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On the scope & nature of university education online

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the divine who determined the orbit of Jupiter by the
Pentateuch, why am I to be accused of cowardice or
illiberality, because I will not tolerate their attempt
in turn to theologise by means of Science ? And if
experimentalists would be sure to cry out, did I attempt
to install the Thomist philosophy in the schools of
astronomy and medicine, why may not I, when Divine
Science is ostracised, and La Place, or Buffon, or
Humboldt, sits down in its chair, why may not I
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OF KNOWLEDGE ON THEOLOGY

fairly protest against their exclusiveness, and demand
the emancipation of Theology ?

And now I consider I have said enough in proof of
the first point, which I undertook to maintain, viz.,
the claim of Theology to be represented among the
Chairs of a University. I have shown, I think, that
exclusiveness really attaches, not to those who support
that claim, but to those who dispute it. I have argued
in its behalf, first, from the consideration that, whereas
it is the very profession of a University to teach all
sciences, on this account it cannot exclude Theology
without being untrue to its profession. Next, I have
said that, all sciences being connected together, and
having bearings one on another, it is impossible to teach
them all thoroughly, unless they all are taken into ac-
count, and Theology among them. Moreover, I have
insisted on the important influence, which Theology in
matter of fact does and must exercise over a great
variety of sciences, completing and correcting them ;
so that, granting it to be a real science occupied upon
truth, it cannot be omitted without great prejudice to
the teaching of the rest. And lastly, I have urged
that, supposing Theology be not taught, its province
will not simply be neglected, but will be actually
usurped by other sciences, which will teach, without
warrant, conclusions of their own in a subject-matter
which needs its own proper principles for its due
formation and disposition.

Abstract statements are always unsatisfactory ; these,
as I have already observed, could be illustrated at far
greater length than the time allotted to me for the pur-
pose has allowed. Let me hope that I have said enough
upon the subject to suggest thoughts, which those who
take an interest in it may pursue for themselves.




DISCOURSE IV

LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE ITS OWN END

UNIVERSITY may be considered with re-
ference either to its Students or to its Studies ;
and the principle, that all Knowledge is a
whole and the separate Sciences parts of one, which I
have hitherto been using in behalf of its studies, is
equally important when we direct our attention to its
students. Now then I turn to the students, and shall
consider the education which, by virtue of this prin-
ciple, a University will give them ; and thus I shall
be introduced, gentlemen, to the second question,
which I proposed to discuss, viz., whether and in
what sense its teaching, viewed relatively to the taught,
carries the attribute of Utility along with it.

I have said that all branches of knowledge are con-
nected together, because the subject-matter of know-
ledge is intimately united in itself, as being the
great Creator and His work. Hence it is that the
Sciences, into which our knowledge may be said to be
cast, have multiplied bearings one on another, and an
internal sympathy, and admit, or rather demand, com-
parison and adjustment. They complete, correct,
balance each other. This consideration, if well-
founded, must be taken into account, not only as
regards the attainment of truth, which is their common
end, but as regards the influence which they exercise
9



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE

upon those whose education consists in the study of
them. I have said already, that to give undue pro-
minence to one is to be unjust to another ; to neglect or
supersede these is to divert those from their proper
object. It is to unsettle the boundary lines between
science and science, to disturb their action, to destroy
the harmony which binds them together. Such a pro-
ceeding will have a corresponding effect when intro-
^duced into a place of education. There is no science
but tells a different tale, when viewed as a portion of a
) whole, from what it is likely to suggest when taken
f by itself, without the safeguard, as I may call it, of
others.

