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chapter i - George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches 
Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches, ed. Terrence O. Moore, Jr. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Instruction in the science or art of right living is the chief lesson in education, to which all others ought to be rendered subservient, and what this science is, and what may justly be called false learning.
If there be any such thing as duty, or any such thing as happiness; if there be any difference between right and wrong conduct; any distinction between virtue and vice, or wisdom and folly: In fine, if there be any such thing as perfection or imperfection belonging to the rational powers which constitute moral agents; or if enjoyments and pursuits admit of comparison; good education must of necessity be acknowledged to mean proper care to instruct early in the science of happiness and duty, or in the art of judging and acting aright in life. Whatever else one may have learned, if he comes into the world from his schooling and masters a mere stranger to the world, quite unacquainted with the nature, rank, and condition of mankind, and the duties of human life (in its more ordinary circumstances at least) he hath lost his time; he is not educated; he is not prepared for the world; he is not qualified for society; he is not fitted for discharging the proper business of man.
The way therefore to judge whether education be upon a right footing or not, is to compare it with this end; or to consider what it does in order to accomplish youth for choosing and behaving well in the various conditions, relations, and incidents of life. If education be calculated and adapted to furnish young minds betimes with proper knowledge for their guidance and direction in the chief affairs of the world, and in the principal vicissitudes to which human concerns are subject, then is it indeed proper or right education. But if such instruction be not the principal scope to which all other lessons are rendered subservient in what is called the institution of youth, either the art of living and acting well is not man’s most important business, or what ought to be the chief end of education is neglected, and sacrificed to something of far inferior moment.
The enquiries which are the most suitable employments of man, because none other so nearly concern him, are beautifully described to us by an excellent moralist.
Pers. Sat. 3.2
And these therefore are the researches into which youth ought first to be led. Accordingly we find the same poet in another satire describing with the warmest gratitude the care his tutor had taken to direct and assist him in this true philosophy.
Pers. Sat. 5.3
Where are we? Under what roof? On board what vessel? Whither bound? On what business? Under whose pilotship, government or protection? What are we? Whence did we arise? Or whence had we our being, and to what end are we designed? To what course of action are we destined by our natural frame and constitution? What have we to do? How are we to steer? What to pursue, and what to avoid? What goal are we to aim at; and how are we to direct and turn the chariot? These are the great and important questions with regard to which till one is able to satisfy himself, he is an absolute stranger to himself, to his nature, origin, end, interest and duty. And it is surprizing indeed to consider, that a man should have been long come into the world, and carried his reason and sense about with him, and yet have never seriously ask’d himself this single question, Where am I? or what? But, on the contrary, should proceed regularly to every other study and enquiry, postponing this alone as the least considerable. How early may the mind of man, which nature hath framed so curious, so inquisitive, so fond of knowledge, and with such a strong desire of happiness, be awakened to this research, and deeply interested in it by a lively feeling of its importance! For what questions are more natural, more obvious, and at the same time, more touching and rousing than these? Indeed no man could long think or look about him, without being led to these enquiries, or having been once pointed to the search, easily quit it, till he had come to some determination with relation to these momentuous points, were he not misled by education into other pursuits; were not his natural curiosity turned by his guides towards other objects, and his imagination taught to amuse itself with investigations that carry him far away from the researches which most concern him. The melancholly phenomenon is not otherwise to be accounted for. And this we know, that whatever first catches and charms our fancy by its specious appearance, will so warmly engage our affection, and so wholly engross our mind, as to leave no room for other ideas to enter; or give such a turn to our pursuits, that it will be very difficult to take us off from them, however trifling, or however hurtful they may be. As the clay may be moulded either into a toy, or a serviceable utensil, so may the young mind either be dissipated, and rendered quite airy, volatile, and absolutely averse to thinking; made fond of the most idle and insignificant exercises, by bad, or turned towards the most serious and useful enquiries by good education. We are indeed in the hands of persons about us in our infancy, as the clay in those of the potter: From these we take our first and most lasting ideas and impressions; by them are we shaped and fashioned into a form of mind almost as indelible as natural complexion. Can the Aethiopian change his colour or the leopard his spots? No more can he, who hath been accustomed from his childhood to do evil, learn to do well. But train up a child in the way wherein he ought to walk, and he will never forsake the paths of truth and virtue. Direct him to the researches best befitting and most interesting him, and inure him, by proper discipline, to right practices, and he will adhere to them, and bless his instructors and formers for ever.
The power of habit shall be fully considered in another place. And sure we need not stay any longer to prove, that man is the properest study of man: And therefore that it ought to be the chief scope of education to teach man what he is, or rather what he is intended to be and may become, by proper application and culture; or what is his chief business, duty and good. Let us therefore, in this chapter, consider what this knowledge means and comprehends: And what the false learning is, by which youth are misled from this truly useful science.
Youth may easily be led to observe, that there is a perfection to which plants and flowers may be improved; or that there is a perfection to which horses and other animals may be formed. And hence they may very naturally be led to enquire what is the perfection to which man may be cultivated, and what is the culture and what the means for accomplishing this noble end. And to know the stock, the furniture, with which nature hath favoured man, the best use of this provision, the end for which it is bestowed upon us, the dignity to which we may arrive by the proper cultivation and employment of it; and what is this due culture and best employment of the powers conferred upon us, that make our stock for use and enjoyment.—This is to know man; to know his rank in nature, the end of his creation, and his relation to the universe, and to its supreme Maker and Lord. And thus alone can one know what he was designed for, or what he ought to aim at and intend; what is his best employment and truest good, the noblest and wisest course he can pursue. Now it will not be difficult to make one early understand what a clear, strong and well furnished understanding means; or that the mind is in a state of darkness with regard to all that most immediately concerns it, till it is able to discern what it is and whence it came, what powers it is possessed of, and what is the best use of them.—Nor will it be found difficult to make youth soon perceive, that self-command and mastership over our affections, is power and dominion, is liberty, is greatness of soul, and absolutely necessary in order to right judging and choosing: They may easily be taught how dangerous blindness or precipitancy are; and that the perfection, the dignity of a being endowed with the power of comparing, computing, judging and choosing, called reason, consists in reason’s holding the reins of government with a steady hand, and letting out or taking in the affections, and directing all their courses according to its best views, upon duly weighing and ballancing the consequences of pursuits and actions. And when these two lessons are understood, a hearty disposition to promote the greater good of mankind, and a large capacity for usefulness in society, will quickly be perceived to be man’s glory, perfection and happiness: the surest way to true honour, and the securest means of self-enjoyment. How soon may very young minds be instructed in just notions of honour and happiness, by painting out to them, in their proper colours, different actions and characters; the character of the deliberate judicious man, in opposition to that of the rash, headstrong one, who suffers himself to be hurried away by every fancy, passion or appetite.—The character of the man who knows himself, and what is the best part he can act in every incident or relation of life, and sees deeply into the secrets of nature, in opposition to him who knows nothing about himself or his duties, or about any of the objects of nature that surround him.—The character of the benevolent man, who is capable of discovering readily what the interests of society require at his hands, and steadily pursues the public good, and is therefore not flattered with mere lip-praise, but sincerely and cordially loved and honoured, in opposition to him who, contracted within himself, thinks of no other end but the gratification of some one or other of his own sensual, selfish appetites, and who may therefore be crowded with flatterers and parasites, but is really despised, nay hated.—Young minds, by describing, by pointing out characters to them in history, life, or fictitious portraits of men and manners, may very soon be taught to know man’s furniture, duty, honour, and true felicity: They will soon be able to discern all the beauty and excellence of that admirable picture Horace draws of Lollius; and to perceive that they and their tutors ought to have it, and such like characters of truly great and good men ever before them as the mark, the glorious mark to be aimed at, and attained to by their education and studies.
