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up from boy to man without a particle
of soundness in him, although exceedLITERATURE AND SCIENCE ingly smart and clever in his own esteem.
One cannot refuse to admire the artist PRACTICAL people talk with a smile of who draws these pictures. But we say Plato and of his absolute ideas; and it is to ourselves that his ideas show the inimpossible to deny that Plato's ideas do fluence of a primitive and obsolete order often seem unpractical and impracticable, of things, when the warrior caste and the and especially when one views them in priestly caste were alone in honour, and connexion with the life of a great work-a- the humble work of the world was done day world like the United States. The by slaves. We have now changed all necessary staple of the life of such a world that; the modern majority consists in Plato regards with disdain; handicraft work, as Emerson declares; and in work, and trade and the working professions he we may add, principally of such plain and regards with disdain; but what becomes dusty kind as the work of cultivators of the life of an industrial modern com- of the ground, handicraftsmen, men of munity if you take handicraft and trade trade and business, men of the working and the working professions out of it? professions. Above all is this true in a The base mechanic arts and handicrafts, great industrious community such as says Plato, bring about a natural weakness that of the United States. in the principle of excellence in a man, so Now education, many people go on to that he cannot govern the ignoble growths say, is still mainly governed by the ideas in him, but nurses them, and cannot of men like Plato, who lived when the understand fostering any other. Those warrior caste and the priestly or philowho exercise such arts and trades, as sophical class were alone in honour, and they have their bodies, he says, marked the really useful part of the community by their vulgar businesses, so they have were slaves. It is an education fitted for their souls, too, bowed and broken by persons of leisure in such a community. them. And if one of these uncomely This education passed from Greece and people has a mind to seek self-culture Rome to the feudal communities of Euand philosophy, Plato compares him to a rope, where also the warrior caste and the bald little tinker, who has scraped to- priestly caste were alone held in honour, gether money, and has got his release and where the really useful and working from service, and has had a bath, and part of the community though not nomibought a new coat, and is rigged out like nally slaves as in the pagan world, were bride-groom about to marry the daughter practically not much better off than slaves, of his master who has fallen into poor and not more seriously regarded. And and helpless estate.
how absurd it is, people end by saying, to Nor do the working professions fare inflict this education upon an industrious any better than trade at the hands of modern community, where very few inPlato. He draws for us an inimitable deed are persons of leisure, and the mass picture of the working lawyer, and of to be considered has not leisure, but is his life of bondage; he shows how this bound, for its own great good, and for the bondage from his youth up has stunted great good of the world at large, to plain and warped him, and made him small labour and to industrial pursuits, and the and crooked of soul, encompassing him education in question tends necessarily with difficulties which he is not man to make men dissatisfied with these purenough to rely on justice and truth as suits and unfitted for them! means to encounter, but has recourse, That is what is said. So far I must for help out of them, to falsehood and defend Plato, as to plead that his view wrong. And so, says Plato, this poor of education and studies is in the general, creature is bent and broken, and grows as it seems to me, sound enough, and fitted for all sorts and conditions of men, what- tion may be raised which I will anticipate. ever their pursuits may be. “An intelli- My own studies have been almost wholly gent man,” says Plato, “will prize those in letters, and my visits to the field of the studies which result in his soul getting natural sciences have been very slight and soberness, righteousness, and wisdom, and inadequate, although those sciences have will less value the others.” I cannot con- always strongly moved my curiosity. A sider that a bad description of the aim of man of letters, it will perhaps be said, is education, and of the motives which should not competent to discuss the comparagovern us in the choice of studies, whether tive merits of letters and natural science we are preparing ourselves for a hereditary as means of education. To this objection seat in the English House of Lords or for I reply, first of all, that his incompetence, the pork trade in Chicago.
if he attempts the discussion but is really Still I admit that Plato's world was not incompetent for it, will be abundantly ours, that his scorn of trade and handi- visible; nobody will be taken in; he will craft is fantastic, that he had no concep- have plenty of sharp observers and critics tion of a great industrial community such .