Let me make use of an illustration. In the com-
bination of colours, very different effects are produced
by a difference in their selection and juxtaposition ;
red, green, and white change their shades, according
to the contrast to which they are submitted. And, in.
like manner, the drift and meaning of a branch of
knowledge varies with the company in which it is
introduced to the student. If his reading is confined
simply to one subject, however such division of labour
may favour the advancement of a particular pursuit, a
point into which I do not here enter, certainly it has
a tendency to contract his mind. If it is incorporated
with others, it depends on those others as to the kind
of influence which it exerts upon him. Thus the
Classics, which in England are the means of refining
the taste, have in France subserved the spread of re-
volutionary and deistical doctrines. In Metaphysics,
again, Butler's " Analogy of Religion," which has had
so much to do with the conversion of members
of the University of Oxford, appeared to Pitt and
others, who had received a different training, to
9 1



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE

operate only in the direction of infidelity. And so
again, Watson, Bishop of LlandafF, as I think he
tells us in the narrative of his life, felt the science
of Mathematics to indispose the mind to religious
belief, while others see in its investigations the best
defence of the Christian Mysteries. In like manner,
I suppose, Arcesilas would not have handled logic as
Aristotle, nor Aristotle have criticised poets as Plato ;
yet reasoning and poetry are subject to scientific rules.
It is a great point then to enlarge the range of
studies which a University professes, even for the sake
of the students ; and, though they cannot pursue
every subject which is open to them, they will be the
gainers by living among those and under those who
represent the whole circle. This I conceive to be the
advantage of a seat of universal learning, considered as
a place of education. An assemblage of learned men,
zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other,
are brought, by familiar intercourse and for the sake of
intellectual peace, to adjust together the claims and
relations of their reepective subjects of investigation.
They learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other.
Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought,
which the student also breathes, though in his own
case he only pursues a few sciences out of the multi-
tude. He profits by an intellectual tradition, which is
independent of particular teachers, which guides him
in his choice of subjects, and duly interprets for him
those which he chooses. He apprehends the great
outlines of knowledge, the principles on which it rests,
the scale of its parts, its lights and its shades, its great
points and its little, as he otherwise cannot appre-
hend them. Hence it is that his education is called
" Liberal." A habit of mind is formed which lasts
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ITS OWN END



through life, of which the attributes are, freedom, \
cquitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom ; or \
what in a former Discourse I have ventured to call a
philosophical habit. This then I would assign as the /
sjieqial fruit of the education furnished at a University, j
as contrasted with other places of teaching or modes of /
teaching. This is the main purpose of a University in /
its treatment of its students.

And now the question is asked me, What is the use
of it ? and my answer will constitute the main subject
of the Discourses which are to follow.

Cautious and practical thinkers, I say, will ask of
me, what, after all, is the gain of this Philosophy, of
which I make such account, and from which I promise
so much. Even supposing it to enable us to give the
degree of confidence exactly due to every science re-
spectively, and to estimate precisely the value of every
truth which is anywhere to be found, how are we
better for this master view of things which I have
been extolling ? Does it not reverse the principle of
the division of labour ? will practical objects be ob-
tained better or worse by its cultivation ? to what then
does it lead ? where does it end ? what does it do ?
how does it profit ? what does it promise ? Particular
sciences are respectively the basis of definite arts, which
carry on to results tangible and beneficial the truths
which are the subjects of the knowledge attained ;
what is the Art of this science of sciences ? what is
the fruit of such a Philosophy ? what are we proposing
to effect, what inducements do we hold out to the
Catholic community, when we set about the enterprise
of founding a University ?

I am asked what is the end of University Educa-
tion, and of the Liberal or Philosophical Knowledge
93



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE

which I conceive it to impart : I answer, that what I
have already said has been sufficient to show that it has
a very tangible, real, and sufficient end, though the end
cannot be divided from that knowledge itself. JSLnow^
ledge is capable of^jbemg^ its own end. Such is the
constitution of the human mind, that any kind of
knowledge, if it be really such, is its own reward.
And if this is true of all knowledge, it is true also of
that special Philosophy, which I have made to consist
in a comprehensive view of truth in all its branches, of
the relations of science to science, of their mutual
bearings, and their respective values. What the worth
of such an acquirement is, compared with other objects
which we seek wealth or power or honour or the
conveniences and comforts of life, I do not profess
here to discuss ; but I would maintain, and mean to
show, that it is an object, in its own nature so really
and undeniably good, as to be the compensation of a
great deal of thought in the compassing, and a great
deal of trouble in the attaining.