Hor. l. 4. od. 9.4
The knowledge which this admirable poet tells us, is absolutely requisite to a fine writer, is yet more so to make a good and amiable man; a man of worth and merit in society, one truly happy in himself, and really beloved by mankind.
Hor. Art. Poet. l. 312.5
And accordingly he often recommends this same philosophy, as what ought to be the study of every man who would live honourably and happily in the world, and the main business of education. Now, how youth may be best formed into this knowledge, taste and character, the same author likewise tells us, by setting before us the methods his own father took of instructing him in virtue, and warning him against folly and vice.
Hor. Sat. lib. 1. Sat. 4. l. 105.6
What the natural consequence of such wise care was, he describes in the same satyr thus,
ibid. l. 133.7
His father’s method of instructing him in virtue by examples, naturally led him to the practice, and formed in him the habit of self-conversation or self-examination, and of often reflecting with himself upon his conduct, and upon what is fair and laudable in conduct, and what the reverse, without which one cannot make progress in virtue, or even maintain acquaintance with himself. The nature and excellent effects of this home-discipline are delightfully exhibited to us by a noble example of the practice in the meditations or self-communing of one of the best of princes, M. Antoninus Philosophus, whose amiable virtues cannot be too often set before young minds, in order to shew them the transcendent beauty of virtue, and excite their emulation to be equally wise and good.
Teachers of youth ought therefore to select characters for their young pupils, contrasting the virtues with the opposite vices, as the most effectual way of shewing them to what perfection and dignity men may attain, and how corrupt and abominable they may become through the deceitfulness of vice, if they are not upon their guard against every immoral indulgence. For ’tis by examples that good and bad conduct, with their various effects and consequences, the strength and grace to which men, by proper diligence, may arrive, and the baseness and misery into which vice plunges, most strongly appear: Characters not only point out the virtue that ought to be loved, the wise part that ought to be acted, and what on the other hand is equally vile and dangerous, much more clearly and vividly than precepts, as a picture gives a much more lively idea of any sensible object than the best description: But they actually bring forth good affections into exercise, and by so doing establish right approbations and right aversions in our minds, and thus work into habit and temper that divine ambition of excelling in virtue; which, when it is firmly rooted in the heart, is a living, permanent principle, ever abounding in the great and good deeds to which all the happiness in the world is solely owing, and without which outward affluence is a nusance, a pest. For every vice naturally carries along with it something hurtful to society. And ’tis by wisdom and virtue alone that any good can be extracted out of its native venom, or that its genuine tendency to empoison and corrupt, is alloyed or tempered, as every more shining character in history shews us, by representing to us the struggles to reform, oppose, check, or defeat vice, which constitute its beauty and excellence. This, indeed, is the moral lesson every more exalted example in the records of human affairs presents to us in the most striking light, and which cannot be too early or too forcibly inculcated from fact and experience, “That for a while, prudence and virtue may stem or abate the ravages, the pestiferous influences of abounding wickedness and dissolution of manners: But when vice is become too rampant and impetuous even for much virtue to correct it, then public ruin is unavoidable: Vice is the disease, virtue the medicine, and when the distemper overpowers the remedy, the body politic, like the natural body, is irrecoverably lost, perdition must ensue.” The characters of the more considerable personages in moral history, will afford, to a judicious instructor, excellent opportunities of enforcing, of deeply riveting this important lesson upon young minds. And when they have well digested it, then are they duly prepared and seasoned for entering into the world: But without a thorough understanding and feeling of this truth, one is not sufficiently qualified for directing his own conduct, even in any of the more ordinary spheres of life, but still wants a tutor or guide.
Characters well drawn are (as we have said) lively pictures of the virtues to which men may arise by due application and culture, shewing at once in what we are defective, and to what perfection we may arrive. They set to our view the strength, the force, the comprehensiveness into which our judgment and other intellectual faculties may be improved, and most affecting instances of what is yet a higher qualification than the finest imagination, the most tenacious memory, or the best replenished understanding, that absolute command of our passions, and that godlike benignity of soul, which by spreading happiness all around, as far and as largely as duly improved power can reach, is attended with a sense of inward greatness, and of true merit, with all wise and good beings, which is indeed the highest, and the only lasting, because the most rational fecility: In one word, they exhibit to us in the most touching manner, all the perfections attainable by men: They not only demonstrate the possibility of attaining to them; but powerfully upbraid our indolence, and so rouse our emulation.—Accordingly, teaching by well chosen characters hath been warmly recommended by all the ancient sages. ’Twas thus we are told that Cato the elder, who would not entrust the education of his son to any other, formed his judgment and ambition. He composed for his use characters of the principal persons in ancient times, the most distinguished in his own state, particularly, with a short history of the greatest actions of each, that his son might by this means be early acquainted with patterns the most worthy of his imitation, and model himself by them. And indeed there have been many instances of very young persons, even in modern times, who have been perfectly acquainted with examples of every excellence, every accomplishment, every virtue in human life; and which is yet more, could give a concise, distinct account of the rise and fall of the more remarkable ancient states and empires, in a manner that sufficiently proved they understood and felt what they were able to relate, and that at an age when the greater part of youth are quite rude and ignorant. And what progress in languages, or in any other art, is to be compared with this knowledge? For what do they profit or avail without it? This, we are assured, was the science that was most carefully and early instilled into the minds of all the great examples of public spirit and true fortitude and wisdom amongst the Greeks and Romans, which their history shews. To this principally was it owing, that so many in ancient times were capable of giving counsel about the most important public affairs, and serving their country in various capacities, at an age when with us, according to the more prevailing methods of education, we still excuse ignorance and childishness, and expect nothing manly: Nor could they otherwise have so early attained to such a pitch, not only of virtue, but of civil and political wisdom.
But it is proper to consider yet a little more particularly, that knowledge of human nature, and of the duties of rational and civil life, which is best taught by examples or characters.
Such is our innate desire of knowledge, that children, so soon as they can speak, express their eager inquisitiveness into the nature and use of every new object that falls within their observation. They naturally ask what it is, and for what it serves? Now this native curiosity ought to be indulged, nay cherished and improved into an equal sollicitude to know what they themselves are, and for what end they are made, and may easily be so; and after satisfying, as much as is possible, their curiosity about other things, whether animate or inanimate, ask them but what they themselves are, whence they come, and for what they are designed, and you will quickly see the question rouse all their attention, and kindle a very keen desire to know what and for what they are. And the properest first answer to this question is, to tell them that they are made and designed by the one Author of all things, who made every thing for a good end, and hath abundantly qualified every thing for its end, to improve and grow by diligent culture into the perfection which renders such or such persons so serviceable to mankind, and procures them such universal love and honour. Let the first examples be taken from amongst those whom they have seen, and have naturally, or by acquaintance, some love or regard for: But go on with them, drawing the characters to them, one after another, of such persons as have really been a glory, an eternal honour to mankind, till they have fully conceived, that doing good to mankind is true glory and happiness, and the great end for which man is sent into the world, and formed and furnished as he is, with understanding, memory, reason and various active powers; and till you have raised an ambition in them to imitate these characters, and anxiety to know by what steps, by what methods they may arrive at such perfection.
