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of the close connexion between right reasoning and right action, between the perception and the due application of truth?
It is evident that the wider the relation, the more general the proposition, the more exercise of reasoning it requires. In learning mere facts, the memory alone may be exerted; but when we rise from facts to theories or laws, then in proportion to the difficulty of the subject, to the amount of the evidence to be considered, to the complexity of the terms employed, and to the remoteness of the relations involved, reason is more and more called into action.
The difference of value between the knowledge of mere facts, and that of general laws or principles, arises from this, that facts are barren except as data, whereas general laws, which embody the relations of facts, become the foundation of future knowledge, and guide us through new combinations of circumstances. The power and proneness to generalise from facts, to the laws of which they are exponents, is accordingly that which principally distinguishes the reflecting from the unreflecting mind. All the most valuable knowledge with which mankind has been enriched may, indeed, when embodied in general propositions, be committed to memory with as little effort of reasoning, as names or dates, but these propositions will remain barren facts to all who have not investigated the principles they involve, and learnt to apply them, or at least to understand their application. We may be familiar with every dialect which has been spoken since the dispersion, and have the history of the world at our fingers' ends, but we have not advanced one step towards real knowledge, unless we have reasoned on what we have learnt, drawn inferences from facts, and established some general principles or conclusions in our minds.
The agency of reason in forming our moral no less than our intellectual judgments, explains how it is that the most tender conscience, if left unenlightened, may, and often does fail, in giving a right direction to principles and conduct.
It is the office of reason to supply the knowledge on which principles should be founded; in other words, to seek and apply truth to our moral guidance; and this consideration presses the importance of cultivating it, still more closely home to every human being. We have already shown into what fearful errors men may be led, when conscience, unaided by reason, is abandoned to the dominion of prejudice and superstition; and those women, who in this country rest so contentedly, nay almost proudly, in their unreasoning ignorance, would do well to reflect that if their consciences are not so grievously misled, they owe it, not to themselves, but to the time and country in which they
TO FORMING MORAL JUDGMENTS.
live. Had they been born under less favourable circumstances, the same unreasoning acquiescence in whatever is the accustomed routine of opinion or action, would have made them "follow the multitude to do evil," from the very thought of which they would now recoil with horror.
The too frequent neglect of this most important consideration makes it still necessary in this, so-called, age of reason, to dwell upon the value and office of this faculty which may to many seem to be sufficiently acknowledged and established. In writing for women especially, it is vain to shrink from insisting on apparent truisms, since prejudices and false associations (which, if men hold them at all, they rarely at least allow to interfere with their practical life,) still exercise full sway over female education and habits of thought. Hence, before we can urge the earnest and conscientious pursuit of truth, it becomes necessary to defend reason against two classes of opponents, whose opinions tend to exclude its operation from the highest no less than the simplest questions in which we are concerned,—from religion, and from the daily detail of home life. The one they would abandon to routine, the other to superstition. While persons of undoubted piety, and even ministers of religion, are still to be found loudly denouncing the use of reason as a mere instrument of human pride; while amiable women disclaim all pretension to cultivate it, as unfeminine and useless, and fond and anxious mothers may be heard to exclaim, "Please God, my child shall never reason,' it is not superfluous to press upon them the universal and inestimable uses of this gift they despise; to show them that the judgment they exercise in daily life is no other than this same faculty, confined to a lower sphere; and that the religious truths they value (in so far as they are beyond the instincts of religious sentiment) rest upon evidence established by this very power they have learnt to consider so dangerous; in a word, that in all things, whether high or low, in which they exercise thought at all, they use their reason, well or ill, with acuteness and accuracy, or with groping feebleness, according to the degree in which they have cultivated their natural capacity.
The tendency to consider reason as opposed to religion, and its cultivation and exercise as hosti alike to a stian spirit, an to the due performance of female duties, is evident in a thousand shades of opinion, on every subject more or less remotely connected with mental cultivation. We see it in doubts about the
This devout wish the author heard expressed by one of the most amiable of women, who, at the same time, thought her children's lessons of the utmost consequence almost before they were out of the nursery.
FALSE VIEWS OF REASON.
expediency of this or that study for women, in the half measures for popular education, in the attempt to limit the latter to the mere reading of the Scriptures, in the outcry against cheap literature which is thereby placed within the reach of the multitude, in the blind partiality for an agricultural population on account of their deeper ignorance. In almost every work on female education, in most books for children, in all the small theology of the day, in which ancient prejudices or modern absurdities are diluted for the fashionable taste; in all these, we detect the same dangerous error, working all the more mischief from being frequently disguised, and thus passing unobserved.
This doctrine practically followed out to its strict consequences would lead us back to the convent cell, and the hermit's cavern, where, in olden times, it was, at least, consistently acted upon. In our own days it is a mere contradiction to the whole spirit of the age; for if that be religion, then civilization, and the arts of peace, and all that human knowledge has done to raise and improve the condition of the human race, is irreligious, and worthy of condemnation!
