John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

. (page 2 of 22)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 2 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

on the part of the children of earth, it is Theology. He
is sure, and nothing shall make him doubt, that, if
anything seems to be proved by astronomer, or geolo-
gist, or chronologist, or antiquarian, or ethnologist, in
contradiction to the dogmas of faith, that point will
eventually turn out, first, not to be proved, or, secondly,
not contradictory, or thirdly, not contradictory to
anything really revealed, but to something which has
been confused with revelation."


I have already alluded to the famous passage in the
Apologia in which Newman maintains that the human
reason where it has a free career practically issues in
infidelity in matters of religious belief, and on the other
hand I have noted the absolute trust in the human
reason shown in the lectures of which I am speaking.
A further word of explanation must be given as to this
contrast. In the Apologia he expressly says that he
is not considering the human reason lawfully exercised
so considered he admits that it leads to truth. He
is regarding the reason as it is practically exercised in
fallen man, as tainted by original sin, as perverted by
passion and as exceeding its lawful limits and profess-
ing to judge of the truths of revelation, which belong
really to a sphere above its competence. In the Dublin
lecture, on the contrary, he is dealing with lawful exer-
cise of the reason in the terrain of science. Here the
vices of the reason referred to in the Apologia have
practically no place. It is a sphere in which the reason
is competent to come to its own conclusions. In such
a sphere reason is not confused by an atmosphere of
human passion, but works in the dry light of scientific
enquiry. No passage in the lecture on Christianity and
Scientific Investigation is more memorable than that
in which he exhorts the scientific specialists in his
ideal University to be confident that those free dis-
cussions which he advocates will find their issue in

" What I would urge upon every one, whatever \J

may be his particular line of research what I would

urge upon men of Science in their thoughts of Theology,

what I would venture to recommend to theologians,



when their attention is drawn to the subject of
scientific investigations is a great and firm belief in
the sovereignty of Truth. Error may flourish for a
time, but Truth will prevail in the end. The only effect
of error ultimately is to promote Truth. Theories,
speculations, hypotheses, are started; perhaps they
are to die, still not before they have suggested ideas
better than themselves. These better ideas are taken
up in turn by other men, and, if they do not lead to
truth, nevertheless they lead to what is still nearer the
truth than themselves; and thus knowledge on the
whole makes progress. The errors of some minds in
scientific investigation are more fruitful than the truths
of others. A Science seems making no progress, but to

, abound in failures, yet imperceptibly all the time it is

' advancing."

The remarkable contrast in Newman's language
concerning reason in the two contexts I am considering
is completed and further explained in the last lecture
he ever gave at Dublin, delivered before the Dublin
Medical School. In that lecture he points out that the
phenomena which are the basis of morals and religion
may be obscured in the human mind by passion or
moral fault or other causes. Reason then becomes
powerless in dealing with them, for we cannot reason
on elements of knowledge of which we have lost sight.
Physical nature on the other hand, which is the subject
matter of scientific reasoning, is always unmistakably
present. Hence the wide contrast between the func-
tions of reason in the two cases. Here again it is import-
ant to give his own words as the point is too subtle to
risk a summary.



" The physical nature lies before us, patent to the
sight, ready to the touch, appealing to the senses in so
unequivocal a way that the science which is founded
upon it is as real to us as the fact of our personal
existence. But the phenomena, which are the basis of
morals and religion, have nothing of this luminous
evidence. Instead of being obtruded upon our notice,
so that we cannot possibly overlook them, they are
dictates either of conscience or of faith. They are
faint shadows and tracings, certain indeed, but delicate,
fragile and almost evanescent, which the mind recog-
nises at one time, not at another, discerns when it is
calm, loses when it is in agitation. The reflection of
sky and mountains in the lake is a proof that sky and
mountains are around it; but the twilight, or the mist,
or the sudden storm hurries away the beautiful image,
which leaves behind it no memorial of what it was.
Something like this are the moral law and the informa-
tions of faith, as they present themselves to individual
minds. Who can deny the existence of conscience?
Who does not feel the force of its injunctions ? But how
dim is the illumination in which it is invested, and
how feeble its influence, compared with that evidence
of sight and touch which is the foundation of physical
science ! How easily can we be talked out of our clearest
views of duty, how does this or that moral precept
crumble into nothing when we rudely handle it, how
does the fear of sin pass off from us as quickly as the
glow of modesty dies away from the countenance, and
then we say, * It is all superstition ! ' However, after
a time we look round, and then to our surprise we see,
as before, the same law of duty, the same moral pre-
cepts, the same protests against sin, appearing over


