, but the real truth about the chief end and good of man. Without full knowledge, all our discipline may be wrongly directed, all the pains and trouble may be worse than wasted, all our children's education may be drawing them along the way in which they should not go.
We are told that the aim of education is to product the wise person; because, I suppose, the wise person is most likely to find out for himself what he is meant for, and to direct his way accordingly: but while the child is still going through his training for this high office, at least in name, the question of his meaning and his end forms no small part of our general responsibility for his well-being and for the means by which we seek to serve it.
The answer to this question does not come within my province to-day; but I could not safely ignore the existence and the importance of the question itself. I will assume that by all of us here it has been faced and answered; and I will betake myself to one corner of the great field covered by the title of my paper, the corner I have chosen in order to discuss with you the main outlines of the mental disciplines and organization to be desired for a child under the circumstances of our own day, if he is to be put in the way of meeting the changes and chances of this mortal life as only a wise person can and should.
It has been said that, for a democratic people enjoying the independence and freedom of initiative distinguishing a democratic people, there is only one way of keeping self-seeking anarchy at bay, and securing in its multitudes of diversity the unity essential for its very existence as a nation as well as for the national prosperity and power. This is the only way of organization, of so linking the unitary individuals of the democracy together that each has his recognized part in the whole, and may contribute his share toward the good of the whole in which he sees his own good concerned. By this alone can strength and unity of purpose and action be secured, and a democracy of 'free and independent' constituents be interlocked together. The process of British national development and colonial expansion is, in the main, a process of this kind; it is ever bringing free units into co-operation and mutual reaction within a whole. This is the essential principle of democratic Imperialism, and the means by which it is carried out is the political discipline of free peoples and persons. It is usually gentle and gradual, but sometimes sudden and severe; and it is always directed, consciously or unconsciously, towards one ultimate end, the good of the peoples and persons of the Imperial whole; it has always regard, explicitly or implicitly, to one condition, the worth of all the parts and the still greater worth of the unity they make. We have only to contrast the growth of this democratic Empire of ours with the grinding, crushing, monotonous march of the Russian autocracy from St. Petersburg to Port Arthur, to see the difference of both end and means, the difference between a wrong and a right method of discipline working out towards corresponding diverse ends.
The process of organizing a free people into a nation, and nations into an Empire, is a process of national and individual discipline, and exemplifies a far-reaching principle. Leaders in the science of education are finding out that the principle holds good in application to the human mind and to the subjects with which it deals under the name of its knowledge. The specialism of modern intellectual life, of scientific research and social and political inquiry, the diversity and incoherence of the claims upon our attention and the attention of our children, cut up the field of mental activity into isolated bits, and draw lines between one kind of knowledge and another that do not correspond with any real division between the corresponding kinds of things. Nature is a whole; we are obliged to cut the whole into parts for purposes of examination and study in detail, and for economy of our mental powers; but we do it, even when it is done most wisely and most carefully, at a certain loss. If we know how and why we lose, the fact may be reckoned with; but since, in taking a part to be studied by itself, we separate it from the context without which it is in some measure both unintelligible and misleading, intellectual and moral dangers arise in the path of the unwary and untrained. There is a danger of loss of grip over the problem of the whole, and of mental confusion due to our acquaintance with a multitude of facts without an acquaintance with the rational links between them; and there is the very serious danger of mistaking a descriptive and abstract knowledge of one or more subjects for a knowledge of their true meaning in connection with the great problems that most vitally and permanently concern mankind. We need to be aware of our necessary ignorance and to be aware that, since nobody knows everything, nobody can possibly know all about anything whatever. It is impossible to know the whole truth about any concrete thing, even the simplest and most familiar. If anyone doubts this, a crucial experiment lies ready to his hand; let him take a golf-club, let us say, or a darning-needle, and try to state the whole truth about it: he will certainly fail. We can illustrate this by a familiar example:--A child sees the sun and moon crossing the sky; he notices also from his bedroom window at night that the stars move too: he tells me what he has seen; and, having heard that the earth is like an orange, he guesses, perhaps, that sun, moon and stars all go, at different rates, right round his orange-world. I tell him that this is not true; I explain to him as well as I can that the earth 'really' goes round the sun, and the moon round the earth; but that the stars, which are called fixed, only 'seem' to go round for the reason the sun 'seems' to do the same thing, because the earth spins like a top. I must put the matter this way; but, like everybody who has given more than the most trifling attention to it, I know that my simple positive statement acquires both its positivism and its simplicity at the expense of facts. I am aware that a description of the relative motions of all these bodies given by an astronomer differs at least as widely from the account I give the child as my account does from the one the child gives me. We shift the difficulty to other stages; I do not give the whole truth, nor does the astronomer; each describes the look of the thing in his own point of view; and, in some respects, the astronomer's description is distinctly less true than was the child's, before he began to commit himself to a guess, while he was content to take his experience in the simplest way. What is the complete truth about the sun, moon and stars? We do not know: but the fact that we do not know is of small importance indeed compared with the importance of knowing that we do not know and being prepared for the consequences.
