John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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and every one recognises health and virtue as ends to
be pursued ; it is otherwise with intellectual excellence,
and this must be my excuse, if I seem to any one to be
bestowing a good deal of labour, on a preliminary
matter,

In default of a recognised term, I have called the
perfection or virtue of the intellect by the name of
philosophy, philosophical knowledge, enlargement of
mind^ or illumination ; terms which are not un-
commonly given to it by writers of this day : but, what-i
ever name we bestow on it, it is, I believe, as a matter!
of history, the business of a University to make this in-l
tellecmal culture its direct scope^ or to employ itself in 1
the education of the intellect just as the work of a \
Hospital lies in healing the sick or wounded ; of a
Riding or Fencing School, or of a Gymnasium, in
exercising the limbs ; of an Almshouse, in aiding and
solacing the old ; of an Orphanage, in protecting inno-
cence ; of a Penitentiary, in restoring the guilty. I say
a University, taken in its bare idea, and before we view
it as an instrument of the Church, has this object and
this mission ; it contemplates neither moral impressionj
nor mechanical production ; it professes to exercise thel
mind neither in art nor in duty ; |ts function is in-J
tellectual culture : here it may leave ItTscTiblars, and itj
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

has done its work when it has done as much as this.
\\ Itjeducates the intellect to reason well in all matters, to
\\reach out towards truth, and to grasp it.

This, I said in my foregoing Discourse, was the
object of a University, viewed in itself, and apart from
the Catholic Church, or from the State, or from any
other power which may use it ; and I illustrated this in
various ways. I said that the intellect must have an
excellence of its own, for there was nothing which had
not its specific good ; that the word " educate " would
not be used of intellectual culture, as it is used, had not
the intellect had an end of its own ; that, had it not
such an end, there would be no meaning in calling
certain intellectual exercises "liberal," in contrast with
" useful," as is commonly done ; that the very notion
of a philosophical temper implied it, for it threw us
back upon research and system as ends in themselves,
distinct from effects and works of any kind ; that a
philosophical scheme of knowledge, or system of
sciences, could not, from the nature of the case, issue
in any one definite art or pursuit, as its end ; and that,
on the other hand, the discovery and contemplation of
truth, to which research and systematising led, were
surely sufficient ends, though nothing beyond them
were added, and that they had ever been accounted
sufficient by mankind.

J f. Here then I take up the subject ; and having deter-
' j mined that the cultivation of the intellect is an end
distinct and sufficient in itself, and that, so far as words
\ go it is an enlargement or illumination^ I proceed to in-
quire what this mental^eadtn, or power, or light, or
philosophy consists in. A Hospital heals a broken
limb or cures a fever ; what does an Institution effect,
which professes the health, not of the body, not of the
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IN RELATION TO LEARNING

soul, but of the intellect ? What is this good, which
in former times, as well as our own, has been found
worth the notice, the appropriation, of the Catholic
Church ?

I have then to investigate, in the Discourses which
follow, those qualities and characteristics of the intel-
lect in which its cultivation issues or rather consists ;
and, with a view of assisting myself in this under-
taking, I shall recur to certain questions which have
already been touched upon. These questions are
three: viz. the relation of intellectual culture, first,
to mere knowledge ; secondly, to professional know-
ledge ; and thirdly, to religious knowledge. In other
words, are acquirements and attainments the scope of
a University Education ? or expertness in particular
arts and pursuits ? or moral and religious proficiency ? /
or something besides these three ? These questions
I shall examine in succession, with the purpose I have
mentioned ; and I hope to be excused if, in this
anxious undertaking, I am led to repeat what, either
in these Discourses or elsewhere, 1 I have already
put upon paper. And first, of Mere Knowledge, or
Learning, and its connection with intellectual illu-
mination or Philosophy.