against us, in their old places, as if they never had
been brushed away, like the divine handwriting upon
the wall at the banquet. Then perhaps we approach
them rudely, and inspect them irreverently, and accost
them sceptically, and away they go again, like so many
spectres, shining in their cold beauty, but not present-
big themselves bodily to us, for our inspection, so to
say, of their hands and feet. And thus these awful,
supernatural, bright, majestic, delicate apparitions,
much as we may in our heart acknowledge their sove-
reignty, are no match as a foundation of science for
the hard, palpable, material facts which make up the
province of physics."

He goes on to claim as among the most important
functions of the Catholic Church that it guards and
keeps before men those religious truths of which
human nature left to itself may so easily lose sight.
The Church is, as he expresses it in the Apologia, " the
concrete representative of things invisible."

I have now, I think, taken a fairly complete view of
the lines of thought worked out by Newman inM^
lectures at the Catholic University of Dublin. |Tne
problem before him was to make men good Catholics
and thoroughly educated men. And he had to outline
their attitude towards the modern world of thought
and research and to erect an authority which would
enable them to take a reasonable view (hi the rough)
of questions whose exact solutionjjguld only be reached
by the co-operation of specialists^ While in his early
career he had vindicated the^tSmolic Church as an/{ ;
authority preserving and enforcing religious truthj j
against the speculations of private judgment, hi Dublin


he urged the value of a standing board of experts as an
authority which should set aside the vagaries of private
judgment in the scientific domain, theology entering
into his scheme as one of the sciences. In each case
he sought to control private judgment by corporate
judgment to which individuals should minister. In *
the first period the authority he invoked told for
conservatism, in the last it told for progress. These
opposite roles arose from the widely different circum-
stances in which he found himself, but nevertheless
they revealed fundamental unity of thought. At
Oxford his mission was to overthrow individualistic
liberalism which was tantamount to rationalism, and to
vindicate against it the traditions of the corporate
Church. Hence he was conservative. In Dublin he
strove to counteract the influence of those who failed
to look frankly at the trend of science owing to their
extreme conservatism in theology. He desired to build
up in the rising generation minds which should be at \
once sensitively alive to the world of fact, and Catholic /
in religious belief. Consequently he was at this period
on the whole an opponent of the conservative theo-
logians. At Oxford he had deprecated free discussion
of the truths of revelation as rationalistic; at Dublin
he advocated the freest discussion as indispensable in
the terrain of science, including scientific theology.
At Oxford his object had been to vindicate the
corporate Church as a standing witness to religious
truth. In Dublin his object was to erect a standing
committee of experts as an intellectual guide for
educated Catholics. At both periods he was the friend
of reason, the opponent of private judgment and of
rationalism. The wide difference between the two


periods in his rhetoric involved no difference of logic.
The animus was different, for at Oxford the liberal
school aroused his apprehensions for the safety of
Christianity, while at Dublin he feared lest Cardinal
Cullen might promote a system of education which
should be frankly Obscurantist. The writings of the
Oxford period gave the basis of his faith, notably the
University Sermons, and portions of the Essay on
Development. The Dublin period indicated the lines
of the superstructure, that is to say, the intellectual
position, faith being supposed, which an educated
Christian ought to entertain towards the thought and
science of his day.