The necessary imperfection of our knowledge brings with it, and always must bring with it, its own consequences; but the artificial divisions between one branch of study and another bring dangers against which educational discipline might protect us, and which it might do much towards removing altogether. Unnecessary mental confusion, mistakes and misunderstandings, might be removed if the unitary parts of our knowledge were brought into relation one with another in the course of our education. Our mental powers and the contents of our mind are both too often like an unorganized democratic people, free and independent indeed, but not interlocked together, nor disciplined to act efficiently as a coherent whole and to be treated as a whole.
Let us look at the ordinary procedure of our schools. Is provision made there for giving a child's mind the discipline it needs to enable him to overcome the difficulties of the general distracting intellectual disorganization? Is the need, not only for giving him knowledge, but for giving him the chance to organize it as it comes, practically recognized? Do his teachers always recognize that, only if he has this chance and acts upon it, will he be in a position to overcome the troubles that are sure to come upon him in consequence of the prevailing specialism and the lack of unified knowledge in those with whom he will have to deal? We shall hardly go too far if we say that most teachers and most students are sadly wanting in this respect. We may even venture to say that many teachers would be hard put to it to tell us how the fullest possible organization of mental powers and mental possessions can be effected; and what form the necessary discipline should take.
The art of education lags behind the science; and the science is not listened to, nor heeded when it cries aloud. Some of us know what it is that brings together for ourselves the scattered fragments of special knowledge; we know how we are enabled in some measure to see and to avoid the dangers of its divided state; we know how we learn to detect the fallacies and escape the confusion that its condition entails. The leaders in educational science are applying the lessons of personal experience, and they are telling us how we may bring its benefits to bear in the mental discipline of our children; but, unless I am doing them a grave injustice, the practical teachers of England remain, for the most part, either opposed or unconvinced.
We hear that in Italy young people in the highest classes of the Lyceums are taught about their own minds and the way they work, are shewn how to reason well and find out when reasoning goes ill; they are led on to know when they do not know, and to discern the difficulties of knowing at all and of knowing what knowing means; they are made aware of the oneness of things in their apparent diversity and of the steps men take in trying to get at the heart of the simplest of those things and of the whole. In other words, they are being disciplined in the use of mental power, and their multitudinous scrap knowledge is being brought together into some approach to an effective unity by means of psychology, ethics, logic, and general philosophic culture.
The Americans of the United States and other European nations beside the Italians are said to be turning in the same educational direction; and practical teachers are here and there in all countries coming round to think that thus only can the scattered faculties and scattered knowledges (scientiae, as Swedenborg calls our bits of science, letters and arts), be brought into rational co-ordination.
We shall be told, we are told, that there are other means of giving discipline to the mind, and organization to knowledge. It is true that there are other instruments of discipline--a good piece of Latin prose is one; but I doubt whether there is any other way, except one which is outside the range of 'practical politics,' by which knowledge can be redeemed from the evils of specialism.
We are told on great authority that science, not letters, is the best of these instruments of discipline; and, since science is at present in the ascendant, although there are signs that general opinion is beginning to undergo another change, we shall not be wasting our time if we discuss for a few moments its qualifications to be trusted for the work.
Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his well-known essay on Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical, made a powerful plea on behalf of the paramount claims of science; but Mr. Spencer would surely not be the man to urge that, in the altered circumstances of our time, his plea stands with all its original force. Our 'psychological climate,' to use Mr. Balfour's admirable term, has undergone an important chance during the quarter of a century or so that has passed since the essay was written; the cyclone of science with its practical application sweeps regularly over and through the midst of us, right into our mental lungs. Our children grow up in these new atmospheric conditions, and science, and its journeyings to a foreign land. Undoubtedly, it may still be usefully employed in education; the process of acquiring an intellectual grasp on the method of science, of its principles and its grand generalizing conceptions, as well as of its history and the bearing it has upon the developing flow of our social grasp and in forming what I may call the ethos of intellect. Treated in this way science may be made to fill a place in the discipline and expansion of the mind that nothing else can fill; but, unfortunately, our children are not usually taught to lay hold of it in this way. If they attain such a grasp of it, they do so rather through its general permeation as a subject of instruction or a means of discipline.
For the most part, what is taught in schools in the name of science is the thing aptly called 'the brute scientific fact.' The brute scientific fact is of little more educational value than the equally brute historic date, or king, or battle, in which our grandmothers took pride. Botany, for example, is usually taught in schools just as the lists of kings and queens and wars were taught to our grandmothers: it is taught as a more or less cooked-up arrangement of brute facts about plants, their characters, their structure and their functions, served with a sauce of scientific moralizing about heredity and environment and the like. Its chief advantage over the strings of royal names and the glib questions and answers of a Child's Guide, accompanied by historical platitudes about the 'greatness' of one person and the 'cruelty' of another, lies in the fact that the plants are not dead and buried out of sight like the kings, but are alive and may be looked for, and picked, and brought into the schoolroom. Botany may be taught in a way to train the mind to accuracy of observation, a power the value of which, for the wise person, it is difficult to over-estimate. This is one of its advantages; but even the advantage brings a danger. I repeat with some emphasis that, for the wise person, or for the child whom his teachers are seriously and intelligently trying to develop into a wise person, the power of observing accurately is of enormous value, but for the foolish person and for the child taught by foolish persons of a certain type, there comes with it a grave intellectual peril, never more perilous, perhaps, than at the present time--the peril in which a man stands who has the essentially superstitious habit of believing excessively what he sees, and either disbelieving, or posing to himself and other people as disbelieving, everything he does not see.
It is not in the teaching of science that we obtain the means of guarding our children from this. We must seek elsewhere for a discipline to strengthen the mind against it, and to enable us to train in our children the power to observe, without allowing the means by which it is acquired and the wealth of material it provides to get out of focus, out of right proportion, with the truths of experience as a whole.
There is another advantage that may be gained by means of any branch of physical science, botany, chemistry, and the like; it is the art of so using the intellectual powers as to be able to describe a thing with precision and with clearness, to say all that needs to be said about it and no more, seizing it characteristic differentia from similar things, and the essential points of its likeness to them, and expressing the whole notion about it in just the right words. This too, like the power to observe accurately, is an accomplishment and shows himself in its use a pedant or a prig. It is only by a process of abstraction, by taking a thing out of its full context in the universe of things to which it is related, by cutting the bonds that tie it to all else and to its true meaning in relation to all else, that we are able to give it precise definition at all. Nature--our experience of reality--defies our exactness and makes a mock of our descriptions; and unless we know she does our power to impose definitions upon the superficial bits of her that we gaze at in the contracted field of scientific sight must give us a false conception both of her and of ourselves and of our intellectual gains. The great realities of human life, moral and spiritual facts, are entirely beyond the reach of any such precise definition. The pedant and the prig of science are blind to one of the most valuable distinctions the mind can draw, the distinction between things that may legitimately be treated as exclusive one to another, and things that have their very being through mutual inclusion; and thus, they limit their mental field of view by an artificial horizon shutting out the most precious truths in the possession of mankind. This is the danger accompanying the power of making exact descriptive definitions which is such a valuable outcome of scientific training. It stands displayed to warn us against helping our children to join the number of those whose "hard and literal mind," as Dr. Martineau says, "mistakes everything in proportion as its import is of priceless worth, and gropes without apprehension through the blessed hieroglyphics of life and nature."