I suppose the prima facie view which the public
at large would take of a University, considered as
a place of Education, is nothing more or less than
a place for acquiring a great deal of knowledge on
a great many subjects. Memory is one of the first
developed of the mental faculties ; a boy's business
when he goes to school is to learn, that is, to store
up things in his memory. For some years his intel-

1 Vid. the Author's University (Oxford) Sermons.



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

lect is little more than an instrument for taking in
facts, or a receptacle for storing them ; he welcomes
them as fast as they come to him ; he lives on what
is without ; he has his eyes ever about him ; he has
a lively susceptibility of impressions; he imbibes
information of every kind; and little does he make
his own in a true sense of the word, living rather
upon his neighbours all around him. He has opinions,
religious, political, and literary, and, for a boy, is very
positive in them and sure about them ; but he gets
them from his schoolfellows, or his masters, or his
parents, as the case may be. Such as he is in his
other relations, such also is he in his school exercises ;
his mind is observant, sharp, ready, retentive ; he is
almost passive in the acquisition of knowledge. I say
this in no disparagement of the idea of a clever boy.
Geography, chronology, history, language, natural
history, he heaps up the matter of these studies as
treasures for a future day. It is the seven years of
plenty with him : he gathers in by handf uls, like the
/Egyptians, without counting ; and though, as time
I goes on, there is exercise for his argumentative powers
\ in the Elements of Mathematics, and for his taste in
'the Poets and Orators, still, while at school, or at
least, till quite the last years of his time, he acquires,
and little more ; and when he is leaving for the Uni-
versity, he is mainly the creature of foreign influences
and circumstances, and made up of accidents, homo-
geneous or not, as the case may be. Moreover, the
moral habits, which are a boy's praise, encourage and
assist this result ; that is, diligence, assiduity, regular-
ity, despatch, persevering application ; for these are
the direct conditions of acquisition, and naturally lead
to it. Acquirements, again, are emphatically pro-
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IN RELATION TO LEARNING

ducible, and at a moment ; they are a something to
show, both for master and scholar ; an audience, even
though ignorant themselves of the subjects of an
examination, can comprehend when questions are
answered and when they are not. Here again is
a reason why mental culture should in the minds of
men be identified with the acquisition of knowledge.

The same notion possesses the public mind, when
it passes on from the thought of a school to that of
a University : and with the best of reasons so far as
this, that there is no true culture without acquirements,
and that philosophy presupposes knowledge. It re-
quires a great deal of reading, or a wide range of
information, to warrant us in putting forth our opinions
on any serious subject ; and without such learning the
most original mind may be able indeed to dazzle, to
amuse, to refute, to perplex, but not to come to any
useful result or any trustworthy conclusion. There
are indeed persons who profess a different view of the
matter, and even act upon it. Every now and then
you will find a person of vigorous or fertile mind,
who relies upon his own resources, despises all former
authors, and gives the world, with the utmost fearless-
ness, his views upon religion, or history, or any other
popular subject. And his works may sell for a while;
he may get a name in his day ; but this will be all.
His readers are sure to find in the long run that his
doctrines are mere theories, and not the expression of
facts, that they are chaff instead of bread, and then his
popularity drops as suddenly as it rose.

Knowledge, then, is the indispensable condition of

expansion of mind, and the instrument of attaining to

it ; this cannot be denied, it is ever to be insisted on ;

I bep'r with it as a first principle; however, the very

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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

truth of it carries men too far, and confirms to
them the notion that it is the whole of it. A
narrow mind is thought to be that which contains
little knowledge ; and an enlarged mind, that which
holds a deal ; and what seems to put the matter
beyond dispute is, the fact of the number of studies
which are pursued in a University, by its very
profession. Lectures are given on every kind of
subject ; examinations are held ; prizes awarded.
There are moral, metaphysical, physical Professors ;
Professors of languages, of history, of mathematics,
of experimental science. Lists of questions are pub-
lished, wonderful for their range and depth, variety
and difficulty ; treatises are written, which carry upon
their very face the evidence of extensive reading or
multifarious information ; what then is wanted for l
mental culture to a person of large reading and
scientific attainments ? what is grasp of mind but
acquirement ? where shall philosophical repose be
found, but in the consciousness and enjoyment of
large intellectual possessions ?

