John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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On the SCOPE


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CARDINAL NEWMAN'S lectures on the " Scope and
Nature of University Education " have quite speqjal
interest as a turning-point in his mental history. At
Oxford he was regarded as the head of the Reaction-
aries, the unflinching opponent of all " liberalism " in
Theology. In later life he was called by many a
" Liberal Catholic," and though he most strongly
repudiated that epithet he did admit in 1866 his
" enthusiastic agreement " with the general line of
thought of Montalembert and Lacordaire who gloried
in the title of "Liberal Catholic." Later on came a
phenomenon yet more surprising on the surface. Such
advocates of Modernism as Abb6 Loisy and M. Leroy
claimed Newman's philosophical thought as being in
line with their own speculations. The fact is that labels
and watchwords are constantly so inadequate as to
be quite misleading. Not all opponents of Liberalism
have been illiberal. All Newman's earlier career
emphasised his opposition to Liberalism. His later
years brought in evidence his true liberality. Newman
was never a Modernist, Jbut he was keenly alive to the
changes of outlook wrought by the thought and
research of modern days. One side of his thought was
emphasised at Oxford, another was developed in
later Catholic life. And the change was brought about
by the circumstances in which these lectures were

The inadequacy of popular watchwords explains in
other cases also the gradual fusion of schools of thought



which had been at first simply opposed to one another.
While liberal thinkers have claimed as their ally a man
whose opposition to Liberalism was the very keynote of
his mission at Oxford, we have seen a similar alliance in
later times between the descendants within the Church
of England of the two opposite schools which divided
Oxford in the forties. The High Church party which
long carried on the traditions of Tractarianism startled
the world in 1889 by a manifesto on behalf of breadth
in theology the famous Lux Mundi. The writers I
allude to singled out especially the subject of Biblical
inspiration and the historical treatment of dogma,
both of which had been exclusively associated in
earlier years with those implacable foes of Tractarian-
ism, the disciples of Dr. Arnold. The old opposition
in matters theological was between the High Church
and the Broad Church, though the phrase " Broad
Church " was subsequent to Newman's day. But Lux
Mundi, whose authors all claimed to be High Church-
men, was as broad as it was high in its theology. It
differed from Broad Church theology in retaining the
idea of the Catholic Church, which the Oxford Move-
ment had brought into evidence, as of paramount
importance both in theology and in the philosophy of

Newman never exhibited the highly speculative
vein apparent in Lux Mundi. But throughout his
opposition to unrestrained theological Liberalism, a
Liberalism which threw overboard the idea of a cor-
porate church and the sacredness of tradition, he had
been alive to the necessity of facing fearlessly the new
outlook presented by advancing science and research.
We can see this clearly in the first of the Oxford


University Sermons preached when he was only twenty-
five years old. In the days of the Oxford Movement
no doubt he was a party man and his party was in a
sense reactionary. But to careful readers of- the Uni-
versity Sermons and the Essay on Development the
width of his outlook was quite apparent. His concep-
tion of the development of Christian doctrine as
gradually bringing into view fresh aspects of truth
really made room for the advancement of secular
knowledge, its gradual reconciliation with the essence
of traditional Catholic truth, and the necessary
modifications in the analysis of that truth. What
changed with him was, as I have said, not so much
his views as his party and his emphasis. He had
opposite dangers to face in the earlier and the later
period. At Oxford he feared that Christianity would
be swept away by the tide of rationalistic Liberalism
which lost sight of the profound truths contained in
the Christian tradition and derived from revelation.
In later years his fear was exactly the opposite. He
was alive to the danger lest theological narrowness
might be an equally dangerous opponent to Christi-
anity by bringing about an apparent alliance between
Orthodoxy and Obscurantism. The lectures here
published mark the point at which this change of
emphasis began. Trhey are one long plea for the com-
patibility of a complete culture of mind and all the
frankness it entails with adherence to the Catholic
faith. He was, as Rector of a Catholic University, face
to face with the necessity of marking out for sharp-
witted young men an attitude towards science and
theology which was entirely reasonable. The task
before him was the formation in the undergraduate of


a mentality which should be at once thoroughly edu-
cated and thoroughly religious. He declares in his own
preface to these lectures that heroes not regard a
University as concerned with research, only witii *
teaching and education. But when he entered on the
duties of his office he saw that this hard and fast line
could not be drawn. A thoughtful Catholic must take
account of problems which every other thoughtful
man was discussing. It was impossible in a time of
constant scientific movement to disregard or be
indifferent to the results of research.