On the other hand, we are urged by the advocates of science as the best instrument of intellectual discipline to look at the splendid mental qualities developed, for example, in Darwin and Newton, and to consider what better we could possibly ask for our children as the outcome of their education than the intellectually characters obtained by these great men through the discipline of their scientific pursuits. Our reply to this must be that the fine qualities displayed by Darwin and Newton are no more to the point in this matter than is the greatness of Caesar or of Wellington in connection with the educational value of learning the date of Waterloo or the successive stages of the Gallic War. Boys do not acquire Wellington's powers of generalship by having a school acquaintance with his campaigns, or even by 'getting-up' his admirable Despatches; nor are they in the least degree more likely to gain the power of mental concentration and selection, and the sound judgment and untiring intellectual patience of Newton or of Darwin, through learning physics and biology even by a better method than that in vogue at the present time. The discipline passed through by the man who carries out the original work does not benefit those who come after him only to use as ready-made the good things his labour has provided. On the contrary, the very fact of being able to roam over vast territories in the kingdom of science conquered and opened up by other men not rarely turns the weak heads of those who follow, and makes them, like lunatics at large, think themselves potentates when they are only tramps.
Great although science undoubtedly is, its greatness is not manifest as an instrument of educational discipline in our schools unless its deficiencies are supplemented and its dangers minimized by other means. If we were tied down to a choice between science and letters, in the name of all that is human and living and universal, we should choose letters. Happily we are not tied down to such a choice, and we may safely make use of both if we employ, as a necessary corrective to their separateness and their peculiar limitations, those subjects by means of which alone we can shew their fundamental relations, those great organizers of our chaotic democracy of knowledge--the subjects which treat of the mind of man, of his knowing, feeling and acting, and of cause and purpose and meaning in the great whole of things.
(To be continued.)
The Discipline and Organization of the Mind. Pt II
By Mrs. Dowson, L.R.C.P & S., I.
Parents Review Volume 11 1900 pages 137-148
We are so accustomed to scrap knowledge, to mental powers wasted for want of discipline and organization, that it takes time for us ordinary parents and teachers to see the crying need for a better intellectual economy; it takes time for us to realize how sad is the misspending of our children's strength for want of a kind of discipline and a kind of knowledge, the value of which is slowly but surely coming into recognition among educational experts, and is, indeed, beginning to shew itself in practical use in countries other than our own.
There are wise people who tell us that not only in the higher forms of higher schools, as in Italy, but all through the process of education after the primary state is passed, children should be taught about thinking and reasoning, about knowing and not knowing, and even something concerning the deep problems of existence. They should be led, we are told, step by step, keeping time with the steps they take in learning other things, into the art of organization, the art of bringing all they learn, science, letters and what not, into some approach to a unified, inter-related whole. If we can effect this, we shall be able to put into the hands of a child an instrument of moral as well as of mental discipline, and a piece of work to do that nobody else, great or small, has done or ever can do for him. However wide may be the territory of knowledge over which, by grace of other men, he wanders, a child who has acquired power to do this organizing work will not be likely to become an intellectual tramp or to fancy himself a king. However carefully he may have learnt to observe and to define, it will not be the fault of his education if, in after life, he loses sight of the many considerations that qualify the value of his results, and limit the scope of his operations. He at least will not be likely to make the mistake so frequently made by men one would expect to know better, the mistake of regarding a simplicity of method in study for a simplicity of the one subject of all study, human experience.
There are, of course, practical difficulties in leading young children, even after the earliest educational stages have been passed, along the road in which they may learn to bring the different items of their knowledge into recognized relation; but these difficulties are felt most severely by parents and teachers whose own thinking is disconnected and undisciplined. When knowledge has been organized, the connections between fact and fact are ready-made in the mind, and do not have to be hunted up on the spur of the moment as they are called for by the child; the different methods in which the plain man, the scientific student, and the deep thinker approach any given fact, are familiar; and the multitudinous parts of knowledge are already wrought together into a living fabric instead of being tied up in isolated packets with mental red-tape, and pigeon-holed in out-of-the-way departments of the Circumlocution Office of a mechanical brain.
The difficulty of educating children in the organic way lies chiefly, I am sure, in finding teachers rightly prepared, teachers who have trodden that way themselves and gained in it what nothing else can give. It is hardly possible to over-estimate this gain; it is hardly possible to give an adequate notion on paper or by word of mouth, of the power obtained through mental discipline and mental organization of the philosophic type.