I have in this Introduction travelled far from the
immediate argument of the lectures on the Scope and
Nature of University Education, because their interest
is so greatly enhanced by the lines of thought to which
they led Newman under pressure of his experience
in the University. They need the supplement
which they led him to write in order that we may
understand their significance. This fact, I think,
explains a remark in his prefatory note. He says, that
the lectures satisfied him less than anything he had
published. I venture to think that the cause of this
was just what I am pointing out, that they could not
stand by themselves as satisfactory without the
development of those further considerations which I
have attempted to exhibit in this Introduction. Taken
in conjunction with the Essay on Christianity and
Scientific Investigation, the lectures on " The Scope
and Nature of University Education" are second in
importance to none of Newman's writings.


October, 1915. xxvi


The Arians of the Fourth Century, 1833; 29 Tracts to
Tracts for the Times, 1834-1841; Lyra Apostolica, 1834;
Elucidations of Dr. Hampden's Theological Statements,
1836; Parochial Sermons, 6 vols., 1837-1842; A Letter to
the Rev. G. Faussett on Certain Points of Faith and Practice,
1838; Lectures on Justification, 1838; Sermons on Sub-
jects of the Day, 1842; Plain Sermons, 1843; Sermons
before the University of Oxford, 1843; The Cistercian Saints
of England, 1844; An Essay on the Development of Chris-
tian Doctrine, 1845; Loss and Gain, 1848; Discourse
addressed to Mixed Congregations, 1849; Lectures on Cer-
tain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching,
1850; Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in
England, 1851; The Idea of a University, 1852; Callista,
1856; Mr. Kingsley and Dr. Newman, 1864; Apologia pro
Vita Sua, 1864; The Dream of Gerontius, 1865; Letter to
the Rev. E. B. Pusey on his Eirenicon, 1866; Verses on
Various Occasions, 1868; An Essay in Aid of a Grammar
of Assent, 1870; Letter addressed to His Grace the Duke of
Norfolk on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone's Expostulation, 1875 ;
Meditations and Devotions, 1893.

BIOGRAPHIES. By W. Meynell, 1890; by Dr. Wm. Barry*
1890; by R. H. Hutton, 1891; Early History of Cardinal
Newman, by F. W. Newman, 1891; Letters and Corre-
spondence of J. H. Newman, during his life in the English
Church (with a brief autobiography), edited by Miss Anne
Mozley, 1891; Anglican Career of Cardinal Newman, by
Dr. E. A. Abbott, 1892; as a Musician, by E. Bellasis, 1892;
by A. R. Waller and G. H. S. Burrow, 1901 ; an Apprecia-
tion, by Dr. A. Whyte, 1901 ; Addresses to Cardinal New-
man, with his Replies, edited by Rev. W. P. Neville, 1905;
by W. Ward (in Ten Personal Studies), 1908.

The Standard Life, by Wilfrid Ward, appeared in 1912.


Hospes cram, et collegtstts Me.



















B M. V.
NOV. 21, 1852



THE following Discourses were written for delivery
before Catholic audiences in Dublin in the year 1852,
preparatory to the Author's taking upon himself the
honourable and responsible office of Rector of the new
Irish Catholic University. They belong to a time,
when he was tried both by sorrow and by anxiety,
and by indisposition also, and required a greater effort
to write, and gave him less satisfaction when written,
than any of his Volumes. He has in this new Edition
attempted in some respects to remedy what he feels to
be their imperfection. He has removed from the text
much temporary, collateral, or superfluous matter, and
has thus reduced it to the size of his two other volumes
on University Teaching, and that with advantage, as
he conceives, both to the force, and to the clearness
of his argument.

Nov. 9, 1859.