Take hold of their curiosity to understand the nature and use of every thing; commend it, and let them know that one of the chief excellencies of man, and one of the main ends for which he is framed an intelligent creature, is to improve his understanding, and enrich his mind with knowledge, by satisfying this curiosity, and enquiring diligently with them into the reasons and uses of things: Give them an account of the progress many curious searchers into nature have made in this knowledge; and tell them, that if they will converse with men and with books, and preserve their curiosity, attention and docility, they shall soon know the natures and uses, not only of many things near them, but even of very distant objects, the sun, the moon and the stars. Shew them early, by fit examples, the proper method of searching into and finding out the properties of things and their uses. Above all, let them early be led to observe that knowledge of nature is not only in itself pleasant, exceeding pleasant, and the proper perfection of the intellectual faculties, with which kind nature hath furnished and adorned us; but that knowledge is power, and that the Author of nature hath made a large dominion to be acquirable by mankind, by their understanding and reason: shew them how air, water, and all the elements, and almost all bodies, have been rendered subservient to the advantage or conveniency of human society, by the knowledge of their qualities. They will thus be early led at once to perceive the beauty, and taste the pleasure of natural knowledge, and to remark, that the proper business of mankind on earth, is to obtain a large dominion, command, or lordship there, by subduing, as it were, every element, every object to their use, and that by extending their insight into natural causes, i.e. the natural properties of things, and the laws according to which they produce effects: For thus, and thus alone, is man’s property, power or dominion augmentable: And by thus adding to human knowledge and power is human life sweetened, adorned, greatened. We can only here hint the heads or chief articles of that knowledge, to the desire of which youth ought early to be incited: As for the proper methods of accomplishing this end by conversation, these may be learned from several of Socrates’s discourses recorded by Xenophon: And of them and the Socratic method in general, we shall afterwards have occasion to treat at some length. Till by satisfying the natural curiosity of youth about the natures and uses of several things, they have got an idea of knowledge in general, and know what it is, how it ought to be carried on, and what good ends it serves, besides the immediate satisfaction it gives to the mind, they cannot understand what makes the perfection of the understanding faculty. But by instruction in the natures and uses of several objects, they will soon acquire a notion of intellectual perfection, or understand what a well-furnished mind means, and wherein its excellency and usefulness consists; and be wonderfully fired by the characters of those to whose researches into nature we are indebted for all the knowledge of, and all the dominion over, or in nature we enjoy. Let them see how all the arts by which we subsist with any degree of comfort, spring from the knowledge of nature, acquired by attention to the properties of things and their laws. And they will thus see why knowledge ought to be sought, and how it ought to be pursued, and of what use to mankind they are, who increase our knowledge of nature, and thereby improve advantageous arts, or invent new ones of any considerable utility. And by the same observations they will easily be led to observe the wisdom and goodness of the Maker of all things, in giving things their respective qualities and powers, and so fitting them for certain ends; and in giving to man the capacity of applying such an infinite variety of things to the uses of human society by his reason, which is therefore, as it were, all the powers scattered through inferior beings, animate or inanimate, in one. From which reflection there arises a very natural and obvious consequence that ought never to be omitted, whatever particular nature or frame be the object of the lesson, viz. “That to aim at and pursue the good of our kind by our actions, is to imitate the Author of nature, and to act in concert with him, and therefore the sure way of approving ourselves to him, and gaining his favour.” Let the subject be often changed, but still let the lesson upon the qualities of whatsoever object and its uses, end in these reflections, till having been, by frequent examples, all conspiring to confirm and illustrate them, deeply rivetted in the mind, they will naturally recur to it on every occasion: For thus knowledge will be made an incitement and spur, not only to application in the speculative way, but to action properly so called, that is, activity in rendering knowledge subservient to the advantage, conveniency, ornament or grandeur of human life. Thus will public good become habitually present to their minds, and their predomining motive and passion; the sole measure to them of worth and merit, as indeed it ought to be.
As much as early incitement to the love of natural knowledge is neglected in education; yet, as they must not have observed the natural dispositions of children, who have not remarked that nature points, directs and prompts them to it very strongly, and thus shews what ought to be our first care about them; so, they must not know what natural knowledge means, or to what we owe all the advantages of life, and to what alone we can owe the exercise of our power and dominion in our habitation, earth, who do not consider it as the study that hath the nearest connexion with our interest and dignity, and which ought therefore to be principally encouraged by society, and made the chief scope of education. To give an early turn towards the right method of advancing this knowledge, for the sake of promoting human power and conveniency, is to give the most useful disposition to youth: because, without extending our knowledge, we cannot enlarge our power and dominion; but, by increasing it, we really augment and extend the lordship in this lower world, which the Author of nature hath plainly designed we should acquire, and in proportion to which will our happiness or eminence, as men, always be. To increase the happiness of mankind by industry, by arts, by commerce, is evidently the properest, because the usefulest employment of our active powers. And it is knowledge of nature that alone can enlighten or direct our activity and industry. Promoting public good is the noblest, the best End, the worthiest occupation. But what is promoting public good? Wherein does it consist, but in extending that knowledge of nature, which by every discovery it makes of the properties of things, shews us, that the Author of nature steadily intends, and unerringly pursues the universal good; and enables us to render the life of mankind more convenient, more comfortable, more beautiful and great, by qualifying us to subject natural things to our use and advantage? In proportion to the harmonious consociations of mankind in promoting these ends, must human ease and grandeur be.— And in proportion as the pursuit of these ends is hindered, disturbed, discouraged, or neglected, in proportion do men, or combinations and societies of men, fall short of the felicity and perfection nature hath put in their power to acquire.