What, let us ask ourselves, is the chief mark of a developed and effective mind? I suppose we shall all agree that first and foremost stands as its mark, good judgment. No undisciplined mind shows good judgment in regard to the narrowest sphere except by something like an accident. If a man frequently judges well in a narrow sphere, his mind has, in some degree, undergone effective discipline. It may be the discipline of a long, or a short but vivid, personal experience; it may be the wider discipline of a long, or a short but vivid, personal experience; it may be the wider discipline of some kind of science tempering his native powers to skill and penetration, and fitting them perhaps for any sphere, however large; but the highest skill must be baffled by higgledy-piggledy facts, by subjects kept apart one from another, although their value and their meaning cannot be seen until they have been brought together. Given the habit of mental construction by which the separate living stones of knowledge are fitted as they come into their right places in relation one with another, and then, but only then, a survey of the whole as an intellectual and intelligible structure becomes possible, a disciplined judgment finds its appropriate sphere, and the true mental king comes into his own. Once the mind's building process is set going, new stones, new walls, may be added as fresh material accumulates, without producing any confusion or distress, but rather with an increase of power and of scope for the advantageous use of power. Good judgment exercised in such a sphere deals with each thing that comes as in certain respects a familiar thing through the known require-ments of the structure, and the manifest relations between the part and the whole to which it belongs. Nothing, I suppose, is more surprising to the higgledy-piggledy person than the ease with which the trained man, whose knowledge is in some sort unified, deals with an entirely new fact or group of facts. The great test of mental discipline and organization is the judgment shewn concerning new things, and new situations or conditions of old things. It has been said, too, that every new bit of knowledge we acquire should make a difference to every other bit we possess, and should itself, in its turn, be modified by all the rest; but obviously this, like good judgment, is impossible if knowledge is in scattered heaps or separate pigeon-holes: it can occur only where facts are wrought into a structural whole in which every addition is an incorporation and must, of necessity, make a general change. It is this vital interconnection between the constituent elements of knowledge that enables the man of good judgment to judge well in many subjects, and judge so astonishingly well in subjects that are new.
Another mark of the effective mind is the power to select what it requires for any piece of work and to reject what it does not require, the power to sift as it goes along the wheat from the chaff. Take, for example, a man who is studying some important problem in political administration: he has to read Blue-books, travellers' accounts, the history of many lands and nations; he has to talk with people of many kinds, and hear all manner of conflicting opinions. He will be paralyzed unless his mind can act like a living and intelligent sieve, selecting out of this disorderly mass of material only the relevant facts, only the valuable opinions for consideration. Most likely he has to deal swiftly with everything; to read a Blue-book selecting as he goes along, to hear a man talk and sweep away nine-tenths of what he says as useless for the purpose in hand. No man whose mind has not been disciplined and whose knowledge, as far as the particular subject is concerned, has not been organized, can do a piece of work like this.
The scope of memory, too, is enlarged by an education of this kind. A man whose native memory of unrelated facts is not beyond the average may display a wonderful memory for facts that have been brought together in a rational system. The schemes of artificial mnemonics, memorizing schemes, are all based on the principle of association. Loose chaotic facts are associated in the mind with something systematic; they are made to hang together as beads hang together on a string, and so the mind is enabled to grip them as if they were connected by rational links really belonging to them. It is not the memory that is improved by these systems or by any better method of binding facts together; it is simply that we acquire some method, good or bad, of dealing with them as parts related in a whole. An artificial means of linking may fix them in a poor memory, when rational connection is wanting, but the memory itself remains as bad as it was before. We, as parents and teachers, should never fail to keep in view, during the process of intellectual discipline, that it is not possible to improve the native memory by any scheme or any practice whatever; and that the only legitimate way to extends its operation is to build every fact into the mind's structure of knowledge, to give it a place and a function in reference to other facts, to show its real meaning and value in relation to the world of intellectual interest to which the mind most readily and easily attends. Illegitimate methods may fix facts for a time; but the artificial string sooner or later gives way and the beads are scattered, possibly without even being missed, since the man content to hold them in such a fashion cannot have perceived their worth or the message of beauty and truth they might have brought into his mind.