Persons who hold this opinion, set up an unnatural opposition between the duties set before us to perform, and the powers given us wherewith to perform them; requiring the highest effort of human virtue, while taking away the appointed means of guarding and strengthening human weakness! Such persons, acting like some malignant spirit, who having paralysed a man's limbs, should require of him feats of dexterity and strength;—would first deprive us of the exercise and improvement of the faculties by which we discern truth and excellence, aud then demand of us a course of action requiring the highest exertion of those very faculties.
Reason being, however, an inherent power of the mind, we cannot, even if we would, wholly abdicate the use of it. A bad education may thwart or cramp it, and wilful neglect may render it so dull and sluggish as to be practically useless; but it is only in idiotcy that we altogether lose the power, or the habit, of tracing cause and effect, and of drawing conclusions from the facts presented to us. The difference between the cultivated and the uncultivated reason, is, that the former traces the real relations between cause and effect, the latter only the accidental connexion of time or place; and consequently, that the conclusions of the former rest on solid grounds, those of the latter on mere assumptions. The faculty exercised is in both cases the same; but in the one it is acute and accurate, in the other it is sluggish and unsound. Reason receives a certain degree of training, independently of any voluntary cultivation, from the mere circumstances
COMMON SENSE FALSELY OPPOSED TO REASON.
of life, and the necessity they lay upon us, as soon as we emerge from childhood, to compare and choose, to form some opinions, and adopt some principles of action. In the case of persons of naturally strong understanding, early called upon to decide and act for themselves, reason is thus unconsciously trained to great acuteness, and long practice sometimes gives them a quickness of perception and soundness of judgment, which the most careful cultivation will, perhaps, fail to bestow on others less favoured by nature. But where this fact is laid hold of to prove the superiority of what is termed plain common sense over the habits of reasoning given by education, and the consequent uselessness of the latter, the argument will be found to turn against those who use it. The common sense they value so highly being no other than reason applied to the ordinary affairs of life, and forming its judgments concerning them on the very same principles by which we arrive at the most abstract truths; it follows that in the cases they allege as proofs of the non-necessity of training, the soundness of judgment so admired, is actually, as far as it goes, the result of training of the most severe kind, namely, of constant and enforced exercise; nor can it be depended on farther than that training extends; in other words, beyond the sphere of objects with which that renders it familiar. No common sense will enable an uneducated man to form a just opinion on subjects beyond his experience, though the quickness of perception and the habits of reasoning, formed amongst familiar things, will, if united to a candid spirit, be of great assistance to him when he turns his attention to familiar questions. It is also probable that the same vigour of understanding which enables an uneducated person to reason and decide justly in practical matters, would in another class, and with greater advantages, have led him to pursue the higher objects of reasoning, in the search of knowledge, and the investigation of truth.
The point to be determined then, is, not whether we shall abandon reason altogether, since that is not in our power, but whether we prefer it weak, tottering, and unexercised, rather than vigorous and well-disciplined; it is not whether we shall choose some other guide in our daily business, some other light in our pursuit of truth; but whether we prefer groping in the dark, or following any beaten track that offers, rather than to walk in the light we might enjoy, and depend on the guide Heaven has appointed us. The question may be practically summed up in a few words. If the daily duties of life admit of any exercise of reason,-if their success depends in any measure on the accuracy with which we draw inferences from what we observe, apply general principles to our conduct, or compare the
results of our actions, then it cannot be useless to acquire stricter accuracy, quicker perception of cause and effect, greater power of judgment,-in a word, to obtain the benefits that result from cultivating reason. Secondly, if reason be thus needed at each step of the ascending scale of intelligence, from the acquisition of the most elementary knowledge to the decision of questions of conduct and duty in daily life, how can we suppose it to be excluded from the highest and most important questions of all? And, if we abandon so monstrous a supposition, and admit that its exercise is needed in any degree to apprehend religious truths,—if we allow that to examine the evidence on which we believe in the existence of a God, in His revelation to man, in His continual providence, in the hopes of our immortal destiny, requires the aid of reason at all, then no care or cultivation can be too great to render it fit to deal with subjects so momentous.
If these things were more often dwelt upon, the opponents of reason would at least be driven from their conspicuous posts; we should hear less of the superior piety and superior common sense of unreasoning minds, and the young would not be misled into believing that, by neglecting the highest power with which the Creator has endowed them, they will insure some instinctive guidance from earth to heaven.
But it is time to return from this digression in defence of reason, to the consideration of its mode of operation in the discovery of truth.
According as we can or cannot obtain positive proof, our knowledge of any subject reaches to certain or absolute truth, or attains only to probability. Demonstrative evidence, by which alone we obtain positive proof, proceeds step by step, showing each new conclusion to be the inevitable consequence of the foregoing one, till, through a longer or shorter series, the proposition is demonstrated to be a necessary result from the premises. To obtain a demonstration of this kind, it is evident that the premises must be themselves indisputable, the terms completely defined, and the relations between them fully understood, for failure in any of these points will introduce proportionable uncertainty, and leave the proof so far short of demonstration. Where such uncertainty is unavoidable from the nature of the proposition, where the conclusions cannot be proved to be the necessary consequence of the premises, the evidence only amounts to probability, and the conclusions resting on such evidence are the subjects of belief, or opinion.
Mathematical science is all demonstrable. It proceeds from self-evident axioms to propositions, each depending on the other, and each one proved to be the necessary result of the given