Now, when I say that Knowledge is, not merely a
means to something beyond it, or the preliminary of
certain arts into which it naturally resolves, but an end
sufficient to rest in and to pursue for its own sake,
surely I am uttering no paradox, for I am stating
what is both intelligible in itself, and has ever been
the common judgment of philosophers and the ordinary
feeling of mankind. I am saying what at least the
public opinion of this day ought to be slow to deny,
considering how much we have heard of late years,
in opposition to Religion, of entertaining, curious,
and various knowledge. I am but, saying what
whole volumes have been written to illustrate, by a
" selection from the records of Philosophy, Litera-
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ITS OWN END



ture, and Art, in all ages and countries, of a body
of examples, to show how the most unpropitious
circumstances have been unable to conquer an ardent
desire for the acquisition of knowledge/' L That
further advantages accrue to us and redound to others
by its possession, over and above what it is in itself,
I am very far indeed from denying ; but, independent
of these, we are satisfying a direct need of our nature
in its very acquisition ; and, whereas our nature, un-
like that of the inferior creation, does not at once
reach its perfection, but depends, in order to, it, on a
number of external aids and appliances, Knowledge,
as one of the principal gifts or accessories by which
it is completed, is valuable for what its very presence
in us does for us by a sort of opus operatum^ even
though it be turned to no further account, nor subserve
any direct end.

Hence it is that Cicero, in enumerating the various
heads of mental excellence, lays down the pursuit of
Knowledge for its own sake, as the first of them.
"This pertains most of all to human nature," he
says, " for we are all of us drawn to the pursuit of
Knowledge ; in which to excel we consider excellent,
whereas to mistake, to err, to be ignorant, to be
deceived, is both an evil and a disgrace." 2 And he
considers Knowledge the very first object to which
we are attracted, after the supply of our physical
wants. After the calls and duties of our animal
existence, as they may be termed, as regards our-
selves, our family, and our neighbours, follows, he
tells us, " the search after truth. Accordingly, as
soon as we escape from the pressure of necessary

1 Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties." Introd.

2 Cicer. Offic. init.

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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE

cares, forthwith we desire to see, to hear, to learn ;
and consider the knowledge of what is hidden or is
wonderful a condition of our happiness."

This passage, though it is but one of many similar
passages in a multitude of authors, I take for the very
reason that it is so familiarly known to us; and I
wish you to observe, gentlemen, how distinctly it
separates the pursuit of Knowledge from those ulterior
objects to which certainly it can be made to conduce,
and which are, I suppose, solely contemplated by the
persons who would ask of me the use of a University
or Liberal Education. So far from dreaming of the
cultivation of Knowledge directly and mainly in order
to our physical comfort and enjoyment, for the sake
of life and person, of health, of the conjugal and family
/*union, of the social tie and civil security, the great
/ Orator implies, that it is only after our physical and
/ political needs are supplied, and when we are " free
| from necessary duties and cares," that we are in a
condition for " desiring to see, to hear, and to learn."
\ Nor does he contemplate in the least degree the reflex
\ or subsequent action of Knowledge, when acquired,
\upon those material goods which we set out by secur-
ing before we seek it ; on the contrary, he expressly
denies its bearing upon social life altogether, strange
as such a procedure is to those who live after the rise
of the Baconian philosophy, and he cautions us against
/ '~such a cultivation of it asVill interfere with our duties
to our fellow- creatures. "All these methods," he
says, " are engaged in the investigation of truth ; by
the pursuit of which to be carried off from public
occupations is a transgression of duty. For the praise
of virtue lies altogether in action ; yet intermissions
often occur, and then we recur to such pursuits ; tfoT
96



ITS OWN END



to say that the incessant activity of the mind is rigor-
ous enough to carry us on in the pursuit of knowledge,
even without any exertion of our own." The idea
of benefiting society by means of "the pursuit of
science and knowledge " did not enter at all into the
motives which he would assign for their cultivation.