"The more other facts," says Professor James, "a fact is associated with in the mind, the better possession of it our memory retains. Each of its associates becomes a hook to which it hangs, a means to fish it up by when sunk beneath the surface. Together, they form a network of attachments by which it is woven into the entire tissue of our thought. The 'secret of a good memory' is thus the secret of forming diverse and multiple associations with every fact we care to retain. But this forming of associations with a fact, what is it but thinking about the fact as much as possible? Briefly, then, of two men with the same outward experiences and the same amount of native tenacity, the one who thinks over his experiences most, and weaves them into systematic relations with each other, will be the one with the best memory."
Here is another metaphor for our instruction: the knowledge we gain should be a network, a woven tissue, fact fitting in with fact, subject interpenetrating subject. Plainly this cannot be effected by artificial memorizing, nor by 'cram.' As Professor James remarks, there is no moral turpitude about cram; if it could succeed, it would be the best plan, as it is certainly the quickest: the truth is that it cannot succeed, because brain-organizing takes time; there must be time for steady thinking, time for growing, time for fixing in the very stuff of the brain the nerve connections thinking opens up. The improvement of memory is really an improvement in thinking, and in the weaving of the tissue of our knowledge. We remember what we are vividly interested in, but our interest in anything depends upon the number of links it has with our general stock of interesting facts, on the number of 'hooks' in our stock for which we have detected 'eyes' in the new thing. When its eyes find their hooks it becomes attached to our mental structure, and we think it over and through with all the advantage of the context to which it really belongs and in relation to which it is both valuable and interesting. Professor James says that a science is a labour-saving contrivance because it fastens facts together in a rational system: but, he goes on, "A philosophic system, in which all things found their rational explanation and were connected together . . . would be the perfect mnemonic system, in which the greatest economy of means would bring about the greatest richness of results. So that, if we have poor desultory memories, we can save ourselves by cultivating the philosophic turn of mind."
A teacher whose memory, selective power, and judgement have been enabled to act to high advantage by means of a discipline in the course of which the diverse elements of his knowledge have been wrought together, is likely, other things being equal, to be a better teacher than one who has far more knowledge, if that knowledge is of the higgledy-piggledy sort. If he is able to profit by a philosophic discipline bringing all things more or less together under groupings of principle, bringing into harmony seeming contradictions, and displaying the common ground of very different-looking things, he will be far better able to overcome the difficulty of preparing the minds of young children for culture by the same kind of intellectual discipline. Teachers of this sort will alter once more, for the children with whom they have to deal, the general psychological atmosphere, just as the prevalence of scientific thinking has altered it during the last five-and-twenty years, since Herbert Spencer pleaded for the science as the finest instrument and most precious gift of education. If the training of teachers takes this further step in development the minds of our children will be drawn after them, for the new climate will tell, as climate always tells, more profoundly, perhaps, than any other influence we can bring to bear.
It is time that this step should be taken, that our educational development should go on in the line of the natural development of every progressive mind. It has been, for the world, a grand thing that so many men have reached the scientific stage, but we must not remain there too long or we shall lose the good of it; there is to be reckoned with now and always the law of our being, that unless we go forward we go back. Science has opened up mines of intellectual wealth; it has changed for us the face of the earth and sky; but now that we have entered into possession of our wealth and walk about over new lands, not ungratefully, not disdainfully, but as passing from a good thing to a better that includes it, we must turn our faces upwards, where science itself directs us, toward the coming light. "Science, minus the philosophical spirit," says a great scientific man, "narrows the mental field." "One of two things," says Fouillee, "befalls all men of science who have received no philosophical culture; they either remain in an attitude of complete indifference and positivist sceptiscism, or they fashion a more or less novel philosophy for themselves." This is not the time to show how disastrous to good thinking has been the fashioning of novel philosophies for themselves by certain scientific men: we can but deplore the fact that, through ignorance of what had already been done for them, they have been so greatly at a loss as to feel obliged to misuse their powers in a manner far worse than wasteful and unprofitable.
For us, the point of the matter just now is that scientific men are finding their need of philosophical expanse and philosophical investigation; because, by their attitude, they point out the way in which our children must go. There is no supreme advantage in the scientific stage; it is not the highest and the best. "The aspiration to be scientific" says Professor James, "is such an idol of the tribe to the present generation, is so sucked in with his mother's milk by every one of us, that we find it hard to conceive of a creature who should not feel it, and harder still to treat it freely as the altogether peculiar and one-sided subjective interest which it is."