The lectures on the Scope and Nature of University
Education, therefore, led up to his great plea for in-
tellectual liberty in a University. That plea is con-
tained in the lecture on Christianity and Scientific
Investigation which is published in the larger volume
known as The Idea of a University, and is given at the
end of the present book^In the face of constantly
advancing science and criticism the attitude of the
thoughtful Catholic in their regard was an urgent ques-
tion, and he hoped gradually to define that attitude in
a University which should contain experts in all the
sciences, and which being a learned body might consent
to allow the complete freedom of discussion which is
indispensable to true scientific progress. The danger of
scandal and of upsetting the popular mind by novel
views would be reduced to a minimum in discus-
sions conducted not by a mixed body of learned and
unlearned in the periodical press, but among specialists
in a University. Thus tl|e conception of a University f
as a place in which young men should form habits of I
frank cultivated and accurate thought was enlarged 1
in the lecture on Christianity and Scientific Investiga- j


tion so as to include the fuller idea of a great institution
which should gradually define the attitude of a culti-
vated Catholic towards scientific investigation and
work out some approach to a synthesis between all
the sciences, including the science of theology. Un-
doubtedly the mediaeval Universities had in a very
different state of the scientific world performed this
function, and his ambition was that a Catholic Univer-
sity might once again perform a similar work in the
nineteenth century.

/ " What an empire is in political history," he writes
in the lecture of which I speak, " such is a University
in the sphere of philosophy and research. It is, as I
V have said, the high protecting power of all knowledge
^ and science, of fact and principle, of inquiry and dis-
covery, of experiment and speculation; it maps out
the territory of the intellect, and sees that the boun-
daries of each province are religiously respected, and
that there is neither encroachment nor surrender on
any side. It acts as umpire between truth and truth,
and, taking into account the nature and importance of
each, assigns to all their due order of precedence. It
maintains no one department of thought exclusively,
however ample and noble; and it sacrifices none. It
is deferential and loyal, according to their respective
weight, to the claims of literature, of physical research,
of history, of metaphysics, of theological science. It is
impartial towards them all, and promotes each in its
own place and for its own object. It is ancillary cer-
tainly, and of necessity, to the Catholic Church; but
in the same way that one of the (Queen's judges is an
officer of the Queen's, and nevertheless determines


certain legal proceedings between the Queen and her
subjects. . . . Its immediate end (with which alone
we have here to do) is to secure the due disposition,
according to one sovereign order, and the cultivation in
that order, of all the provinces and methods of thought
which the human intellect has created. In this point
of view, its several professors are like the ministers of
various political powers at one court or conference.
They represent their respective sciences, and attend
to the private interests of those sciences respectively;
and, should dispute arise between those sciences, they
are the persons to talk over and arrange it, without
risk of extravagant pretensions on any side, of angry
collision, or of popular commotion. A liberal philo-
sophy becomes the habit of minds thus exercised;
a breadth and spaciousness of thought, in which lines,
seemingly parallel, may converge at leisure, and
principles, recognised as incommensurable, may be
safely antagonistic."

Whether Newman's idea will ever be practicable it
is hard to say; this must largely depend on the readi-
ness of Rome to accord to universities something of
the weight and influence which they had in the Middle
Ages. The idea, however, was well worth suggesting,
and if it could be realised its importance can hardly be
exaggerated. Such an institution as he conceived would
constitute a reliable authority where mere private judg-
ment might in most~cases be hopelessly at fault for
individuals cannot be specialists all round. In the
ever-shifting intellectual scene wrought by the active
thought and research of our day Christians fall chiefly
into two parties. There are on the one hand the


independent intellectual freelances who with inevit-
ably inadequate knowledge judge entirely for them-
selves on these complex questions, and on the other
hand there are the more anxious and narrow spirits
who adhere to traditionary views and shrink from
change. This latter class includes many who are little
alive to facts brought to light by modern research
which are to frank minds simply undeniable. This
general division holds good outside the Roman Catholic
body, but it is that body which Newman had especially
in his mind. In the Catholic Church itself authority
normally acts, as Newman points out in the Apologia,
as a check on the developments which are desired by
eager intellectual reformers who are generally some-
what undiscriminating and one -sided, though they
may be pioneers of true advance. Thus in appearance,
at all events, authority and enlightened thought are
ranged on opposite sides. But Newman sought to
institute a subordinate authority which should repre-
sent simply and solely genuine knowledge and thought
exercised in the interests of truth. Such an authority
might inspire the freelances with respect. The supreme
tribunals in Rome itself are quite inevitably influenced
not solely by the interests of scientific truth, but to a
great extent by considerations of ecclesiastical exipedi-
ency L And in cases where the interests of truth are
urgently pressing, a temporising policy on their part
might exasperate the intellectual minority. Truth is,
as Newman points out in his preface to the Via Media,
only one of the three interests which the Church
safeguards. She has to consider also the interests of
devotion, and the interests of rulej and, as he adds, the
guiding principle of the jruler is expediency. Such a
~ ~ ""' """"xiu