And yet this notion is, I conceive, a mistake, and
my present business is to show that it is one, and that
(the end of a Liberal Education is not mere knowledge,
lor knowledge considered in its matter ; and I shall
best attain my object by actually setting down some
cases, which will be generally granted to be instances
of the process of enlightenment or enlargement of
mind, and others which are not, and thus, by the
comparison, you will be able to judge for yourselves,
gentlemen, whether Knowledge, that is, acquirement,
is after all the real principle of the enlargement, or
whether that principle is not rather something be-,
yond it.

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IN RELATION TO LEARNING

For instance, let a person, whose experience has
hitherto been confined to the more calm and unpre-
tending scenery of these islands, whether here or in
England, go for the first time into parts where physical
nature puts on her wilder and more awful forms,
whether at home or abroad, as into mountainous dis-
tricts; or let one, who has ever lived in a quiet
village, go for the first time to a great metropolis
then I suppose he will have a sensation which perhaps
he never had before. He has a feeling not in addition
or increase of former feelings, but of something dif-
ferent in its nature. He will perhaps be borne forward,
and find for a time that he has lost his bearings. He
has made a certain progress, and he has a consciousness
of mental enlargement ; he does not stand where he
did, he has a new centre, and a range of thoughts to
which he was before a stranger.

Again, the view of the heavens which the telescope
opens upon us, if allowed to fill and possess the mind,
may almost whirl it round and make it dizzy. It brings
in a flood of ideas, and is rightly called an intellectual
enlargement, whatever is meant by the term.

And so again, the sight of beasts of prey and other
foreign animals, their strangeness, the originality (if I
may use the term) of their forms and gestures and
habits and their variety and independence of each other,
throw us out of ourselves into another creation, and as
if under another Creator, if I may so express the
temptation which may come on the mind. X We seem
to have new faculties, or a new exercise for our facul-
ties, by this addition to our knowledge ; like a prisoner
who, having been accustomed to wear manacles or
fetters, suddenly finds his arms and legs free.

Hence Physical Science generally, in all its depart-
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

raents, as bringing before us the exuberant riches and
resources, yet the orderly course, of the Universe,
elevates and excites the student, and at first, I may
say, almost takes away his breath, while in time it
exercises a tranquillising influence upon him.

Again, the study of history is said to enlarge and
enlighten the mind, and why ? because, as I conceive,
it gives it a power of judging of passing events, and of
all events, and a conscious superiority over them, which
before it did not possess.

And in like manner, what is called seeing the world,
entering into active life, going into society, travelling,
gaining acquaintance with the various classes of the
community, coming into contact with the principles
and modes of thought of various parties, interests, and
races, their views, aims, habits and manners, their reli-
gious creeds and forms of worship gaining experience
how various yet how alike men are, how low-minded,
how bad, how opposed, yet how confident in their
opinions ; all this exerts a perceptible influence upon
the mind, which it is impossible to mistake, be it good
or be it bad, and is popularly called its enlargement.

And then again, the first time tjxejniind come__acrGs.s
the arguments and speculations of unbelievers, and feels
what a noveTTigrit they casfTipon wrlaTiieTias hitherto
accounted sacred ; and still more, if it gives in to
them and embraces them, and throws off as so much
prejudice what it has hitherto held, and, as if waking
from a dream, begins to realise to its imagination that
there is now no such thing as law and the transgression
of law, that sin is a phantom, and punishment a bug-
bear, that it is free to sin, free to enjoy the world and
the flesh ; and still further, when it does enjoy them,
and reflects that it may think and hold just what it
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IN RELATION TO LEARNING

will, that " the world is all before it where to choose,"
and what system to build up as its own private persua-
sion ; when this torrent of bad thoughts rushes over
and inundates it, who will deny that the fruit of the
tree of knowledge, or what the mind takes for know-
ledge, has made it one of the gods, with a sense of
expansion and elevation an intoxication in reality,
still, so far as the subjective state of the mind goes, an
illumination ? Hence the fanaticism of individuals or
nations, who suddenly cast off their Maker. Their eyes
are opened, and, like the judgment-stricken king in the
Tragedy^ they see two suns, and a magic universe, out
of which they look back upon their former state of
faith and innocence with a sort of contempt and indig-
nation, as if they were then but fools, and the dupes of
imposture.