This was the ground of the opposition which the
elder Cato made to the introduction of Greek Philo-
sophy among his countrymen, when Carneades and his
companions, on occasion of their embassy, were charm-
ing the Roman youth with their eloquent expositions
of it. The fit representative of a practical people,
Cato estimated everything by what it produced;
whereas the Pursuit of Knowledge promised nothing
beyond Knowledge itself. He despised that refine-
ment or enlargement of mind of which he had no
experience.

Things, which can bear to be cut off from every-
thing else and yet persist in living, must have life in
themselves ; pursuits, which issue in nothing, and still
maintain their ground for ages, which are regarded as
admirable, though they have not as yet proved them-
selves to be useful, must have their sufficient end in
themselves, whatever it turn out to be. And we are
brought to the same conclusion by considering the
force of the epithet, by which the knowledge under
consideration is popularly designated. It is common
to speak of " fi^ciZipowledge," of the "liberal arts
and studies," and of a "liberal education," as the
especial characteristic or property of a University and
of a gentleman ; what is really meant by the word ?
Now, first, jn its grammatical sense it is opposed to
servile ; and by " servile work" is understood, as our
catechisms inform us, bodily labour, mechanical em-
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE

ployment, and the like, in which the mind has
little or no part. Parallel to such works are those
arts, if they deserve the name, of which the poet
speaks, 1 which owe their origin and their method to
hazard, not to skill ; as, for instance, the practice and
operations of an^ empiric. As far as this contrast m
be considered asa guide into the meaning of the
word, liberal knowledge and liberal pursuits are such ,
as belong to the mind, not to the body.

But we want something more for its explanation,
for there are bodily exercises which are liberal, and
mental exercises which are not so. For instance, in
ancient times the practitioners in medicine were com-
monly slaves ; yet it was an art as intellectual in its
nature, in spite of the pretence, fraud, and quackery
with which it might then, as now, be debased, as it
was heavenly in its aim. And so in like manner, we
contrast a liberal education with a commercial educa-
tion or a professional ; yet no one can deny that com-
merce and the professions afford scope for the highest
and most diversified powers of mind. There is then
a great variety of intellectual exercises, which are
not technically called " liberal " ; on the other hand,
I say, there are exercises of the body which do
/^receive that appellation. Such, for instance, was the
palaestra, in ancient times ; such the Olympic games,
I in which strength and dexterity of body as well as of
mind gained the prize. In Xenophon we read of the
young Persian nobility being taught to ride on horse-
back and to speak the truth ; both being among the
accomplishments of a gentleman. War, too, however
rough a profession, has ever been accounted liberal,



Vid. Arist. Nic. Ethic, vi.



ITS OWN END



unless in cases when it becomes heroic, which would
introduce us to another subject.

Now comparing these instances together, we shall
have no difficulty in determining the principle of this
apparent variation in the application of the term which
I am examining. Manly games, or games of skill, or
military prowess, though bodily, are, it seems, accounted
liberal ; on the other hand, what is merely professional,
though highly intellectual, nay, though liberal in com-
parison of trade and manual labour, is not simply called
liberal, and mercantile occupations are not liberal at
all. Why this distinction ? because that alone is
liberal knowledge, which stands on its own pretensions,
which is independent of sequel, expects no comple-
ment, refuses to be informed (as it is called) by any
end, or absorbed into any art, in order duly to present
itself to our contemplation. The most ordinary pur-
suits have this specific character, if they are self-
sufficient and complete ; the highest lose it, when they
minister to something beyond them. It is absurd to
balance, in point of worth and importance, a treatise
on reducing fractures with a game of cricket or a fox-
chase; yet of the two the bodily exercise has that
quality which we call "liberal," and the intellectual
has it not. And so of the learned professions al-
together, considered merely as professions ; although
one of them be the most popularly beneficial, and
another the most politically important, and the third
the most intimately divine of all human pursuits, yet
the very greatness of their end, the health of the body,
or of the commonwealth, or of the soul, diminishes,
not increases, their claim to the appellation in question,
and that still more, if they are cut down to the strict
exigencies of that end. If, for instance, Theology,
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE

instead of being cultivated as a contemplation, be
limited to the purposes of the pulpit or be represented
by the catechism, it loses not its usefulness, not its
divine character, not its meritoriousness (rather it
increases these qualities by such charitable condescen-
sion) but it does lose the particular attribute which I
am illustrating ; just as a face worn by tears and fast-
ing loses its beauty, or a labourer's hand loses its
delicateness ; for Theology thus exercised is not
simple knowledge, but rather is an art or a business
making use of Theology. And thus it appears that
even what is supernatural need not be liberal, nor need
a hero be a gentleman, for the plain reason that one
idea is not another idea. And in like manner the
Baconian Philosophy, by using its physical sciences for
the purpose of fruit, does thereby transfer them from
the order of Liberal Pursuits to, I do not say the
inferior, but the distinct class of the Useful. And, to
take a different instance, hence again, as is evident,
whenever personal gain is the motive, still more dis-
tinctive an effect has it upon the character of a given
pursuit ; thus racing, which was a liberal exercise in
Greece, forfeits its rank in times like these, so far as it
is made the occasion of gambling.

All that I have been now saying is summed up in
a few characteristic words of the great Philosopher.
" Of possessions," he says, " those rather are useful,
which bear fruit ; those liberal, which tend to enjoyment.
By fruitful, I mean, which yield revenue ; by enjoy-
able, where nothing accrues of consequence beyond the
ute." l

Do not suppose, gentlemen, that in thus appealing to

1 Aristot. Rhet. i. 5.
IOO



t - AlTS,

SLv (W Q^yJ^/

ancients, I am thro



END



the ancients, I am throwing back the world two thousand
years, and fettering Philosophy with the reasonings of
paganism. While the world lasts, will Aristotle's
doctrine on these matters last, for he is the oracle of
nature and of truth. While we are men, we cannot
help, to a great extent, being Aristotelians, for the
great Master does but analyse the thoughts, feelings,
views, and opinions of human kind. He has told us
the meaning of our own words and ideas, before we
were born. In many subject-matters, to think cor-
rectly, is to think like Aristotle ; and we are his
disciples whether we will or no, though we may not
know it. Now, as to the particular instance before
us, the word " liberal " as applied to Knowledge and
Education, expresses a specific idea, which ever has
been, and ever will be, while the nature of man is the
same, just as the idea of the Beautiful is specific, or of
the Sublime, or of the Ridiculous, or of the Sordid.
It is in the world now, it was in the world then ; and,
as in the case of the dogmas of faith, it is illustrated
by a continuous historical tradition, and never was out
of the world, from the time it came into it. There
have indeed been differences of opinion from time to
time, as to what pursuits and what arts came under
that idea, but such differences are but an additional
evidence of its reality. That idea must have a sub-
stance in it, which has maintained its ground amid
these conflicts and changes, which has ever served as
a standard to measure things withal, which has passed
from mind to mind unchanged, when there was so
much to colour, so much to influence any notion or
thought whatever, which was not founded in our very
nature. Were it a mere generalisation, it would have
varied with the subjects from which it was generalised ;
101



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE

but though its subjects vary with the age, it varies not
itself. The palaestra may seem a liberal exercise to
Lycurgus, and illiberal to Seneca ; coach-driving and
prize-fighting may be recognised in El is, and be con-
demned in England ; music may be despicable in the
eyes of certain moderns, and be in the highest place
with Aristotle and Plato (and the case is the same in
the particular application of the idea of Beauty, or of
Goodness, or of Moral Virtue, there is a difference of
tastes, a difference of judgments) still these variations
imply, instead of discrediting, the archetypal idea,
which is but a previous hypothesis or condition, by
means of which issue is joined between contending
opinions, and without which there would be nothing
to dispute about.

I consider, then, that I am chargeable with no para-
dox, when I speak of a Knowledge which is its own
end, when I call it liberal^knowledge, or a gentleman's
IfnowJedge, when I educate for it, ancT make it the
scope of a University. And still less am I incurring
such a charge, when I make this acquisition consist,
not in Knowledge in a vague and ordinary sense, but
in that Knowledge which I have especially called


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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 10 of 22)