to save mankind from that danger. But as that of the United States, and that such the line I am going to follow is, as you a community must and will shape its will soon discover, so extremely simple, education to suit its own needs. If the that perhaps it may be followed without usual education handed down to it from failure even by one who for a more amthe past does not suit it, it will certainly bitious line of discussion would be quite before long drop this and try another. The incompetent. usual education in the past has been mainly Some of you may possibly remember a literary. The question is whether the phrase of mine which has been the object studies which were long supposed to be of a good deal of comment; an observathe best for all of us are practically the tion to the effect that in our culture, the best now; whether others are not better. aim being to know ourselves and the world, The tyranny of the past, many think, we have, as the means to this end, to know weighs on us injuriously in the predomi- the best which has been thought and said in nance given to letters in education. The the world. A man of science, who is also question is raised whether, to meet the an excellent writer and the very prince needs of our modern life, the predominance of debaters, Professor Huxley, in a disought not now to pass from letters to sci- course at the opening of Sir Josiah Mason's ence; and naturally the question is no- college at Birmingham, laying hold of this where raised with more energy than here phrase, expanded it by quoting some more in the United States. The design of words of mine, which are these: “The abasing what is called “mere literary in- civilised world is to be regarded as now struction and education,” and of exalting being, for intellectual and spiritual purwhat is called "sound, extensive, and poses, one great confederation, bound to a practical scientific knowledge,” is, in this joint action and working to a common intensely modern world of the United result; and whose members have for their States, even more perhaps than in Europe, proper outfit a knowledge of Greek, Ro
a a very popular design, and makes great man, and Eastern antiquity, and of one and rapid progress.
another. Special local and temporary I am going to ask whether the present advantages being put out of account, movement for ousting letters from their that modern nation will in the intellectual old predominance in education, and for and spiritual sphere make most progress, transferring the predominance in educa- which most thoroughly carries out this tion to the natural sciences, whether this programme.” brisk and flourishing movement ought to Now on my phrase, thus enlarged, prevail, and whether it is likely that in Professor Huxley remarks that when I the end it really will prevail. An objec- speak of the above-mentioned knowledge as enabling us to know ourselves and the edge which is something more than a world, I assert literature to contain the superficial humanism, mainly decorative. materials which suffice for thus making “I call all teaching scientific,” says Wolf, us know ourselves and the world. But the critic of Homer, "which is systematicit is not by any means clear, says he, that ally laid out and followed up to its original after having learnt all which ancient and sources. For example: a knowledge of modern literatures have to tell us, we classical antiquity is scientific when the have laid a sufficiently broad and deep remains of classical antiquity are correctly foundation for that criticism of life, that studied in the original languages.” There knowledge of ourselves and the world, can be no doubt that Wolf is perfectly which constitutes culture. On the con- right; that all learning is scientific which trary, Professor Huxley declares that he is systematically laid out and followed finds himself “wholly unable to admit that up to its original sources, and that a geneither nations or individuals will really uine humanism is scientific. advance, if their outfit draws nothing When I speak of knowing Greek and from the stores of physical science. An Roman antiquity, therefore, as a help to army without weapons of precision, and knowing ourselves and the world, I mean with no particular base of operations, more than a knowledge of so much vomight more hopefully enter upon a cam- cabulary, so much grammar, so many paign on the Rhine, than a man, devoid portions of authors in the Greek and Latin of a knowledge of what physical science languages, I mean knowing the Greeks has done in the last century, upon a criti- and Romans, and their life and genius, cism of life."
and what they were and did in the world; This shows how needful it is for those what we get from them, and what is its who are to discuss any matter together, value.