University as Newman contemplated, on the other
hand, would reach its synthesis or its practical modus
vivendi between theology and modern research guided
solely by scientific interests theology, of course,
being included among the sciences. The results thus
reached would place at the disposal of Home a body
of probable conclusions which must command the
respect of scholars and thoughtful men. A letter
written by Newman to myself only two years before he
died showed that this idea never deserted him. If it
could be achieved it would make this great difference
in the situation, that Home, instead of feeling that the
immediate alternative lay between taking sides in
these controversies either with theologians of exces-
sively conservative tendencies or else with the highly
speculative theorists like Abb6 Loisy, would have
a third course ready marked out; Roman tribunals
could utilise in their decisions the results of the dis-
cussions between the learned men in the Catholic

The bearing of this on matters which have anxiously
interested the public in recent years is obvious. The
history of Modernism would have been widely different
had Newman's ideal been fully realised. Highly sensi-
tive and easily overwrought intellectual natures may
be driven to extremes by a lack of understanding in
authoritative quarters of the problems which exercise
them intensely. It was a sense of this danger which
led many of us so eagerly to desire the formation of a
Biblical commission which should fulfil in the depart-
ment of Biblical exegesis the functions of Newman's
ideal University. But such a commission seated in
Rome itself becomes of its nature official. Being


official, considerations of expediency are sure to
prevail at times over considerations of intellectual
truth, and it tends to conform to the law which New-
man recognised, that Rome must be conservative;
that Rome's normal function is to be a brake^on
development, l^he Jess responsible and less final
authority of a University would be in quite a different
position. Constant pressure would be exercised on
the teaching body by the enquiring minds of thought-
ful young men which needed reasonable satisfaction.
Such young men desire to be at once religious and
rational. Cheap apologetics which do not carry
genuine conviction would inevitably be set aside, and it
would be impossible to ignore patent facts in the early
history of the Church or the text of the Bible. If the
presence of first-rate experts were secured, a rational
and coherent body of thought must gradually be
wrought out by the intercourse between them. The
larger -minded theologians and the Christian men of
science would find a modus vivendi. This was the ideal
of Cardinal Mercier in founding the Institut de St.
Thomas at Louvain, and it lay at the root of his saying
that every theologian should be in our day also a man
of science.

If such a body were habitually tolerated by Roman
authority men like Loisy and Tyrrell, instead of being
goaded to extremes by total lack of sympathy in
authoritative quarters, might conceivable have taken
their place in the good work, content to bear a part in
it and contributing their conclusions to the common
stock of discussion, but ready to refrain from insist-
ing on them in instances where no interpretation of
Catholic theology could admit them. Such scholars


living in the society of other learned men who under-
stood them would not improbably have become
genuinely more moderate from the presence of an
opposition which was really scientific. There is much
in Tyrrell's history which points to this possibility,
but anyhow, even assuming that he and Loisy were
men who would inevitably have broken with Catholic
teaching however interpreted, there are beyond ques-
tion many whom the existence of such a University as
Newman desired and its respectful recognition by
authority would affect in the way I have described.
It is hardly too much to say that the Encyclical
Pascendi would not have been written had New-
man's ideal been realised, for the policy marked out
by that Encyclical might easily lead to the almost
indiscriminate proscription of ^ novelty as danger-
\V>us. Ilm tiot denying that theologians by collating
this Encyclical with other documents equally authori-
tative may find that a satisfactory via media has
sanction from Home. Indeed, shortly after its publica-
tion the Professor of Biblical exegesis at the Institut
Catholique in Paris pointed this out in a remarkable
lecture. But the Encyclical Pascendi read by itself is
an eloquent witness to just that state of things I have
spoken of which Newman desired to remedy, namely,
that Rome felt herself to be solicited by opposite
extreme parties; that she felt the practical alternative
to lie between sanctioning unbridled liberty and taking
measures of the utmost severity against innovation.
This arose from the absence of a recognised body of
discriminating thought in these complex questions.
The work of discriminating is arduous, and can only
be done by learned men. It must be a work of time, it


cannot be extemporised to meet an emergency. A
University with its continuous life of thought and
learning is just the machinery that is required. It is
not a court which is called u]?on to hear evidence and
decide at a moment of crisis; it is an ever -living, ever-
working machine which is constantly at work on these
problems and has first-rate experts at its disposal.