So soon as youth are led by proper teaching to observe whence all the arts arise, and what advantages redound from the encouragement and improvement of them, it will be very easy to lead them to take notice of what ought to be the end of these coalitions of mankind called civil societies, and wherein their beauty, order, dignity and strength must consist. For, if the happiness and grandeur of human life must be owing to well employed industry, and industry must owe its guidance to the knowledge of nature, that model or constitution of society must be the best which best protects and encourages well-employed industry: And those to whom we owe good models of civil government, and all the political knowledge necessary to found and preserve well-regulated societies; or to teach us how to prevent and how to remedy the diseases to which they are incident, by laying open to us their causes, their symptoms, their prognostics, and their antidotes— Those are the great souls to whom mankind are under the highest obligations.—Those are the true heroes to whom eternal glory is due. Those truly great men having studied human nature and human affairs, knew human happiness must be the effect of human industry skilfully and benevolently employed, and how the spirit of such industry must be supported and promoted; what causes tend to abate or corrupt it, and by what methods these ought to be removed or checked; they were able to discern whence obstacles to, or perversions of public spirit arise, and how it can only be preserved alive, or revived when languishing and decaying.—And to them therefore, and to the study by which they procured such useful prudence, do we owe an insight into human nature, and the springs of human actions, and moral events good and bad, the utility of which is glaringly manifest. It will be easy, I say, after youth understand that the happiness of mankind must be owing to the industry of man skilfully employed for promoting public good, to make them conceive, that the art of supporting and reviving this spirit of benevolent industry, is a most useful science, and that which must direct in founding or reforming societies, governments and laws, and to inflame their minds with a desire of this knowledg. And when they know what natural knowledge, and what this last kind of science, which is properly called politics, mean; and have had some eminent characters of both classes pointed out to them, they will then understand what is the proper study of man, what knowledge in general, and what the perfection and culture of human understanding towards its perfection, signify and comprehend. Many have told me, and I have myself experimented it, that many young lads, who had for a long time been inured to look upon syntax and prosody as the principal part of learning, and had no notion, no tincture of any other science, have in a few months time, by proper conversations, been made acquainted not only with the properties and final causes of many natural objects, but with the rise and use of several arts, the nature of human happiness, and the way of promoting it, viz. by benevolent industry, directed by the knowledge of nature to the pursuit of things useful to society; but likewise have, by an easy transition from thence, to the end of civil government, been informed with a just notion of public liberty, and thereby inflamed with a warm affection towards it, and an earnest desire for instruction in the true politics above described, and in the history of those to whom mankind have been chiefly indebted for founding good governments, and cultivating and improving that science. However difficult this kind of instruction may be thought by any, ’tis certain that till one hath made some advances in it, and conceived a hearty liking for it, whatever else he may have learned, his mind is not replenished with science of things, or turned towards the best and usefullest study: nay, he cannot so much as understand what real science means, or what are its objects and ends; nor, consequently, have any idea of the improvement or perfection of the understanding. But that it is not so difficult to guide young minds very early into the right path of finding out even what orderly and well-regulated society means, any one will soon be convinced who will try the experiment, and making a proper use of the natural curiosity of the human mind, lead it gradually to observe how much we are obliged for the conveniencies of life to agriculture, manufactures of various sorts, shipping, and so forth; and to take notice whence we have these arts, that is, from what study or knowledge; and to infer from the advantages redounding from the industrious cultivation of those arts, that it must be the chief end of society to defend and encourage industry and ingenuity, by securing to the ingenious and industrious the acquests of their labour against all fraud and violence. Let but the various benefits of ingenious, skilful, benevolent industry be recounted to them, and give them but a view of the insight into nature’s connexions and laws, that must enlighten and guide industry, and they will soon perceive how much it is the interest of every district of mankind to unite under common laws and guidance, for the common defence and encouragement of the benevolent industry, which is the source of so many great goods; and be inspired with ardent desire to understand what are the best, the strongest or firmest barriers against oppression or tyranny, and the stablest security for property, or for every one’s enjoying with undisturbance, the free possession, use and disposal of all he can purchase by his honest art and toil. Give them an account of the inventers and improvers of arts, and of the manifold advantages we reap from such discoveries, and shew them the glory due to them, and cheerfully rendered to them by history, and they will at once see what is the proper employment of human understanding, or wherein its riches and greatness lies, and perceive the application and order of study requisite to attain to equal glory on the account of like usefulness in society, and be fired with zeal to improve their intellectual powers in the same manner; with an antipathy against idleness on the one hand, and fraud or violence on the other, and with love of public order, liberty and justice, and of the constitutions that tend, by preserving them, to encourage and uphold the industrious benevolent spirit, without which nothing that is good or great, beneficial or beautiful in human life can subsist. And are not the beginnings of this taste and temper the proper first elements or beginnings of education, in the knowledge and duties of man? Is not this a good foundation? Or what else ought to be the foundation laid in human minds, whether we consider private or public happiness? What have we done to qualify youth for rational or social life till this be done? And when this point is gained, how quickly will youth be reared up into men equally capable and disposed to promote the general happiness of mankind? I may perhaps, be thought to have insisted too long already upon this point. But however obvious it may be, (and nothing indeed can be more plain or certain, to any one who thinks, than that the knowledge we have described is that alone which can be called knowledge of things, and that alone by which the interests of human society can profit; and that one cannot so much as understand what intelligent faculties, and their improvements and perfections mean, but by the education or instruction that hath been delineated); yet the neglect of this knowledge in education till it is too late, is a sufficient reason for having dwelt so much upon it.
The next lesson, or that which is most a-kin to what hath now been mentioned, and hath the closest connexion with it, is of the highest importance. ’Tis to give youth a just notion of the extent of human power or industry, or of the distinction made by nature between things within and things without our power; things subject to us, and things nowise dependent upon us. Nothing can be more manifest than that till this difference be well understood, men may, will, misplace their labour. And a few instances will soon lead youth, formed and inured to attention, into a true general idea of the things which are submitted to us by nature, or within our dominion. It will not be difficult to make such apprehend, that the general and specific qualities of all bodies, together with the laws of motion according to which their effects are produced, are fixed unalterably by the Author of nature; and therefore that human power cannot change these, but that in order to render bodies subservient to our uses, we must know their properties and powers, and the laws of these powers, and work upon them or apply them to our use, according to these properties and their laws. They may be easily led to observe, that we cannot alter the gravity and springiness of the air, nor the law of gravity in water, but we can render both air and water, in many instances, serviceable to us, in consequence of these immutable properties: They may easily perceive, that the specific gravities of bodies are immutable, and that the same quantity of the same matter hath always the same weight, and yet we may make a lighter body move a heavier out of its place, by adding to the velocity of the lighter, in proportion to what it wants in weight: Experiments to prove these, and many other such physical truths, are easily performed, and as easily understood: And when a few such truths have been explained and confirmed by proper experiments, youth will learn from such lessons what is meant by properties of bodies, and by general fixed laws of motion, and what human art may do, how it must go to work, and what it is absurd for art to attempt. But this being understood, the distinction between the proper objects of human art, sollicitude and industry, and those things which are not subject to us, but are really divine things, i.e. things solely dependent upon the Author of nature, and therefore, with regard us, objects of resignation and submission to the divine disposal, will readily be comprehended, together with one excellent final cause of this difference, viz. the necessity that general unalterable laws should be uniformly observed by nature in its operations, in order to our being capable of knowing or imitating nature, or rendering material things subservient to any useful end with respect to ourselves, since otherwise we could neither know nature, nor have any power or dominion in nature, any natural sphere of activity.
From this observation which results from, and therefore ought to be inculcated from every experiment about whatever corporeal object, it will be a very natural transition to pass to the consideration of our moral power, and of what moral effects are not within our power. Any one may be easily led to perceive, that we cannot add to the number of our senses, or receive any outward sensations or ideas but from experience, but that we can separate, mix and compound our ideas taken in by experience in various manners: And in like manner, that we cannot add to our intellectual faculties, or form any idea of any power of that class, of which we are not partakers in some degree by nature, but yet we can cultivate and improve all these powers of understanding, comparing, judging, reasoning, imagining, and so forth, to a perfection, which without culture they cannot attain to, but must sink and decline: And in the same way that there are original determinations in our minds, to be so and so affected by certain moral objects, as well as by corporeal ones, such as actions and characters, which we cannot alter, and that frequent associations of ideas, and repetitions of affections and actions must of necessity produce habits; but yet we have it in our power to examine our opinions, and to chastise and correct our fancies, and by this discipline to take off our affections from improper objects, and to place them aright, or according to the true estimations of pleasures and pains. A few instances of this kind, exemplified by characters of men who had the full command and mastership of themselves, i.e. of their passions, by means of home-discipline, or of frequently calling their appetites and affections to the tribunal of reason, to be examined and directed or corrected, will soon give youth a notion of our moral power, of inward liberty, and the rule of reason; and shew them, that the chief business of man is to govern himself aright; and for that reason, not only to have just ideas of objects and pursuits, but likewise to inure himself to examine and catechize, so to speak, his affections; and will inflame them with the love of this moral dominion or self-command, without which it may soon be made to appear, that one cannot be great or happy, but must, on the contrary, live in a most tumultuous, irregular manner, and be a prey to every specious fancy that may be presented to his sense or imagination.