As a matter of fact, we need no longer talk of aspiring to be scientific, we are scientific, at least in the sense in which we might be said formerly to be literary, and to possess a culture of the humane letters and the arts. In the degree in which our minds are disciplined at all, and our knowledge better than a chaos, our order and our discipline are of the scientific rather than of any other type. If there were no further step visible to us, it might be our duty to be content; but there is the further step, and every progressive individual mind not working to the limit of its powers feels the need of this step, although it may not always perceive where it lies. What is true of the individual is true of the race in this matter; "Science, minus the philosophical spirit," let me quote once more, "narrows the mental field." If we would not have our children cramped in vision and in power we must see that they are able to advance to a culture which is, in method and in spirit, of the philosophic type.
When we look into the meaning of all this, we discover that there is nothing deterrent or alarming about the call to philosophic discipline as a necessary step in education; both for teachers and the taught, it is only a call to better thinking--thinking more careful and critical, more reverent and humble, more truth-loving and persevering, more free from the bondage of intellectual convention and prejudice, more courageous and devout before the opportunities give us to use the powers we possess. "For the vast majority," says Lessing, "the goal of their reflection is the spot where they grow tired of reflection." The call to philosophy is a call to set that goal a stage farther on, and to be less easily tired of thinking as we ought to think. "Metaphysics," says James, "means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly," and Ladd tells us that "philosophy owes it origin and justification, in its modern form as a distinct discipline and pursuit, to the failure of each and all of the positive sciences to satisfy the most profound and imperative demands of human reason." In literature, in poetry and art in general, we deal uncritically with the great realities of life, with the inner meaning of perception, with mind and conduct and purpose in life. In science we deal critically enough with a world of what we call knowledge, which we have constructed in our minds as a picture of what we imagine things to be: but this world of science is either abstract or ideal; it is made out of only certain aspects of reality, it never goes nor tries to go to the root of things, it never criticizes the assumptions upon which its process rests. We want something to take the whole real world of experience as a whole, to deal critically with it and with the uncriticized assumptions on which the scientific building rests; in a word, to treat reality and life and conduct, the subject-matter of literature and of art, the living, acting, thinking, feeling world of men, after a critical and systematic fashion.
If there is one advantage superior to others obtained in the philosophic discipline, it is the advantage of discouraging an attitude of cocksureness, and substituting for it intellectual humility and reverence. It is time for us of the modern world to learn this lesson; we have been a little too much like a certain type of clever board-school-boy--an effective contrast to Newton humbly gathering pebbles, as he said, upon the shore; we have mistaken neat descriptions for a full explanation; and because we have acquired sacks of pebbles and ticketed them off in mineralogical cabinets under heads and sub-heads, and sub-sub-sub-heads, some of us fancy our-selves acquainted with the secret of "the flower in the crannied wall," and think we are able to lay down, in the black and white of an article in the reviews, "what God and man is." There are two cures for this, an all-penetrating religion and an insight into philosophic method; but religion cannot be commanded, and some degree of philosophic discipline is within the reach of most of us who belong to the so-called educated classes. It is something to have a telescope that we can, at will, put to our intellectual eyes, even if the eyes of the inmost, the eyes by which we may see into the heart of life, are not yet opened to the light. The philosophic telescope does not a little sometimes towards opening those other eyes; and at least it hinders men, once they have seen through it, from growing so intellectually short-sighted as to deny that there is anything a telescope can show. Why, then, do so few among us lift it to our eyes ? The question takes, perhaps, a more useful form if we ask why most people leave philosophy out of account in educational discipline, and are startled, if not shocked, at the proposal to train teachers and children by its aid. Part of this is due, of course, to fetish worship of the scientific idol; another and important part to a misunderstanding of the character and function of philosophic thought, a misunderstanding which, as Dr. Ladd says, has "tended in no small degree to produce distrust towards the particular discipline which the word represents." When philosophy is looked upon as a rival to the sciences, or as the occupation of fanciful speculative minds, or as a prolonged but useless effort to lay the dust the philosophers themselves have kicked up, we cannot wonder if its power to train the mind and organize, as nothing else in the whole curriculum of the schools can organize, the mind's contents, goes without recognition. The cry of the scientific men should remove some of this prejudice. We hear it on all sides. Haeckel has complained of "the lack of philosophical culture which characterizes most of the physicists of the day," and says that it is in consequence of this lack that they "cherish the strange illusion that they can construct the edifice of natural science from facts without a philosophical connection of the same"; and we learn from Herbart, the great student and teacher of educational principles, that "it cannot be otherwise than that the neglect of philosophy should result in a frivolous or perverted treatment of the fundamental principles of all the sciences." It is becoming obvious to us that the relation of the philosophic discipline to that of the particular sciences must be intimate and vitally important; and that a culture which remains scientific and stops short of the philosophic stage is hardly worthy of the name. The relation of the philosophic discipline to that of literature and the arts in different, but in regard to the efficiency and expansion of the mind, it is no less a matter of practical importance to us all. There are fetishes other than the scientific kind; there are other intellectual errors too; and the tendency to under-rate the value of the sciences, and the absence of a large and strong grasp of ethical principles are conspicuous defects of a culture purely artistic and literary in character. These defects are at least as impeding to a balanced development as are any of the evils of uncorrected science.