In point of fact, Newman's exposition of the func-
tions of the ideal Catholic University was an

portion of his vindication of the claims of authority
against the claims of private judgment. His early
quarrel with the liberals was that they strove to en-
force the speculation of the hour against the gradually
accumulating knowledge due to the experience of the
race. They ignored those grounds of belief which had
their roots in experience and were beyond the access
of the individual reason. This view is apparent in a
remarkable letter to his mother written as early as
1829. The contest became primarily ecclesiastical and
theological when the Oxford Movement began in
1833. But the philosophy which underlay his views
was the philosophy of Coleridge. Like Coleridge he
vindicated the claims of tradition as representing the
thought of great minds and the revelation of Christ
Himself. Tradition thus supplies the human race with
knowledge not provable by the individual reason. The
mind of the ages was an authority which the individual
thinker had no right to set aside because he could not
establish by his own demonstration what was really based
on the experience and insight of many minds in the past.
The corporate conviction which had its roots in past
experience, and had stood the test of later experience,
was an authoritative basis on which the individual
xvii 6



thinker could work. It was only when later experience

fwas at variance with traditional belief s that their inter-
pretation must be modified. The business of the indivi-
dual was to continue the work of his predecessors and
correct it in detail, not to wreck it. But he was to
continue this work, as his ancestors had wrought it
i out, by co-operative reasoning which should issue in
i a body of more or less authoritative conclusions. While
i he opposed " reason " when it meant the individual's
/ private judgment when it presumed to set aside the
t acquisitions of the race, he regarded " reason " as abso-
i lutely supreme in the domain of science. For science
was itself organised experience. And he contemplated
the erection of a fresh authority which should represent
contemporary thought and science and should correct
and enlarge, but not set aside the legacy we have
received from the past.

Hence the apparently opposite language he uses at
different times in regard to human " reason," which
seems at first sight so perplexing. He seems at once
to be the critic of reason and its staunch supporter.
The " usurpations of reason " were a favourite theme
in Oxford days. These usurpations are dwelt on even
fin the Apologia. The tendency of the human reason
freely exercised is, he there maintains, to destroy
religious belief. That he used such language in 1864
is a fact which should give pause to any idea that there
was a real change in Newman's fundamental views.
What he had said in 1839 he repeated in 1864. On the
other hand, in the lecture I am considering he regards
human reason as supreme. If it really reaches a
demonstration which is at variance with received
religious opinions it means, he contends, that those


opinions though they may have been even supposed
to be part of revealed truth, are really only opinions
which have become confused by Christians with
revelation. But grave innovations on received views I
cannot wisely be allowed to prevail on the strength of ^ <
he ipse dixit of a private individual. The ideal Uni-
versity which welcomes di cussion among experts is J
the terrain in which such conclusions gradually become^^^
corporate and authoritative. It is the intellectual
authority of the day which at once uses and controls
private judgment, as the accumulations of past experi-
ence themselves are the outcome of co-operation among
many minds which have mutually corrected each
other. The Essay on Development in its early chapters
describes this co-operation in the past in the domain
of theology itself. The lecture on Christianity and
Scientific Investigation describes it in the present in
the field of all the sciences, theology included.

"... I am making no outrageous request," he
writes, " when, in the name of a University, I ask
religious writers, jurists, anatomists, physiologists,
chemists, geologists, and historians, to go on quietly,
and in a neighbourly way, in their own respective lines
of speculation, research and experiment, with full
faith in the consistency of that multiform truth,
which they share between them, in a generous con-
fidence that they will be ultimately consistent, one
and all, in their combined results, though there may
be momentary collisions, awkward appearances, and
many forebodings and prophecies of contrariety, and
at all times things hard to the Imagination, though y
not, I repeat, to the Reason. It surely is not asking


them a great deal to beg of them since they are forced
to admit mysteries in the truths of Revelation, taken
by themselves, and in the truths of Reason, taken by
themselves to beg of them, I say, to keep the peace,
to live in good -will, and to exercise equanimity, if,
when Nature and Revelation are compared with each
other, there be, as I have said, discrepancies not in
the issue, but in the reasonings, the circumstances,
the associations, the anticipations, the accidents,
proper to their respective teachings. ... He who
believes Revelation with that absolute faith which is
the prerogative of a Catholic, is not the nervous
creature who startles at every sudden sound, and is
fluttered by every strange or novel appearance which
I meets his eyes. He has no sort of apprehension, he
' laughs at the idea, that anything can be discovered
{by any other scientific method, wJuok "can contradict
any one of the dogmas of his religion. He knows full
fwell tnereisTio'scieSS^whifttever, but, in the course of
its extension, runs the risk of infringing, without any
meaning of offence on its own part, the path of other
sciences: and he knows also that, if there be any one
science which, from its sovereign and unassailable
position, can calmly bear such unintentional collisions

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 1 of 22)