It will not be unpleasant to observe to them the analogy between our power over natural things and our moral power: That neither extends to the making of properties or laws, but that both consist in producing effects in consequence of fixed properties and laws; and both of them chiefly lie in separating and mixing or compounding. But it is yet of greater importance, that they should attend to this difference between them, That tho’, with regard to natural effects, skilful industry be generally successful, yet whereas external industry may be obstructed and mar’d by several causes which we can neither foresee nor prevent, inward industry, or application to the improvement of our moral faculties, never fails of attaining its end: And thus the culture of our minds is much more dependent upon us than that of our gardens and fields. So true is this, that steady resolution to conquer the most inveterate bad habits is sure of victory. A physiognomist pronounced Socrates choleric and amorous by his natural temperament. Those who knew his mildness and love of virtue, laughed at the mistake. But he who knew himself better owned that he had been so, and that it had cost him very hard labour to conquer these passions the physiognomist attributed to him. And from thence he took occasion to discourse of man’s power to subdue his appetites and passions, to recover himself from vitious habits, and ascend by brave perseverance to the greatest height of virtue. Youth may be easily led to perceive, that our appetites are governed by our opinions of objects: And therefore, that in order to direct them we must have just apprehensions of things, and inure ourselves to deliberate and compute, before we yield or give way to the sollicitations of any affection. Freedom and strength of mind consist in this command of reason over our appetites and passions, which can only be gained by steadily accustoming ourselves to think and compare maturely and fully before we choose, and not suffering every fancy that may assail our minds, instantly to kindle an ardent impetuous desire. And wisdom consists in having just ideas of pleasures and pains, true notions of the moments and consequences of different actions and pursuits, whereby we may be able to measure, direct or controul our desires or aversions. One able to oppose desires, and to call his opinions to account, and furnished with the knowledge of the effects and consequences of actions requisite to shew him how he ought to behave in every case, is qualified for life. But without the latter, one cannot judge, but is in darkness. And knowledge, without the former, can only serve to create remorse for not taking or not following its counsels. Let them therefore early see the necessity, in order to happiness, in order to have power and liberty, of establishing judgment or reason as the ruler in their minds; and of having their understandings replenished with true and just ideas of all the objects and pursuits in human life, in order to be able to regulate their conduct aright. For what can be more obvious, than that this is the proper business of all who would be timeously prepared for steering wisely through the various rocks and shelves of life, for avoiding dangers and attaining to true happiness? In truth, when the deliberative habit, the patience of thinking before we choose, and the power of resisting fancy till we have brought it to the test of reason and truth, is firmly established in the mind, there will be little hazard of mistaking or erring. For right and wrong, in most circumstances of life, are easily distinguished. We need but ask our own hearts what it becomes us to do, and we will soon perceive, or rather feel what is duty and what not. The foolish choices and pursuits of men, are not so much owing to false judgments, as to the habit of acting precipitantly, and without examining our fancies and appetites. Ask the youngest infant, how he ought to be affected towards the Author of his being, and of all things, who hateth nothing that he hath made, but extends his benevolent care to all his creatures, and he will immediately reply, that he ought to love him, and endeavour to approve himself to him, by imitating his goodness. Ask him what he owes to his parents, what to his brothers and sisters, what to his friends, what to his country, what to all men, and you will find that his own heart will prompt and direct him to just answers; and that a strong sense of the obligations to piety, filial reverence and love, justice, veracity, gratitude, benevolence, immediately exerts itself upon the first proper call, so natural is it to the mind: That is, so right do our affections stand with regard to moral objects, when they are duly tried by them.
The proper study of mankind is man, and for this reason, one who hath the instruction of youth at heart will early direct them to observe all the natural determinations of the mind, such as our determination to distinguish between involuntary and free actions, and to regard ourselves and others as the authors of, and accountable for the latter, and them only: A determination of which we can by no means divest ourselves: a difference which we are necessarily determined to make, and without which we could have no ideas of justice or injustice, blame or merit, because mere accident and designed hurt would affect us in the same manner, did we not make this distinction: And consequently, a determination to be differently affected by the actions of agents, as they are apprehended to be done with or without choice, upon which the whole order of human society, and of all civil intercourse, absolutely depends. Those who delight in puzzling and perplexing clear truths, may argue as subtily as their wit, or rather sophistry can, to prove that men are accountable for none of their actions. But of a necessary determination in our nature to distinguish violence and compulsion from voluntary and free acting, we are as sure as we are of our existence. And the reality of the distinction is certain beyond all dispute, from the double necessity we are under to make it physical and moral. By the former, I mean the insuperable determination of our minds to make a difference, e.g. between the falling of a tile and the voluntary throwing of it: By the latter, the multiplied inconveniencies and absurdities that would follow upon any one’s divesting himself, were it possible, of this determination, and acting as if there was no foundation for it. Another determination in our nature is, to approve free actions that are good or beneficial, and to disapprove such as are ill or hurtful. This determination supposes or includes the former. We do not praise or blame, where we apprehend there was not free choice; but if actions are apprehended to have been done with understanding and election, we are necessarily determined to approve such, if they be kind and contributive to the public weal, and to condemn them if they be unkind and detrimental. The meaning of this, in other words is, That the Author of nature hath designed that good or virtuous actions should immediately, upon a fair view of them, excite our liking and approbation, and vitious ones our dislike and abhorrence; and accordingly, we are necessarily so affected by these moral ideas, as often as they are fully presented to our minds. ’Tis absurd to suppose us not indifferent to them, unless we grant that the Author of nature intended that we should be differently affected by them: For it is to suppose an effect not designed, but taking place without any cause, any foresight and will that it should be. And that originally our affections stand right with regard to good and wrong, however afterwards they may be corrupted or perverted, will be evident from every trial of young minds in this moral way. Paint actions and characters to them of opposite kinds, and you will soon see that their approbation and disapprobation are always quickly and rightly moved, i.e. moved as the public or common good of mankind requires they should. And after these trials, they may easily be led to reflect upon this determination of our minds, to approve and disapprove, and its excellent final cause.
Very near a-kin to this is our determination to receive pleasure from uniformity amidst variety, or in other words, from order, proportion and harmony in sensible objects; which sense, when well improved, is so rich a source of entertainment, being the mother of all the harmonious arts, as they may justly be called, since symmetry, order or harmony is their object and end, architecture, statuary, painting, music, and to a considerable degree, poetry and oratory. It is this determination or sense that qualifies us for admiring and enjoying the beauty and order of nature, and for relishing beauty and order wherever we find it, in art, in writing, in painting, in building, &c. That it originally stands right, that is, towards the beauty which is the effect of regularity and simplicity, will be found by making proper experiments upon young minds; and to what pitch of perfection it may be improved, let the many ingenious, noble productions of the imitative arts witness. And that young minds, after proper trials in this way, may easily be directed to take notice of the excellent final cause of this determination, is too obvious to need any proof, since by it we are disposed to the love of simplicity, neither nature nor art being beautiful, but in consequence of observing this rule, nil frustra, or avoiding superfluous labour, operating in the shortest way, and adding strength to what is principal in every structure or whole. Nor is the connexion between this latter and the moral sense just mentioned, and their mutual tendency to strengthen each other, less manifest, seeing the pursuit of virtue is nothing else but the pursuit of order in the government of the affections, and of order in the frame and government of society.
