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The God who raised our way of life to order
It should be borne in mind, however, that these examples are illustrious examples, exceptional instances in the world's life, and not, by any means, to be regarded as the probable, frequent results of mere intellectual culture; but they are worthy of consideration in support of the position that the pure, and comprehensive, and careful cultivation of the intellect leads in the right direction.
The neglect, of which we may as educators complain, is in the character of the intellectual culture given. It is too purely technical, and makes no appeal to the higher powers of the intellect, by whose aid, chiefly, the truths of life are to be seen.
And the term culture must have a broader signification than is usually given to it. If the child is from the first trained to realize that education is the business of life, and that the work is to be self-performed, if performed at all, he is likely to advance to those investigations, and to engage in those reflections, calculated to exert a beneficial influence over his conduct. Nor can we easily conceive of the security furnished by the habit of study and investigation. Idleness is a danger. Industry is a virtue.
I hope not to be understood as maintaining the sufficiency of intellectual culture, however broad, and generous, and thorough it may be; but as desiring to repel those theories which assume that intellectual culture has no moral tendency or value.
PROF. PHELPS. Mr. President, — Had I not, some days since, accepted your kind invitation to appear here and aid in the discussion of this question, I should have remained silent. But it is one of the articles in my own creed to try, at least, to perform what is promised.
Allow me, in offering a few observations on this question, to congratulate you, or the gentleman who proposed the question, on the peculiarly felicitous manner in which he has given it expression. When I first read it, I at once decided that the only discussion needed was, to say “yes, sir,” and sit down. The question is not, “Does intellectual culture make moral men and moral women?” but, “Has purely intellectual culture a tendency to promote good morals ? ".
Let me first define what I mean by good morals; or in what do they consist ? Second, what is purely intellectual culture? Third, what is the relation between them, if there be any ? · I should define good morals to consist in right willing. That is a definition which will bear reflection. After giving to it considerable thought, I have come to the con. clusion that it is broad enough, and that it covers the whole ground.
At this point I desire to make one remark, which is, that I recognize no code of morals as worthy our attention which is not founded upon the Holy Scriptures and the religion of Jesus Christ.
Good morals, then, consist essentially in right willing. Secondly, what are the intellectual faculties? It seems to me that our intellectual faculties may be enumerated thus. First, we have the faculty of consciousness, which gives us intuitions concerning the phenomena of our minds, our spiritual nature. Second, we have sense, which gives us intuitions of the phenomena of the material world in which we live, move, and have our being. Third, we have reason, by means of which we apprehend those truths which are immutable and eternal, truths which ought to be the guide of our life, and which are, after all, but the expression of the thoughts of the Divine Mind. These I should denominate the primary intellectual faculties.
We have secondary ones. For example, we have memory, judgment, the power of association, &c. Now, by the joint exercise of these faculties, certain results are produced. What are they? Generalizing them, it seems to me, they may be summed up as follows. The first exercise of our intellectual faculties is perception, which I would define to be an apprehension of external qualities. It also embraces an apprehension of the laws and operations of our own minds. Secondly, we have the higher result of conception. Our conceptions are generated by the combination of abstractions from our perceptions ; and the third result is that of reason, and, as I have before remarked, it is through the reasoning power that we rise to the apprehension of those truths which are immutable and eternal, and which should be the guides of our life. Besides these intellectual operations we have certain emotions and feelings. Now what is the true office of these intellectual operations and emotions, but to aid us in willing to do right. It seems to me that all right volition must be brought about through the exercise of the subordinate powers. If, therefore, my definition of good morals be correct; namely, that it consists in right willing, and if it is by the aid of the intellectual faculties that we are enabled to discern those immutable truths, those laws of duty, let me ask you, Sir, whether there is any relation between a pure intellectual culture, which would consist in the development of these faculties, and the production of any moral result. It seems to me that the relation is inseparable, and that it is almost a self-evident truth that purely intellectual culture has a tendency to promote good morals.
But I will go a step further. I may exercise my intellectual faculties upon the sublime science of astronomy, or the equally sublime science of geology ; I may exercise my intellectual faculties upon any department of the material universe, and shall I not, as the direct result of the investigation of this subject, behold evidences of infinite wisdom, of infinite power, and infinite love? Has not the sublime science of astronomy, or geology, or any other department of natural history, the power to generate noble and elevated emotions? And do not these noble emotions elevate our nature and ennoble our lives? It seems to me that to doubt this would be to ignore those laws which are embodied in the very organization of our spiritual being. My brief experiencc has taught me not to be so uncharitable as to say that all the errors of the heart which we commit are the result of the errors of the heart itself. No, I believe that the contrary is the case, that some of the worst errors which the heart is led to commit are produced either directly or indirectly by errors of the judgment. Is it of any importance that our intellectual faculties be so sharpened by culture that we shall be enabled to come to correct conclusions upon any and all questions which may be presented to us? It seems to me that it is; and if it be important that we be able to form correct conclusions as to matters of duty, and if these conclusions are reached through the exercise of the intellectual faculties, have they not something to do with good morals ? Or, at least, has not intellectual culture a tendency to promote good morals ?
But I think it is necessary to make another distinction. I think I am not ignorant of the real causes which have given rise to the agitation of this question. Our system of public education has been denounced as an infidel system, as an immoral system, with what justice or injustice it is not for me, on the present occasion, to say. But I verily believe that whatever there may have been in the conduct of our public schools to condemn, has pre-eminently arisen from the defective education given in them, that is, in intellectual cultyre. When I use that term I have a right to use it in its highest and truest sense, and not in any perverted sense. I believe the greatest want in regard to our public school system, at the present day, is that of securing sound, philosophical, intellectual training. There are teachers in our schools who exert a good moral influence, whose lives and characters are the exemplification of all that is true, and honest, and lovely, and of good report, who have not the ability nor the skill to administer this same purely intellectual culture of which we are speaking. I believe the affirmative of this question can be proved from almost any stand-point.
I go a step further. I think we are unprepared for the proper discussion of this question. I think its proper discussion involves questions which lie at the foundation of the education of the human being, questions upon which we are to-day, all at sea. I believe that God is the author of this mind of ours ; that he has created it and organized it upon a plan ; I believe that our intellectual operations proceed in accordance with laws which are
believe further, that in the great universe of truth, which must form the object of our thoughts and investigations, there is also law. I believe there is a law in the mind, which answers to a corresponding law in the great series of truths which may form, and do form, and which alone can form, the objects of human investigation. In other words, I believe there is such a thing as the natural order of development of the human faculties, and also such a thing as a natural order in the development, in the