INTRODUCTION ...... v ii

PREFACE ..... . xx j x




KNOWLEDGE ..... 34


ON THEOLOGY ..... 62





LEARNING . . . . . HQ






PROFESSIONAL . . . . .144



RELIGION . . . . . .173



KNOWLEDGE ...... 207



view which these Discourses take of a
University is of the following kind : that
it is a place of teaching universal knowledge.
This implies that its object is, on the one hand, intel-
lectual, not moral ; and, on the other, that it is the
diffusion and extension of knowledge rather than the
advancement. If its object were scientific and philo-
sophical discovery, I do not see why a University
should have students ; if religious training, I do not
see how it can be the seat of literature and science.

Such is a University in its essence, and independently
of its relation to the Church. But, practically speak-
ing, it cannot fulfil its object duly, such as I have
described it, without the Church's assistance ; or, to
use the theological term, the Church is necessary for
its integrity. Not that its main characters are changed
by this incorporation : it still has the office of intel-
lectual education ; but the Church steadies it in the
performance of that office.

Such are the main principles of the Discourses
which follow ; though it would be unreasonable for
me to expect that I have treated so large and im-
portant a field of thought with the fulness and precision
necessary to secure me from incidental misconceptions
of my meaning on the part of the reader. It is true,
there is nothing novel or singular in the argument


which I have been pursuing, but this does not protect
me from such misconceptions ; for the very circum-
stance that the views I have been delineating are not
original with me may lead to false notions as to my
relations in opinion towards those from whom I
happened in the first instance to learn them, and
may cause me to be interpreted by the objects or
sentiments of schools to which I should be simply

For instance, some persons may be tempted to
complain that I have servilely followed the English
idea of a University, to the disparagement of that
Knowledge which I profess to be so strenuously up-
holding ; and they may anticipate that an academical
system, formed upon my model, will result in nothing
better or higher than in the production of that anti-
quated variety of human nature and remnant of
feudalism called " a gentleman." l Now, I have
anticipated this charge in various parts of my
discussion ; if, however, any Catholic is found to
prefer it (and to Catholics of course this Volume
is addressed), I would have him first of all ask
himself the previous question, what he conceives to be
the reason contemplated by the Holy See in recom-
mending just now to the Irish Church the establish-
ment of a Catholic University ? Has the Supreme
Pontiff recommended it for the sake of the Sciences,
which are to be the matter, or rather of the Students,
who are to be the subjects, of its teaching ? Has
he any obligation or duty at all towards secular
knowledge as such ? Would it become his Apos-
tolical Ministry, and his descent from the Fisherman,

1 Vid. Huber's " English Universities," London, 1843,
vol. ii., part i, pp. 321, &c.



to have a zeal for the Baconian or other philosophy of
man for its own sake ? Is the Vicar of Christ bound
by office or by vow to be the preacher of the theory
of gravitation, or a martyr for electro-magnetism ?
Would he be acquitting himself of the dispensation
committed to him if he were smitten with an abstract
love of these matters, however true, or beautiful, or
ingenious, or useful ? Or rather, does he not con-
template such achievements of the intellect, as far as he
contemplates them, solely and simply in their relation
to the interests of Revealed Truth ? Surely, what he
does he does for the sake of Religion ; if he looks
with satisfaction on strong temporal governments,
which promise perpetuity, it is for the sake of Reli-
gion ; and if he encourages and patronises art and
science, it is for the sake of Religion. He rejoices
in the widest and most philosophical systems of intel-
lectual education, from an intimate conviction that
Truth is his real ally, as it is his profession ; and
that Knowledge and Reason are sure ministers to

i ins being undeniable, it is plain that, when he sug-
gests to the Irish Hierarchy the establishment of a
University, his first and chief and direct object is, not
science, art, professional skill, literature, the discovery
of knowledge, but some benefit or other, by means
of literature and science, to his own children ; not
indeed their formation on any narrow or fantastic
type, as, for instance, that of an " English Gentleman "
may be called, but their exercise and growth in certain
habits, moral or intellectual. Nothing short of this
can be his aim, if, as becomes the Successor of the
Apostles, he is to be able to say with St. Paul,
" Non judicavi me scire aliquid inter vos, nibi Jesum