By a few reflections on these determinations of the human mind, illustrated and confirmed to them by well-chosen examples, they will soon perceive, that man is made for virtue and good order, or to receive his highest and only uncloying gratifications, from outward and inward order and harmony; and that it is the steady pursuit of order and harmony in every particular structure and oeconomy, and in the whole of nature, that is the delightful employment of the eternal all-perfect Mind, from whom all perfections, all beauties, all ideas, senses, determinations, powers and faculties proceed. But in order to make men acquainted with themselves, true philosophy will also lay open to her pupils, all the affections and passions of the human mind, and shew their various manners of operation, and what virtues and vices belong to each of them, and their final ends or causes; why, or for what uses they are implanted in us. Some writers on human nature have much obscured the doctrine of the passions by ways of speaking about them, liable to all the absurdities of supposing ideas in the mind antecedent to experience; and another yet greater, that passions or propensities to objects may precede the ideas of these objects; not to mention a third, viz. that there can be a strong propensity towards an object before one has had repeated views of it, and the imagination hath by these been warmed into a vehement delight in the contemplation of it, and is thereby inflamed with a habitual impatient itching after it. But, in reality, passion means propension, or a strong attachment towards an object, for every passion is a strong inclination or disposition towards an object, engendered and supported by the frequent recoiling of a very strong and warm picture or idea of that object. By the natural constitution or determination of the mind, the idea of fame, e.g. is agreeable to the mind, and exalts our desire. But the image of fame must have been very often repeated, so that the idea of all its sweets and charms is become very lively, and very apt to return into the mind upon every occasion or hint, before the mind can be possessed of a strong propensity to it, able to overcome every other idea. It is the same with regard to power, or with regard to virtue or public good. Power or public good must have often been contemplated by the mind; the images of them must have been deeply engraved upon it by frequent repetition: The mind must have been much warmed by a lively view of their charms, and have by their often recoiling upon it with all their force, contracted a close union, as it were, with them, and a keen tendency towards the pursuit of them. The case is the same with regard to all the other passions of the pleasing or joyful kind; and what hath been said of them may easily be applied to those of the opposite family or class, grief, fear, hatred, &c. called very properly the family of pain.
But this I have mentioned, not that I would have youth perplexed with subtleties, but to shew teachers the necessity of leading youth early to observe, that the aptitude of our minds to be agreeably affected by the images of power, fame, and in general, by all the objects that attract our minds, and the aptitude of our mind to be disagreeably moved by all the objects that are naturally painful to us, and so raise our aversion—That these aptitudes or determinations are of great use, as is likewise the force of association and repetition: But that it is by association and repetition of ideas that desires or aversions are kindled into propensities or passions. That being thus apprized of the manner in which passions are generated, they may learn to be upon their guard against wrong or false associations of ideas, and accustom themselves strictly to examine all their fancies, and the desires raised by them: They may take care that their judgments be just and true, and their desires proportioned to the real natures and values of objects. For thus alone can the growth of sensual passions be prevented; thus alone can true ideas, and true associations of ideas, and true judgments be firmly established in the mind, and passions conformable to them be formed and strengthened. If virtue, and the honour of acting steadily the best, the worthiest part, be the solidest good, then surely ought the passion for virtue, and the glory of adhering to virtue, to be cherished, till it becomes the ruling passion in the mind. But the way to do this, is to impress deeply upon the soul such a full notion of the excellency of virtue, as being habitually present to the mind, shall be able to hold it fast to it, and to bear head against all the allurements of vice, or all the dangers with which virtue may at any time be threatened. Draw the character to him, suppose of an Epaminondas, a Scipio, or a Titus, in whom the love of the public held the ascendent over all other desires so firmly, that nothing was able to shake or corrupt them, and let them know by what close attention to their mind they preserved such a full conviction of the preferableness of integrity to all pomp and pageantry. But let them see likewise, that even where the love of virtue is firmly established, false pleasure of one or other species may, if the guard is relaxed, gradually gain ground, and at last quite efface that glorious passion, and establish into its room the lust of wealth, or any other passion of the basest kind. Shew them how virtuous inclinations grow and strengthen: But shew them likewise how they are weakened, and how the vitious ones get foot and spread, and gradually supplanting their rivals, at last so totally deprave the mind, that the vices which formerly appeared so hideous and abominable that they could not be seen or thought of without horror and detestation, assume at last, if not a smooth and fair, yet a much less frightful appearance. Let youth see all the various turns the same passions take in different circumstances: Let none of the vices that may grow out of any of them, or into which any of them may be perverted, be hid from youth: And far less let the counterfeits of the virtues be concealed from them: But let them early be taught to distinguish generous from base and cruel ambition, true from false courage, and so on with regard to all the other virtues: For the most dangerous enemy to every virtue is that vice which hath the nearest resemblance to it, or can best assume its likeness. Thus only can they be prepared for judging of actions, and the persons concerned in them, when they come to read history. And thus alone can they be seasoned or fortified against the corruptions, snares and dangers of the world. In these lessons, to characters it will be of great use to add proper fables, of which ancient method of teaching we shall afterwards have occasion to treat.
If any one should say, that such philosophical reflections are above the compass of young minds; tho’ we must return again to this subject, and shall then shew, that it is far from being so difficult as is generally imagined, to convey the true philosophy into young minds, besides which there can be no other guide for the right conduct of life; yet let it be just suggested here in the first place, that till we begin to employ them in observing the final causes always aimed at and unerringly attained by nature in all her productions, and from thence to infer the wisdom and goodness of divine providence, in the formation and government of all things, and our obligation to imitate this character; and in observing the final causes of all the senses, powers, faculties and affections belonging to the human mind, together with their perfections and imperfections, or virtues and vices, and in drawing the same conclusion from thence with regard to providence and our duty.—Till we employ youth in such observations, nothing is done to furnish them with real knowledge, and we leave them absolutely in the dark with respect to the science of the greatest importance, and into which therefore they cannot be too early initiated. Till we thus exercise them, nothing is done to give them the best disposition, a propensity towards the most useful enquiry, or a taste and relish of the noblest as well as pleasantest study: And yet while due pains are not taken to form a good and useful temper, ’tis well known that the mind of course will either be contracting wrong habits, by improper exercise, or losing its natural docility, pliableness to instruction and quickness of apprehension. If the mind be not from the beginning well employed, it must take a pernicious turn, or become idle and averse to thought or serious exercise. For the human mind is ever either growing and improving, or shrinking and declining. If it be not advancing towards perfection, and becoming better, it is in this sense, at least, continually becoming worse, that it is daily waxing less capable of improvement. In the second place, I would ask, if they who are so apt to pronounce such institution too deep, or at least too grave and serious for young minds, have made any experiments with respect to the capacity of youth for relishing and entering into moral truths? Tis well known that the parables, fables and allegories with which ancient instructors began in the education of youth, were intended to convey moral maxims into the mind in an agreeable insinuating way. And they must be strangers to them, who think that moral truths are not capable of being rendered very pleasing, of being instilled into and impressed upon the youngest mind, in the most taking and engaging manner. But if this be the knowledge with which they ought early to be tinctured, or towards the love of which their minds ought timeously to be bended, then let teachers of youth use all their invention, and employ all their art to sweeten moral lessons, and make them as entertaining as they must be profitable. Let all the youth read be of this kind. And let not preceptors imagine that there is no way of teaching but in the formal manner of giving a lesson. This is a great mistake in education. By familiar conversation, children’s curiosity may be roused much more effectually, and by it they may be taught a great deal more in a little time, than can possibly be done in the austere magisterial way of calling them to a lecture. I have known boys, before they were seven years of age, acquainted with the figure of our earth, its revolutions round its axis and round the sun, and the more remarkable phenomena arising from these causes, well acquainted with geography, and some part of astronomy, and impatient to understand the science which enables to measure the magnitudes, densities and distances of the planets. And I never found any difficulty in raising their curiosity to know, or in making them understand, for instance, the properties of air and water, upon which sailing depends, and by this means the use of air and winds, and of fresh and salt water—or even in ripping up, as it were, to them the bowels of the earth, and shewing them the various minerals and metals with which they are stored, and the uses of them—in explaining vegetation—or in going on gradually with them through the whole of natural philosophy till they had a pretty good notion of the final causes of most things, and were very desirous of instruction in the science, which is the Key by which men have been enabled to open nature’s mysteries, and discover the laws according to which she works, and according to which human arts produce, and can only produce all their useful effects.—It will not be found difficult to make them conceive, that acquaintance with the properties of streight or curve lines, and with figures of all sorts, must be of great use in unraveling nature, in order to determine the methods in which effects are to be attempted by art, since they may easily be led to understand that all motion is in some line of direction. And desire being once incited to be instructed in this science, as a key to nature, a little practice in it will wonderfully open and enlarge their minds.—But from the final causes of physical appearances, is not the transition to the final causes of moral phenomena, i.e. to the consideration of the human mind, and its powers and affections, and their improvements, very natural? Nothing certainly can be more so. And therefore no lesson or conversation upon any final cause in the natural world ought to be let pass without taking occasion from thence to lead the young scholar to the consideration of the Author of nature, and our duty to him, i.e. our obligation to imitate him, by assiduous endeavours to enlarge our capacity of doing good, and by employing all the powers we have already acquired to the best purpose.