It is as an educational discipline, rather than as a source of new knowledge, that philosophy gains its chief triumphs. From the nature of its method and its subject-matter, its definite acquired results are for-ever progressing towards a goal they do not reach, for-ever undergoing afresh some critical readjustment. We have not attained finality even in the comparatively simple descriptive work of science, although, for such work, finality is at least possible, if not indeed somewhat probable. The mental discipline of philosophy derives some of its best features from the fact that it emphasizes, as nothing else does, the true character of the relations between man and nature, the fathomless mysteries of his being, the wonders hidden in the mere existence of his knowledge, the marvellous possibilities of his unfinished personality and power.
It would be a mistake to hurry on the philosophic stage where men are not prepared for it; as great a mistake, perhaps, as to stop short before it when we are certain to need what it will bring. We have striking examples of the effect upon national life of misplacing the stages of culture, and of arresting them at one or another instead of passing on to the next. In China, there is the remarkable spectacle of a nation whose education consists almost wholly in studying a crystallized body of the literature of the past, and practising a ceremonial resting upon its authority. In the Indian Peninsula we find a civilization of great antiquity paralyzed by a premature attainment of the philosophic stage. We have not, as yet, had time to produce a nation arrested in the scientific stage, but there are already signs of what that nation will be like when a sufficient time has gone by. It is possible that Japan may some day afford us an example, for the Japanese seem capable of doing pretty nearly what they please, and their pleasure is neither towards religion nor philosophy, although their interests and their ambitions alike lead them towards the sciences and the arts.
Our examples of the effect of arrest in science are individual; and of these we have at present far more than enough: it is for us to do our share towards changing for the better the 'psychological climate' in which our children are to breathe and live, and towards bringing to bear upon them, when their mental development is sufficiently ripe, the discipline of a culture that shall at once elevate and strengthen their powers and bind into an organic oneness the diverse elements of their knowledge.
I will not close this address without some definite practical suggestions, although I think that its whole tenor is practical from beginning to end. I have spoken of two things in particular; the need of creating a 'psychological climate' of the philosophic kind, to correct the scientific climate that has been formed around us during the last quarter of a century or so; and the need of bringing to bear upon children the actual discipline of a training in better thinking and deeper thinking, a training in the study of mind, of conduct, of reality, and of knowledge as knowledge, according to the spirit and methods of philosophy. As parents, our first business is with the 'climate,' and, consequently, with ourselves.
It is our business to study psychology and ethics above all, at least in their elements and first principles. It is our business also to make an attempt at the "unusually obstinate effort to think clearly" needed for an inspection of the foundations upon which science takes its stand. To organize our own knowledge and discipline our own minds is the way to give our children the best atmosphere for mental health and mental growth, and it is our contribution towards bringing on the next great educational advance, the advance in which the progressive races of the world, having neither taken the step too soon, nor come to a standstill before it had been reached, will find the divided elements of literary and scientific know-ledge transcended, interpenetrated, and, in some sort, made at one.
Proofread June 2011, LNL
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