value. That, at least, is the ideal; and to have a common understanding as to when we talk of endeavouring to know the sense of the terms they employ, Greek and Roman antiquity, as a help how needful, and how difficult. What to knowing ourselves and the world, we Professor Huxley says, implies just the mean endeavouring so to know them as reproach which is so often brought to satisfy this ideal, however much we against the study of belles lettres, as they may still fall short of it. are called : that the study is an elegant one, The same also as to knowing our own but slight and ineffectual; a smattering and other modern nations, with the like of Greek and Latin and other ornamental aim of getting to understand ourselves things, of little use for anyone whose and the world. To know the best that object is to get at truth, and to be a prac- has been thought and said by the modern tical man. So, too, M. Renan talks of nations, is to know, says Professor Huxthe “superficial humanism” of a school ley, “only what modern literatures have course which treats us as if we were all to tell us; it is the criticism of life congoing to be poets, writers, preachers, tained in modern literature.” And yet
” orators, and he opposes this humanism to "the distinctive character of our times,” positive science, or the critical search after he urges, "lies in the vast and constantly truth. And there is always a tendency increasing part which is played by natural in those who are remonstrating against knowledge.” And how, therefore, can a the predominance of letters in education, man, devoid of knowledge of what physito understand by letters belles lettres, and cal science has done in the last century, by belles lettres a superficial humanism, enter hopefully upon a criticism of modern the opposite of science or true knowledge. life?
But when we talk of knowing Greek Let us, I say, be agreed about the meanand Roman antiquity, for instance, which ing of the terms we are using. I talk of is the knowledge people have called the knowing the best which has been thought humanities, I for my part mean a knowl- and uttered in the world; Professor Huxley says this means knowing literature. representatives of the humanists in our Literature is a large word; it may mean day gives no inkling of all this !” everything written with letters or printed In due place and time I will just touch in a book. Euclid's Elements and New- upon that vexed question of classical ton's Principia are thus literature. All education; but at present the question knowledge that reaches us through books is as to what is meant by knowing the best is literature. But by literature Professor which modern nations have thought and Huxley means belles lettres. He means said. It is not knowing their belles lettres to make me say, that knowing the best merely which is meant. To know Italian which has been thought and said by the belles lettres is not to know Italy, and to modern nations is knowing their belles know English belles lettres is not to know lettres and no more. And this is no suffi- England. Into knowing Italy and England cient equipment, he argues, for a criticism there comes a great deal more, Galileo of modern life. But as I do not mean, and Newton amongst it. The reproach by knowing ancient Rome, knowing merely of being a superficial humanism, a tincmore or less of Latin belles lettres, and ture of belles lettres, may attach rightly taking no account of Rome's military, enough to some other disciplines; but and political, and legal, and administrative to the particular discipline recommended work in the world, and as, by knowing when I proposed knowing the best that ancient Greece, I understand knowing has been thought and said in the world, it her as the giver of Greek art, and the does not apply. In that best I certainly guide to a free and right use of reason include what in modern times has been and to scientific method, and the founder thought and said by the great observers of our mathematics and physics and and knowers of nature. astronomy and biology, -I understand There is, therefore, really no question knowing her as all this, and not merely between Professor Huxley and me as to knowing certain Greek poems, and his- whether knowing the great results of the tories, and treatises, and speeches, --- So modern scientific study of nature is not as to the knowledge of modern nations required as a part of our culture, as well also. By knowing modern nations, I as knowing the products of literature and mean not merely knowing their belles art.