The unity of natural and moral philosophy will appear more fully afterwards. But I must again repeat it, that the great secret of education lies in finding out proper means of making young minds fall in love with useful researches, the enquiries that best become man, because they are of the highest importance to him, viz. researches into the order of the universe, and the good order of the human mind. For besides this one science, there is no true, no solid, no useful knowledge. Many other arts may serve or minister to it: But if this science be neglected, or if one is left an utter stranger to it, however specious his enquiries or occupations may appear to be to himself or others, they are but misleaders from the main and only profitable one. And therefore Cebes, in his allegorical picture of human life, agreeably to the doctrine of his master Socrates, the greatest of mere mortal philosophers, pronounces all other sciences, when separated from the moral science, false learning, and seducers from true wisdom. Need one stay long to convince any reasonable person that the knowledge of words, abstracted from that of things, can be of no value; and that a turn towards merely verbal criticism is one of the most pernicious youth can take. The solidity of mathematics, and its advantage to mankind, is prov’d by many effects of those beneficial arts and sciences which depend on it. But will this knowledge alone qualify for the government of the passions? Or can it, by itself, teach men how to regulate their appetites and conduct their actions? And what availeth the study of outward proportions and harmonies, if these never lead their admirer to serious reflections upon moral order and harmony, the harmony of the divine Mind, and of all his works; and the harmony of affections, which resembles created minds to their Author, and is therefore their glory and happiness. These two studies have naturally a very near connexion and affinity, and may therefore be both pursued at once very consistently. But if one’s whole time be so occupied, even by such geometrical researches as bid fairest for adding to human power, that the knowledge of man himself, and his duties, is entirely neglected, that person, with all his knowledge, must be in profound ignorance with regard to what most concerns him, his inward liberty and happiness; and what is indeed the chief beauty, the supreme harmony, a well-ordered heart and life. Even enquiries into nature herself, if the student rests in the mere physical explications, and is not taught and inured to search for final causes, not only stop short of what ought to be principally attended to; but they, by so doing, mislead from the true philosophy, as we find Socrates8 once and again observing. But of all the pretended sciences, none is more dangerous than that which seemeth to have the divine and human mind for its object; and yet, instead of leading to the knowledge of virtue and duty, habituates the student to take up with subtleties that have never produced, and can indeed never produce any other fruit but contentious jangling about empty puzling paradoxes. Let us hear an excellent author9 upon this subject, whose censures have a far better claim to be hearkened to than mine. “If in the literate world, saith he, there be any chocking weed, any thing purely thorn or thistle, ’tis in all likelihood that very kind of plant which stands for philosophy in some famous schools. There can be nothing more ridiculous than to expect manners or understanding should sprout from such a stock. It pretends, indeed, some relation to manners, as being definitive of the natures, essences, and properties of spirits; and some relation to reason, as describing the shapes and forms of certain instruments employed in the reasoning art. But had the craftiest of men for many ages together been employed to find out a method to confound reason, and degrade the understanding of mankind, they could not perhaps have succeeded better than by the establishment of such a mock-science.—The philosopher who pretends to be wholly taken up in considering his higher faculties, and examining the powers and principles of his understanding; if, in reality his philosophy be foreign to the matter profess’d; if it goes besides the mark, and reaches nothing we can truly call our interest or concern, it must be somewhat worse than mere ignorance or idiotism. The most ingenious way of becoming foolish is by a system. And the surest method to prevent good sense is to set up something in the room of it. The liker any thing is to wisdom, if it be not plainly the thing itself, the more directly it becomes its opposite.—If a passenger should turn by chance into a watch-maker’s shop, and thinking to inform himself concerning watches, should enquire of what metal, or what matter each part was composed? what gave the colours, or what made the sounds? without examining what the real use was of such an instrument, or by what movements its end was best attained, and its perfection acquired: ’Tis plain that such an examiner as this would come short of any understanding in the real nature of the instrument. Should a philosopher, after the same manner, employing himself in the study of human nature, discover only what effects each passion wrought upon the body; what change of aspect or features they produced, and what different manner they affected the limbs and muscles; this might possibly qualify him to give advice to an anatomist or a limner, but not to mankind or himself: Since, according to this survey, he considered not the real operation or energy of his subject, nor contemplated the man as real man, and as a human agent; but as a watch or common machine. The passion of fear (as a modern philosopher informs me) determines the spirits to the muscles of the knees, which are instantly ready to perform their motion, by taking up the legs with incomparable celerity, in order to remove the body out of harm’s way.—Excellent mechanism! But whether the knocking together of the knees be any more the cowardly symptom of flight, than the chattering of the teeth is the stout symptom of resistance, I shall not take upon me to determine. In this whole subject of enquiry, I shall find nothing of the least self-concernment. And I may depend upon it, that by the most refined speculation of this kind, I shall neither learn to diminish my fears or raise my courage. This, however, I may be assured of, that ’tis the nature of fear, as well as of other passions, to have its increase and decrease as it is fed by opinion, and influenced by custom and practice.
“These passions, according as they have the ascendency in me, and differ in proportion with one another, affect my character, and make me different with respect to myself and others. I must therefore, of necessity, find redress and improvement in this case, by reflecting justly on the manner of my own motion, as guided by affections, which depend so much upon apprehension and conceit. By examining the various turns, inflexions, declensions, and inward revolutions of the passions, I must undoubtedly come the better to understand a human breast, and judge the better both of others and myself. ’Tis impossible to make the least advancement in such a study, without acquiring some advantage from the regulation and government of those passions on which the conduct of life depends. For instance, if superstition be the sort of fear which most oppresses, ’tis not very material to enquire, on these occasions, to what parts or districts the blood or spirits are immediately detach’d, or where they are made to rendezvous. For this no more imports me to understand, than it depends on me to regulate or change. But when the grounds of this superstitious fear are considered to be from opinion, and the subjects of it come to be thoroughly searched and examined; the passion itself must necessarily diminish, as I discover more and more the imposture which belongs to it. In the same manner, if vanity be from opinion, and I consider how vanity is conceived, from what imaginary advantages, and inconsiderable grounds, if I view it in its excessive height, as well as in its contrary depression, ’tis impossible I should not, in some measure, be relieved of this distemper.
