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springs of action, are necessarily more powerful than the deliberative faculty of reason. How difficult it is to decide rightly when they are concerned, may be estimated by the admiration we feel for him whose judgment holds the balance evenly, though his dearest personal interests be in the scale. It is a melancholy proof of the infirmity of our nature, that our best affections, if not controlled and kept in their due proportion and subordination by reason and conscience, will lead us astray no less surely than the worst. Witness the records of history, in which we see piety rivetting the chains of superstition, religious zeal lighting the martyr's stake, patriotism kindling the flames of civil war, and loyalty trampling on the rights of men while breathing the heroism of self-sacrifice. It is to the union of reason with conscience and to the love of truth, as the supreme good of our being, that we must look as our only security against the danger of our best and purest feelings degenerating into blind and destructive passions.

Prejudice, which is often the offspring of passion, is even more fatal to our perception of truth. Passion, from its very nature, cannot be permanent; and during the lull which follows its wildest storms, the voice of truth may make itself heard, and assert its authority. But prejudice has all the strength and inveteracy of habit, and is often interwoven with associations so early formed and long continued, that the very foundation of all our principles and opinions would be shaken by the wrench necessary to dissever them.

All opinions which we derive from our position, education, or peculiarities of character, without examination of the grounds on which they rest, are simply prejudices. They may or may not be just in themselves, but so long as they are held on any other ground but their abstract justice, they are prejudices to us. A child may repeat by rote the most valuable maxims, but he cannot, therefore, be said to have opinions, since the latter word implies the assent of the understanding to the truth or probability of the maxims advanced. The very etymology of the word opinion indicates that it is the product of thought, whereas to learn the opinions of others is merely an effort of memory, and for all practical purposes leaves the mind as unfitted as before.

False associations are amongst the most fertile sources of prejudice, and hence appears the importance of watching over those formed in childhood, when impressions are most strong, and reason is still undeveloped. The name of a party is associated in

* See Paley's Moral Philosophy.


the minds of children with injustice, and irreligion, or with everything that is great and good in human nature; and the prepossession so formed is retained through life, and affects the whole current of thought and action. It may, perhaps, be wellfounded, but it remains a prejudice, because the grounds which justify it are never examined. More than two-thirds of the opinions held in the world are in this sense prejudices; for it is a small minority, indeed, amongst us, who form their opinions for themselves after careful and conscientious examination, or search the grounds of those they have imbibed from others, and maintain them no farther than reason and evidence will warrant.

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It is, no doubt, unavoidable, that the great mass of mankind should receive their opinions and principles from others, for the hard necessities of life allow them neither the leisure nor the means to examine and form them for themselves. But even they do and must judge, more or less, of the claims of the authority upon which those opinions are presented to them, and hence the importance that such authority should carrry with it moral weight. The uneducated cannot weigh evidence, or reason out a proof, but they are often good judges of character, and according to the character of those who profess to teach them, they will learn reverence for the doctrines which come commended by virtue and practical wisdom, or contempt for the mere intellectual superiority which they cannot appreciate.

With the educated classes the case is entirely different. It would be difficult to say what is meant by education, or what its value, if it leaves those on whom it has been bestowed as incapable of forming opinions, and as much the slaves of prejudice as the ignorant and toil-worn clown. Indolence and timidity on the one hand, and the love of domination and dogmatism on the other, have combined to produce the strange anomaly of cultivated minds, and unreasoning prejudices, which we so frequently meet with. The bolder part of mankind has encouraged the weakness of the other, conscious that the larger the number of independent thinkers, the more necessary would it become to restrict authority within the limits of reason and justice, and to renounce all power that could not be proved to rest on those grounds.

It may be alleged that, by urging each individual to examine for himself the grounds of his opinions and principles, we are teaching contempt for authority. But it is not obedience to the rightful,-i. e., the well-attested,-claims of authority that we reprove, but passive submission to any authority. A reasoning mind does not reject authority, but simply judges of its value.


The unreasoning one, on the contrary, the mere puppet of impulse or prejudice,-rejects as blindly as it obeys. Hence the spectacle, so common in our days, of the young presumptuously despising the experience and authority of age. They have taken up the prejudice of the times, namely, suspicion of all authority, and have not reasoned enough on the grounds of that suspicion, to know when it should be admitted and when set aside.


With regard to the young, this question is not practically so difficult as it appears to be. The authority from which they first received their opinions is invested with a character which belongs to no other earthly office, and from it they accept opinions and principles just as they submit to rules of action, without doubt or hesitation, because instinctively in obedience to a law of nature. The burden of proof will always rest, not with the parent, but with him who opposes the views of the parent: the first time, therefore, that the young mind examines any opinion differing from what it has been taught, it will be with reference to that first sacred authority as a standard, and it will assuredly compare other views with that, before it begins to call that authority itself in question. None but the worst regulated minds, or ill-conditioned natures, will arraign in the spirit of revolt opinions and principles received under the fond guidance of parental care. When the inquiry is made, as we urge the young to make it, with a simple, earnest love of truth, it will be accompanied with all the feelings that belong to so high a motive, and a sense of responsibility for the great task they are undertaking, which will preserve the mind from conceit, presumption, and rashness. On many points, their inexperience and ignorance of the world, will make it impossible for them to sift the grounds of opinions they have perhaps imbibed from childhood, and they must be content to hold them on the authority of greater knowledge and wisdom than their own. The spirit of inquiry will not lead to their rejection; it will only keep the mind alive to the nature of the grounds on which they rest, and preserve it from the overweening confidence which springs from calling our own, borrowed opinions we had been incapable of forming for ourselves.