But to follow the processes by which lettres, but knowing also what has been those results are reached, ought, say the done by such men as Copernicus, Galileo, friends of physical science, to be made the Newton, Darwin. “Our ancestors learned, staple of education for the bulk of mansays Professor Huxley, “that the earth is kind. And here there does arise a questhe centre of the visible universe, and that tion between those whom Professor Huxley man is the cynosure of things terrestrial; calls with playful sarcasm “the Levites and more especially was it inculcated of culture," and those whom the poor that the course of nature had no fixed humanist is sometimes apt to regard as order, but that it could be, and constantly its Nebuchadnezzars. was, altered.” But for us now, continues The great results of the scientific inProfessor Huxley, “the notions of the vestigation of nature we are agreed upon beginning and the end of the world en- knowing, but how much of our study are tertained by our forefathers are no longer we bound to give to the processes by which credible. It is very certain that the earth those results are reached? The results is not the chief body in the material uni- have their visible bearing on human life. verse, and that the world is not subordi- But all the processes, too, all the items nated to man's use. It is even more cer- of fact, by which those results are reached tain that nature is the expression of a and established, are interesting. All definite order, with which nothing inter- knowledge is interesting to a wise man, feres.” “And yet,” he cries, “the purely and the knowledge of nature is interesting classical education advocated by the to all men. It is very interesting to know,
that, from the albuminous white of the the training in natural science the main egg, the chick in the egg gets the materials part of education, for the great majority for its flesh, bones, blood, and feathers; of mankind at any rate. And here, I while, from the fatty yolk of the egg, it confess, I part company with the friends gets the heat and energy which enable it of physical science, with whom up to this at length to break its shell and begin the point I have been agreeing. In differing world. It is less interesting, perhaps, but from them, however, I wish to proceed still it is interesting, to know that when a with the utmost caution and diffidence. taper burns, the wax is converted into The smallness of my own acquaintance carbonic acid and water. Moreover, it with the disciplines of natural science is is quite true that the habit of dealing ever before my mind, and I am fearful with facts, which is given by the study of doing these disciplines an injustice. of nature, is, as the friends of physical The ability and pugnacity of the partisans science praise it for being, an excellent of natural science make them formidable discipline. The appeal, in the study of persons to contradict. The tone of tennature, is constantly to observation and tative inquiry, which befits a being of experiment; not only is it said that the dim faculties and bounded knowledge, is thing is so, but we can be made to see that the tone I would wish to take and not to it is so. Not only does a man tell us that depart from.
depart from. At present it seems to me, when a taper burns the wax is converted that those who are for giving to natural into carbonic acid and water, as a man knowledge, as they call it, the chief place may tell us, if he likes, that Charon is in the education of the majority of manpunting his ferry-boat on the river Styx, kind, leave one important thing out of or that Victor Hugo is a sublime poet, or their account, the constitution of human Mr. Gladstone the most admirable of nature. But I put this forward on the statesmen; but we are made to see that strength of some facts not at all recondite, the conversion into carbonic acid and very far from it; facts capable of being water does actually happen. This real- stated in the simplest possible fashion, ity of natural knowledge it is, which makes and to which, if I so state them, the man the friends of physical science contrast of science will, I am sure, be willing to it, as a knowledge of things, with the allow their due weight. humanist's knowledge, which is, say they, Deny the facts altogether, I think, he a knowledge of words. And hence Pro- hardly can.
hardly can. He can hardly deny, that fessor Huxley is moved to lay it down when we set ourselves to enumerate the that, "for the purpose of attaining real powers which go to the building up of culture, an exclusively scientific education human life, and say that they are the
least as effectual as an exclusively power of conduct, the power of intellect literary education.” And a certain Presi- and knowledge, the power of beauty, and dent of the Section for Mechanical Science the power of social life and manners, — he in the British Association is, in Scripture can hardly deny that this scheme, though phrase, "very bold," and declares that if drawn in rough and plain lines enough, a man, in his mental training, "has sub- and not pretending to scientific exactness, stituted literature and history for natural does 'yet give a fairly true representascience, he has chosen the less useful tion of the matter. Human nature is alternative.” But whether we go these built up by these powers; we have the lengths or not, we must all admit that in need for them all. When we have rightly natural science the habit gained of dealing met and adjusted the claims of them all, with facts is a most valuable discipline, we shall then be in a fair way for getting and that every one should have some soberness and righteousness, with wisdom. experience of it.
This is evident enough, and the friends More than this, however, is demanded of physical science would admit it. by the reformers. It is proposed to make But perhaps they may not have suffi