IOn the other hand, Religion has its own enlarge-
ment, and an enlargement, not of tumult, but of peace.
It is often remarked of uneducated persons, who have
hitherto thought little of the unseen world, that, on
their turning to God, looking into themselves, regulating
their hearts, reforming their conduct, and meditating on
death and judgment, heaven and hell, they seem to be-
come, in point of intellect, different beings from what
they were. Before, they took things as they came, and
thought no more of one thing than another. But now
every event has a meaning ; they have their own esti-
mate of whatever happens to them ; they are mindful
of times and seasons, and compare the present with
the past ; and the world, no longer dull, monotonous,
unprofitable, and hopeless, is a various and complicated
drama, with parts and an object, and an awful moral.

Now from these instances, to which many more
might be added, it is plain, first, that the communica-
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

tion of knowledge certainly is either a condition or the
means of that sense of enlargement or enlightenment,
of which at this day we hear so much in certain
quarters : this cannot be denied ; but next, it is equallyX.
plain, that such communication is not the whole of the
process.^ Xhe/ enlargement consists, not merely in the
passive reception Into the mincT of a number of ideas
hitherto unknown to it, but in the mind's energeticl
and simultaneous action upon and towards and among!
those new ideas, which are rushing in upon it. It is J
the action of a Jormatirejower, reducing to order and
meaning the matter of our acquirements ; it is a making
the objects of our knowledge subjectively our own^pr,
to use a familiar word, it is a digestion of what we
receive, into the substance of our previous state of
thought ; and without this no enlargement is said to x
follow,^ There is no enlargement, unless there be a \
comparison of ideas one with another, as they come 1
before the mind, and a systematising of them. We
feel our minds to be growing and expanding then y
when we not only learn, but refer what we learn to
what we know already. It is not a mere addition
to our knowledge which is the illumination ; but the
locomotion, the movement onwards, of that mental
centre, to which both what we know and what we
are learning, the accumulating mass of our require-
ments, gravitates. And therefore a truly great intel4
lect, and recognised to be such by the common opinion!
of mankind, such as the intellect of Aristotle, or of St.
Thomas, or of Newton, or of Goethe (I purposely
take instances within and without the Catholic pale,
when I would speak of the intellect as such }j is one
which takes a connected view of old and new, past I
and present, far and near, and which has an insight |
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IN RELATION TO LEARNING

into the influence of all these one on another ; without
which there is no whole, and no centre. It possesses
the knowledge, not only of things, but also of their mutual
and true relations ; knowledge, not merely considered
as acquirement, but as philosophy.

Accordingly, when this analytical, distributive, har-
monising process is away, the mind experiences no
enlargement, and is not reckoned as enlightened or
comprehensive, whatever it may add to its knowledge.
For instance a great memory, as I have already said, \
does not make a philosopher, any more than a diction- I
ary can be called a grammar. There are men who
embrace in their minds a vast multitude of ideas, but
with little sensibility about their real relations towards
each other. These may be antiquarians, annalists,
naturalists ; they may be learned in the law ; they may
be versed in statistics; they are most useful in their
own place ; I should shrink from speaking disrespect-
fully of them ; still, there is nothing in such attain-
ments to guarantee the absence of narrowness of mind.
If they are nothing more than well-read men, or men
of information, they have not what specially deserves
the name of culture of mind, or fulfils the type of
Liberal Education.

In like manner we sometimes fall in with persons
who have seen much of the world, and of the men
who, in their day, have played a conspicuous part in it,
but who generalise nothing, and have no observation,
in the true sense of the word. They abound in infor-
mation in detail, curious and entertaining, about men
and things ; and, having lived under the influence of no
very clear or settled principles, religious or political,
they speak of every one and everything, only as so
many phenomena, which are complete in themselves,
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

and lead to nothing, not discussing them, or teaching
any truth, or instructing the hearer, but simply talking.