We must, indeed, at every age, stand in the same position with regard to many questions. It is impossible for any one to form independent opinions upon every subject that comes under his notice; there must be to each of us a vast number, on which, from want of knowledge, and various other causes, we must still be content with knowing the opinions of others. All that is required of us is to be able to give a reason for what we really profess as

our own.

It is so far from true, that the examination or rejection of au




thority, as such, implies contempt for the opinion or knowledge of others; that, on the contrary, the habit of reasoning and acquaintance with the difficulties that attend the search after truth, will awaken a keen desire to gain all possible assistance. In most cases, the knowledge requisite for forming our judgment is to be acquired only by consulting authorities, and the inestimable benefit both of books and of conversation, often more valuable than books, would be lost if an independent spirit of inquiry involved the determination of owing nothing to others. The arrogance implied by such a determination would be as surely a mark of an ill-disciplined moral nature, as of a narrow intellect, to whom the real love of truth was unknown. It is true that arrogance is sometimes found allied with great intellectual power, but still the tone of mind, a thing always carefully to be distinguished from mere brilliancy of intellect,-will be always, in such cases, found to be low. Love of knowledge, which "grows with what it feeds on," and love of truth, ever teaching us humility by the very loftiness of its aspirations, leave in the mind that feels them no room for self-sufficiency.

The same sense of modesty which will make us eagerly seek any assistance within our reach, will also make us cautious in admitting opinions differing widely from those generally received. A decision sanctioned by the assent of many minds bears with it considerable weight, and requires that we should at least suspend our judgment till we have given it the fullest examination. To adopt the opinion of the majority as such, is a widely different thing, from distrusting for a time our own views, if they lead us to an opposite conclusion, and examining, with anxious care, the grounds of our convictions, lest there should be error in the reasoning which led to them. The former is the course of the unreflecting; the latter, of the thoughtful and earnest inquirer.


It is not, then, because we suppose that no opinion can be so good as our own that we have so strongly urged the necessity of forming it freely for ourselves; but because no opinion, however wise and true, can serve the same purpose to us; principle of the truth of which we have not convinced ourselves can enlighten our conscience; and lastly, because it is for the use of our own reason that we are responsible to Him who gave it and appointed its office.

To suspend our judgment until we are really capable of forming an opinion is sometimes a painful trial, if the subject be one which strongly excites our interest, and at all times it entails a sacrifice of vanity; but it is a duty which should be constantly enforced on the young, who cannot have formed opinions of their own uponmore than a very few points, and must therefore adopt



without examination, those of others, or resign themselves to remain in doubt, and conscious of being so. When such is the case it is well to take every precaution to prevent any self-deception with regard to the points on which we are certain or doubtful. Even in careless conversation we should not allow ourselves to state as our own an opinion we merely repeat from others, or to say "I think so and so," when all we can mean is "Others think so, and I am inclined to believe them." By such accuracy we may make less figure in society, but we shall certainly make more progress in training our own minds. Many a person has carelessly uttered borrowed opinions till at length he really believes them to be his own, and adopts them without further examination, with the additional disadvantage of being unconscious of the fraud he has practised on himself.

Such unreasoning adoption of opinions is sure to produce inconsistency. We borrow a liberal opinion in politics from one oracle, from another an illiberal opinion in religion; a democratic theory from books, and a host of aristocratic prejudices from custom and education; a great value for knowledge in the abstract, and a practical belief that frivolity is a woman's true vocation, till we succeed in making a sort of patch-work of our minds, without a single uniform principle or well-established ground of action. It would be obviously absurd to look for consistency in minds so constituted, and the only reason why greater mischief does not follow, is that those who in this manner take their opinions at "hap-hazard," are generally satisfied in practice to follow the routine of the majority, and seldom appear to feel that there is any necessary connexion between opinion and


We have dwelt thus long on the formation of opinion because on this point early training is generally more defective than on any other. The common system lends no assistance to the young mind in this respect. The memory is stored, the imitative faculties called forth, but reason is left unexercised, and the crude, undigested mass of learning which its action should have organized and assimilated, rather enfeebles than invigorates the mind. The materials for thought are indeed provided by such an education; but for all real purposes of mental training, the formation of opinion, the deduction and application of principles, it is absolutely useless.

While stigmatising the present mode of education, we fully admit the great difficulty of combining the authority and influence rightfully exercised by a parent, and due to his superior knowledge and experience, with the free exercise of reason in the child; and of discharging the office of an enlightened guide

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