图书图片
PDF
ePub

loctri

ntain

iritu

one

юриім

insid I eve

"the

ssible

earth

PHILOSOPHY AND EDUCATION:

BY

Ho SOL

J. D. MORELL, ESQ., M. A.,

Author of the "History of Modern Philosophy," &c.

[blocks in formation]

[Delivered in the Manchester Mechanics' Institution.]

15

[ocr errors]

The two words " Philosophy" and "Education" or designate, unless 'I mistake, the two main Ideas du which institutions such as this are intended to keep before the mind of the age; and the two chief ends they are designed to subserve. Your object is twoSe fold;-to aid the progressive education of those around you, and to make that education eminently philosophic. Now the term Philosophy, as you well know, means the love of wisdom; and the word Education includes under it all the aids and appliances, by which that love may be nurtured in the human bosom; -nurtured until it fructify into the rich possession of wisdom itself. Education then implies the means,— Philosophy, (in the highest sense of the word, as including both the love and the progressive attainment of wisdom)-Philosophy, I say, means the end. The end, i. e., of all our efforts after mental enlightenment and intellectual culture.

[ocr errors]

There was a deep and wondrous truth embodied by the old Greek sages in the very word philosophy

itself; they shewed, by the very use of the term, that according to their apprehension, the love of wisdom is the real goal of all intellectual endeavour. So that, just in the same way as Aristotle affirmed the highest good to consist not in a work to be performed, or possession attained, but in an energy of mind, the very exercise of which is happiness itself; in like manner the highest intellectual development was seen to consist not in a store of positive knowledge, laid up within us, but in that love of wisdom which brings our whole nature into union and sympathy with the truth. Now, this is, assuredly, a view of the case which well deserves to be looked at and pondered too in the present age. We are far too apt to think that we are perfecting our mental education, and pursuing the high aims of philosophy, when we are merely throwing a heap of facts, digested or undigested, into the mind. One person shews us perhaps some strange combinations of chemical elements— and we plume ourselves in the thought of surprising nature in some of her cunning secrets; without ever thinking whether we are really the wiser for it; whether our observation ever fructifies into knowledge; or whether it increases our sympathy for truth itself. Another person tells us the names of all the bones in our body-or gives us a list of hard words, by which we may designate every bit of flesh, and tendon, and skin, and nerve about us, with their uses and functions; and straightway we begin to think that we know all about human nature; nay, perhaps, that by measuring a few lobes of brain on a 12-inch rule, we may tell a man's whole destination in life, and assign all the moral forces, which shall enter into his future career, until he end it either in the odour of sanctity, or a malefactor on the gallows. We forget that human nature is not so simple a matter as this would make it; that the astounding mystery of existence is not to be read off upon a graduated scale; that mere facts neither in nature,

nor in humanity, can shew us the unity of all Truth, or supply the place of a mental insight, grounded in a deep sympathy with the object of research.

[ocr errors]

I do not intend of course to say any thing against the knowledge of facts; they are undoubtedly the very alphabet of all science; and we might as well speak as philologists against the 26 letters of the alphabet itself, for not expressing the life and soul of a language, as speak against facts because they cannot embody the high ideas of pure science. All I want you to understand is that facts, however numerous, or however necessary, do not constitute either science, or philosophy; and that, therefore, they do not compass the true end of human educa tion; i. e., do not lead by any necessity either to the love of wisdom, or to wisdom itself. We may be prompted to acquire them by all kinds of equivocal motives, by mere curiosity,-by a love of display,by an ambition to appear wiser than we are,-by the hope of gain, by the shame attached to ignorance. Facts, pursued with such intents, when they have once answered their purpose, lie like so much worthless lumber in the memory,-neither feeding us, nor improving us, nor elevating us to higher purposes, or purer prospects. The old Greeks did not call this philosophy. They, at least, saw that a truly educated mind must love truth,-love it not from any mean and equivocal motives, but love it for its own sake. And they were right,-right both in principle and practice. If education means the full and perfect culture of our nature, we know that that nature does not become refined by facts but by love. It is the love of what is good and true which can alone master the love of what is evil and untrue. No amount of facts can do this; they cannot cope with passion; they cannot touch the springs of pure desire; it is only when the love of truth for its own sake has been developed,-developed by any conceivable process of mental education; that there is a vital

principle at work within us, which harmonises the faculties-guides the sympathies, and perfects the whole man.

Well then, if this be the genuine result of a true education, it is very important for us to know something about the process of it-to see the steps before us by which the faculties are unfolded;-and so unfolded that they shall lead us naturally to the love of wisdom as the great end.

This is the problem we have now to investigate ;and in doing so we see how closely philosophy (in its highest sense) and human education are united. True philosophy alone can shew us clearly the precise end we have to aim at in education; it alone can explain in what consists the harmonious development of the faculties, intellectual, emotional and practical; and without having this end clearly in view, it is impossible that we can appreciate, much less partially realise, the means. If we know, on the other hand, what the love of wisdom is, and what development of faculty it involves, we can the better trace through all the windings of our nature, the process by which it is attained. Let us then try to borrow the light of philosophy, to aid us in assigning the course of a true human education.

It is hardly necessary to premise, that in order to educate the mind rightly; in order to draw forth its faculties into free and harmonious exercise, we must understand something about it; and not go to our work blindly or on merely empirical principles. What conception, then, have we to form of the mind in the outset? Two conceptions, we know, have been very current in modern times. First-the materialistic, which regards sensation, thought, and feeling, &c., simply as the functions of our organic frame; and secondly, the dualistic, which regards the mind and body, as two entirely separate existences which might very well subsist quite apart from each other, but which have been united for a time for

their mutual aid, convenience, and enjoyment. To enter into the arguments by which each of these hypotheses are supported, would lead us quite out of our path in the present enquiry; all I can say isthat after advocates have done their very best to reconcile each of them with facts, they both remain alike hampered with perplexities, difficulties, anomalies, and contradictions. The materialist runs into spiritualism while he is in the very act of protesting against it, which only shews us that you cannot possibly talk about mind in the language of pure materialism, without running into self-contradiction. The very terms employed are wholly incommensurable. On the other hand, if we take the dualistic hypothesis, then, the direct and immediate interworking of bodily and mental agencies,-the way in which a physical effect transforms itself into a mental phenomenon, and a mental effect into a physical phenomenon, is so startling and so extraordinary, that we feel insensibly prompted to assign a closer union between mind and body than the ordinary dualistic conception would admit. The truth lies assuredly in some intermediate idea; an idea perhaps which makes the very unity of the individual to consist in the perfect blending of the real and the ideal ; the material and the spiritual in one creation. In the very first cell-germ of the human organisation there is a law, an operative-law of the divinity localised in a materal point; i. e., in other words, there is a thought of the creator's mind brought, then and there, under the conditions, and within the limits of time and space. And throughout all the subsequent development of mind and body, we see simply the unfolding of this germ;-the ideal form and the real matter (in which it is embodied) constituting together the living man,-the concrete individual.

These speculations would of course be very worthless, did they not point us to a practical result, and that result is the immense importance of physical

« 上一页继续 »