Christum, et hunc crucifixum." Just as a commander
wishes to have tall and well-formed and vigorous
soldiers, not from any abstract devotion to the mili-
tary standard of height or age, but for the purposes of
war, and no one thinks it anything but natural and
praiseworthy in him to be contemplating, not abstract
qualities, but his own living and breathing men ; so, in
like manner, when the Church founds a University, she
is not cherishing talent, genius, or knowledge, for their
own sake, but for the sake of her children, with a
view to their spiritual welfare and their religious influ-
ence and usefulness, with the object of training them
to fill their respective posts in life better, and of making
them more intelligent, capable, active members of

Nor can it justly be said that in thus acting she
sacrifices Science, and under a pretence of fulfilling
the duties of her mission, perverts a University from its
proper end, as soon as it is taken into account that
there are other institutions far more suited to act as
instruments of stimulating philosophical inquiry, and
extending the boundaries of our knowledge, than a
University. Such, for instance, are the literary and
scientific " Academies," which are so celebrated in
Italy and France, and which have frequently been
connected with Universities, as committees, or, as it
were, congregations or delegacies subordinate to them.
Thus the present Royal Society orginated in Charles
the Second's time, in Oxford ; such just now are the
Ashmolean and Architectural Societies in the same
seat of learning, which have risen in our own time.
Such, too, is the British Association, a migratory
body, which at least at times is found in the halls of
the Protestant Universities of the United Kingdom,


and the faults of which lie, not in its exclusive de-
votion to science, but in graver matters which it is
irrelevant here to enter upon. Such again is the Anti-
quarian Society, the Royal Academy for the Fine
Arts, and others which might be mentioned. This,
then, is the sort of institution, which primarily con-
templates Science itself, and not students ; and, in
thus speaking, I am saying nothing of my own, being
supported by no less an authority than Cardinal Gerdil.
' Ce n'est pas," he says, " qu'il y ait aucune veritable
opposition entre 1' esprit des Academies et celui des
Universites ; ce sont seulement des vues differentes.
Les Universites sont etablies pour enselgner les sciences
aux e/eves qui veulent s'y former ; les Academies se
proposent de nouvelles recherches a faire dans la car-
rire des sciences. Les Universites d'ltalie ont fourni
des sujets qui ont fait honneur aux Academies ; et
celles-ci ont donne aux Universites des Professeurs,
qui ont rempli les chaires avec la plus grande dis-
tinction." 1

The nature of the case and the history of philosophy
combine to recommend to us this " division of" intel-
lectual "labour" between Academies and Universities.
To discover and to teach are distinct functions ; they
are also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found
united in the same person. He, too, who spends his ^
day in dispensing his existing knowledge to all comers,
is unlikely to have either leisure or energy to acquire
new. The common sense of mankind has associated
the search after truth with seclusion and quiet. The
greatest thinkers have been too intent on their subject
to admit of interruption ; they have been men of

1 Opere, t. iii., p. 353.


absent minds and idiosyncratic habits, and have, more
or less, shunned the lecture room and the public school.
Pythagoras, the light of Magna Graecia, lived for a
time in a cave. Thales, the light of Ionia, lived un-
married and in private, and refused the invitations of
princes. Plato withdrew from Athens to the groves
of Academus. Aristotle gave twenty years to a
studious discipleship under him. Friar Bacon lived
in his tower upon the Isis. Newton indulged in an
intense severity of meditation which almost shook his
reason. The great discoveries in chemistry and
electricity were not made in Universities. Obser-
vatories are more frequently out of Universities than
in them, and even when within their bounds need
have no moral connection with them. Porson had no
classes ; Elmsley lived good part of his life in the
country. I do not say that there are not great ex-
amples the other way, perhaps Socrates, certainly Lord
Bacon ; still I think it must be allowed on the whole
that, while teaching involves external engagements,
the natural home for experiment and speculation is

Returning, then, to the consideration of the ques-
tion, from which I may seem to have digressed, thus
much we have made good that, whether or no a

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 2 of 22)