(No one would say that these persons, well informed as
they are, had attained to any great culture of intellect
or to philosophy.

The case is the same still more strikingly where the
persons in question are beyond dispute men of inferior
powers and deficient education. Perhaps they have
been much in foreign countries, and they receive, in a
passive, otiose, unfruitful way, the various facts which
are forced upon them there. Seafaring men, for ex-
ample, range from one end of the earth to the other ;
but the multiplicity of external objects which they have
encountered forms no symmetrical and consistent pic-
ture upon their imagination ; they see the tapestry of
human life as it were on the wrong side, and it tells
no story. They sleep, and they rise up, and they find
themselves now in Europe, now in Asia ; they see
visions of great cities and wild regions ; they are in the
marts of commerce or amid the islands of the South ;
they gaze on Pompey's Pillar or on the Andes ; and
nothing which meets them carries them forward or
backward to any idea beyond itself. Nothing has a
drift or relation ; nothing has a history or a promise.
Everything stands by itself, and comes and goes in its
turn, like the shifting scenes of a show, which leave
the spectator where he was. Perhaps you are near
such a man on a particular occasion, and expect him to
be shocked or perplexed at something which occurs ;
but one thing is much the same to him as another, or,
if he is perplexed, it is as not knowing what to say,
whether it is right to admire, or to ridicule, or to dis-
approve, while conscious that some expression of
opinion is expected from him ; for in fact he has no
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IN RELATION TO LEARNING

standard of judgment at all, and no landmarks to guide
him to a conclusion. Such is mere acquisition, and, I
repeat, no one would dream of calling it philosophy.

Instances such as these confirm, by the contrast,
the conclusion I have already drawn from those which*
preceded them. That only is true enlargement of
mind which is the power of viewing many things at
once as one whole, of referring them severally to their\
true place in the universal system, of understanding )
their respective values, and determining their mutuaj/
dependence. Thus is that form of Universal Know-
ledge, of which I have on a former occasion spoken,
set up in the individual intellect, and constitutes its
perfection. Possessed of this real illumination, the
mind never views any part of the extended subject-
matter of Knowledge without recollecting that it is but
a part, or without the associations which spring from
this recollection. It makes everything in some sort
lead to everything else ; it would communicate the
image of the whole to every separate portion, till that
whole becomes in imagination like a spirit, everywhere
pervading and penetrating its component parts, and
giving them one definite meaning. Just as our bodily
organs, when mentioned, recall their function in the
body, as the word " creation " suggests the Creator,
and " subjects " a sovereign, so, in the mind of the
Philosopher, as we are abstractedly conceiving of him,
the elements of the physical and moral world, sciences,
arts, pursuits, ranks, offices, events, opinions, individu-
alities, are all viewed as one, with correlative functions,
and as gradually by successive combinations converg-
ing, one and all, to the true centre.

To have even a portion of this illuminative reason
and true philosophy is the highest state to which nature
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

can aspire, in the way of intellect ; it puts the mind
above the influences of chance and necessity, above
anxiety, suspense, tumult, and superstition, which are
the portion of the many. Men, whose minds are pos-
sessed with some one object, take exaggerated views
of its importance, are feverish in the pursuit of it, make
it the measure of things which are utterly foreign to it,
and are startled and despond if it happens to fail them.
They are ever in alarm or in transport. Those on the
other hand who have no object or principle whatever to
hold by, lose their way, every step they take. They
are thrown out, and do not know what to think or say,
at every fresh juncture ; they have no view of persons,
or occurrences, or facts, which come suddenly upon
them, and they hang upon the opinion of others, for
want of internal resources. But the intellect, which
has been disciplined to the perfection of its powers,
which knows, and thinks while it knows, which has
learned to leaven the dense mass of facts and events
with the elastic force of reason, such an intellect can-
not be partial, cannot be exclusive, cannot be impetu-
ous, cannot be at a loss, cannot but be patient, collected,
and majestically calm, because it discerns the end in
every beginning, the origin in every end, the law in
every interruption, the limit in each delay ; bt cause it
ever knows where it stands, and how its path lies from


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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 12 of 22)