Hor. lib. 1. ep. 1.10
“The same must happen in respect of anger, ambition, love, desire, and the other passions, from whence I frame the different notions I have of interest: For as these passions veer, my interest veers, my steerage varies, and I make alternately now this, now that, to be my course and harbour. The man in anger has a different happiness from the man in love; and the man lately become covetous has a different notion of satisfaction from what he had before when he was liberal. Even the man in humour has another thought of interest and advantage than the man out of humour, or in the least disturb’d. The examination therefore of my humours, and the enquiry after my passions, must necessarily draw along with it the search and scrutiny of my opinions, and the sincere consideration of my scope and end. And because the study of human affections cannot fail of leading me towards the knowledge of human nature and of myself, this is the philosophy which by nature has the pre-eminence above all other science or knowledge. Nor can this, surely, be of the sort call’d vain or deceitful, since it is the only means by which I can discover vanity and deceit. This is not of that kind which depends on genealogies or traditions, and ministers questions and vain janglings. It has not its name, as other philosophies, from the mere subtlety and nicety of the speculation, but by way of excellence, from its being superior to all other speculations, from its presiding over all other sciences and occupations, teaching the measure of each, and assigning the just value of every thing in life.—This gives to every inferior science its just rank; leaves some to measure sounds, others to scan syllables, others to weigh vacuums and define spaces and extensions, but reserves to herself her due authority and majesty, keeps her state and ancient title of, Vitae Dux, virtutis indagatrix,11 and the rest of those just appellations which of old belong’d to her, when she merited to be apostrophiz’d as she was by the orator, ‘Tu inventrix legum, tu magistra morum & disciplinarum.—Est autem unus dies bene & ex praeceptis tuis actus peccanti immortalitati anteponendus.’12 Excellent mistress! But easy to be mistaken! whilst so many hundreds wear as illustrious apparel, and some are made to outshine her in dress and ornament.
“In reality, how specious a study, how solemn an amusement is raised from what we call philosophical speculations? The formation of ideas, their compositions, comparisons, agreements and disagreements!—What can have a better appearance, or bid fairer for genuine and true philosophy?— But if by all this I cannot learn how to ascertain my ideas, and keep my opinion, liking and esteem of things the same—where, philosopher! are thy ideas? where is truth, and certainty, and evidence so much talk’d of? ’Tis here, surely, they are to be maintain’d, if any where. ’Tis here I am to preserve some just distinctions and adequate ideas, which, if I cannot do a jot the more by what such philosophy can teach me, the philosophy is in this respect imposing and delusive. For whatever its other virtues are, it relates not to me myself, it concerns not the man, nor any other ways affects the mind, than by the conceit of knowledge, and the false assurance rais’d from a suppos’d improvement.—Philosopher, let me hear concerning what is of some moment to me. Let me hear concerning life, what the right notion is, and what I am to stand to upon occasion; that I may not, when life seems retiring, or has wore itself to the very dregs, cry vanity! Condemn the world, and at the same time complain, that life is short and passing! For why so short, if not found sweet? Why do I complain both ways? Is vanity, mere vanity, a happiness? Or can misery pass away too soon? This is of moment to me to examine. This is worth my while. If, on the other side, I cannot find the agreement or disagreement of my ideas in this place, if I can come to nothing certain here, what is all the rest to me? What signifies it how I come by my ideas, or how compound them, which are simple, and which complex? If I have a right idea of life now, when perhaps I think lightly of it, and resolve with myself, ‘That it may easily be laid down on any honourable occasion of service to my friends, or country, teach me how I may preserve this idea; or at least, how I may get safely rid of it, that it may trouble me no more, nor lead me into ill adventures.’ Teach me how I came by such an opinion of worth and virtue; what it is, that at one time raises it so high, and at another reduces it to nothing; how these disturbances and fluctuations happen? By what innovation, what composition, what intervention of other ideas? If this be the subject of the philosophical art, I readily apply to it, and embrace the study. If there be nothing of this in the case, I have no occasion for this sort of learning, and am no more desirous of knowing how I form or compound those ideas which are marked by words, than I am of knowing how, and by what motions of my tongue or palate I form those articulate sounds, which I can full as well pronounce, without any such science or speculation.”
[2. ][Persius, Satires, 3.66–74: “Come and learn, O miserable souls, and be instructed in the causes of things: learn what we are, and for what sort of lives we were born; what place was assigned to us at the start; how to round the turning-post gently, and from what point to begin the turn; what limit should be placed on wealth; what prayers may be rightfully offered; what good there is in fresh-minted coin; how much should be spent on country and on your dear kin; what part God has ordered you to play, and at what point of the human commonwealth you have been stationed. Learn, I say, and do not grudge the trouble because your neighbour has many a jar going bad” (Loeb translation by G. G. Ramsay).]
[3. ][Persius, Satires, 5.34–42: “at an age when the path of life is doubtful, and wanderings, ignorant of life, parted my trembling soul into the branching crossways—I placed myself into your hands, Cornutus; you took up my tender years in your Socratic bosom. Your rule, applied with unseen skill, straightened out the crooked morals; my soul, struggling to be mastered, was moulded by your reason, and took on features under your plastic thumb. With you, I remember, did I pass long days, with you.”]
[4. ][Horace, Odes, 4.9.30–52: “Not thee, O Lollius, will I leave unsung, unhonoured by my verse; nor will I suffer envious forgetfulness to prey undisturbed upon thy many exploits. A mind thou hast, experienced in affairs, well-poised in weal or woe, punishing greed, fraud, holding aloof from money that draws all things to itself, thou a consul not of a single year, but so oft as, a judge righteous and true, thou preferrest honour to expediency, rejectest with high disdain the bribes of guilty men, and bearest thine arms victorious through opposing hosts. Not him who possesses much, would one rightly call the happy man; he more fitly gains that name who knows how to use with wisdom the blessings of the gods, to endure hard poverty, and who fears dishonour worse than death, not afraid to die for cherished friends or fatherland.”]
[5. ][Horace, Ars Poetica, 312–15: “He who has learned what he owes his country and his friends, what love is due a parent, a brother, and a guest, what is imposed on senator and judge, what is the function of a general sent to war” (Loeb translation by H. Rushton Fairclough).]
[6. ][Horace, Satires, 1.4.105–12: “’Tis a habit the best of fathers taught me, for, to enable me to steer clear of follies, he would brand them, one by one, by his examples. Whenever he would encourage me to live thriftily, frugally, and content with what he had saved for me, ‘Do you not see,’ he would say, ‘how badly fares young Albius, and how poor is Baius? A striking lesson not to waste one’s patrimony!’ When he would deter me from a vulgar amour, ‘Don’t be like Scetanus’ ” (Loeb translation by H. Rushton Fairclough).]
[7. ][Horace, Satires, 1.4.133–36: “for when my couch welcomes me or I stroll in the colonnade, I do not fail myself: ‘This is the better course: if I do that, I shall fare more happily: thus I shall delight the friends I meet.’”]
[8. ]Plato’s Phaedon.
[9. ][Anthony, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, foreword by Douglas Den Uyl (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001), 1:177–87.
[10. ][Horace, Epistles, 1.1.34–36: “Are you swelling with ambition? There are fixed charms. … There are spells and sayings whereby you may soothe the pain and cast much of the malady aside.” (Turnbull has altered the order of the lines. His version runs line 36, line 34, line 35.)]
[11. ][Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 5.2.5: “O vitae philosophia dux, o virtutis indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum!” “O philosophy, thou guide of life, o thou explorer of virtue and expeller of vice!” (Loeb translation by J. E. King).]
[12. ][Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 5.2.5: “thou hast discovered law, thou hast been the teachers of morality and order. … Moreover one day well spent and in accordance with thy lessons is to be preferred to an eternity of error.”]