John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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ledge. This is the important truth, little entered into
at this day, which I wish that all who have honoured
me with their presence here would allow me to beg
them to take away with them. I am not catching at
sharp arguments, but laying down grave principles.
Religious doctrine is knowledge, in as full a sense as
Newton's doctrine is knowledge. University Educa-
tion without Theology is simply unphilosophical.
Theology has at least as good a right to claim a
place there as Astronomy.

In my next Discourse it will be my object to show
that its omission from the list of recognised sciences is
not only indefensible in itself, but prejudicial to all the




men of great intellect, who have
long and intently and exclusively given
themselves to the study or investigation
of some one particular branch of secular knowledge,
whose mental life is concentrated and hidden in their
chosen pursuit, and who have neither eyes nor ears for
anything which does not immediately bear upon it,
when such men are at length made to realise that there
is a clamour all around them, which must be heard, for
what they have been so little accustomed to place in
the category of knowledge as Religion, and that they
themselves are accused of disaffection to it, they are
impatient at the interruption ; they call the demand
tyrannical, and the requisitionists bigots or fanatics.
They are tempted to say, that their only wish is to be
let alone ; for themselves, they are not dreaming of
offending any one, or interfering with any one ; they
are pursuing their own particular line, they have
never spoken a word against any one's religion, who-
ever he may be, and never mean to do so. It does
not follow that they deny the existence of a God, be-
cause they are not found talking of it, when the topic
would be utterly irrelevant. All they say is, that
there are other beings in the world besides the Supreme


Being ; their business is with them. After all, the
creation is not the Creator, nor things secular religious.
Theology and human science are two things, not one,
and have their respective provinces, contiguous it may
be and cognate to each other, but not identical. When
we are contemplating earth, we are not contemplating
heaven ; and when we are contemplating heaven, we
are not contemplating earth. Separate subjects should
be treated separately. As division of labour, so
division of thought is the only means of successful
application . " Let us go our own way," they say,
" and you go yours. We do not pretend to lecture on
Theology, and you have no claim to pronounce upon

With this feeling they attempt a sort of compromise,
between their opponents who claim for Theology a
free introduction into the Schools of Science, and them-
selves who would exclude it altogether, and it is this :
viz., that it should remain indeed excluded from the
public schools, but that it should be permitted in
private, wherever a sufficient number of persons is
found to desire it. Such persons, they seem to say,
may have it all their own way, when they are by
themselves, so that they do not attempt to disturb a
comprehensive system of instruction, acceptable and
useful to all, by the intrusion of opinions peculiar to
their own minds.

j I am now going to attempt a philosophical answer
to this representation, that is, to the project of teach-
ing secular knowledge in the University Lecture
Room, and remanding religious knowledge to the
parish priest, the catechism, and the parlour ; and in
doing so, you must pardon me, gentlemen, if my sub-
ject should oblige me to pursue a course of thought


which is wearisome to the hearer : I begin then
thus :

Truth is the object of Knowledge of whatever kind ;
and when we inquire what is meant by Truth, I sup-
pose it is right to answer that Truth means facts and
their relations, which stand towards each other pretty
much as subjects and predicates in logic. All that
exists, as contemplated by the human mind, forms one
large system or complex fact, and this of course re-
solves itself into an indefinite number of particular facts,
which, as being portions of a whole, have countless
relations of every kind, one towards another. Know-
ledge is the apprehension of these facts, whether in
themselves, or in their mutual positions and bearings.
And, as all taken together form one integral subject for
contemplation, so there are no natural or real limits
between part and part; one is ever running into another ;
all, as viewed by the mind, are combined together, and
possess a correlative character one with another, from the
internal mysteries of the Divine Essence down to our
own sensations and consciousness, from the most solemn
appointments of the Lord of all down to what may be
called the accident of the hour, from the most glorious
seraph down to the vilest and most noxious of reptiles.

Now, it is not wonderful that, with all its capabilities,
the human mind cannot take in this whole vast fact at
a single glance, or gain possession of it at once. Like
a short-sighted reader, its eye pores closely, and travels
slowly, over the awful volume which lies open for its
inspection. Or again, as we deal with some huge
structure of many parts and sides, the mind goes round
abaut it, noting down, first one thing, then another, as
it best may, and viewing it under different aspects, by
way of making progress towards mastering the whole.



So by degrees and by circuitous advances does it rise
aloft and subject to itself that universe into which it
has been born.

These various partial views or abstractions, by means
of which the mind looks out upon its object, are called
sciences, and embrace respectively larger or smaller
portions of the field of knowledge ; sometimes extend-
ing far and wide, but superficially, sometimes with
exactness over particular departments, sometimes
occupied together on one and the same portion, some-
times holding one part in common, and then ranging
on this side or that in absolute divergence one from the
other. Thus Optics has for its subject the whole
visible creation, so far forth as it is simply visible ;
Mental Philosophy has a narrower province, but a
richer one. Astronomy, plane and physical, each has
the same subject-matter, but views it or treats it differ-
ently ; lastly, Geology and Comparative Anatomy
have subject-matters partly the same, partly distinct
Now these views or sciences, as being abstractions,
have far more to do with the relations of things than
with things themselves. They tell us what things are,
only or principally by telling us their relations, or as-
signing predicates to subjects ; and therefore they never
tell us all that can be said about a thing, even when
they tell something, nor do they bring it before us, as
the senses do. They arrange and classify facts ; they
reduce separate phenomena under a common law ; they
trace effects to a cause. Thus they serve to transfer
our knowledge from the custody of memory to the
surer and more abiding protection of philosophy, thereby
providing both for its spread and its advance : f^,
inasmuch as sciences are forms of knowledge, they
enable the intellect to master and increase it ; and,


inasmuch as they are instruments, to communicate it
readily to others. Still, after all, they proceed on the
principle of a division of labour, even though that
division is an abstraction, not a literal separation into
parts ; and, as the maker of a bridle or an epaulet has
not, on that account, any idea of the science of tactics
or strategy, so in a parallel way, it is not every science
which equally, nor any one which fully, enlightens the
mind in the knowledge of things, as they are, or brings
home to it the external object on which it wishes to
gaze. Thus they differ in importance ; and according
to their importance will be their influence, not only on
the mass ot knowledge to which they all converge and
contribute, but on each other.

Since then sciences are the results of mental pro-
cesses about one and the same subject-matter, viewed
under its various aspects, and are true results, as far as
they go, yet at the same time separate and partial, it
follows that on the one hand they need external assist-
ance, one by one, by reason of their incompleteness,
and on the other that they are able to afford it to each
other, by reason, first, of their independence in them-
selves, and then of their connection in their subject-
matter. Viewed altogether, they approximate to a
representation or subjective reflection of the objective
truth, as nearly as is possible to the human mind, which
advances towards the accurate apprehension of that
object, in proportion to the number of sciences which
it has mastered ; and which, when certain sciences are
away, in such a case has but a defective apprehension,
in proportion to the value of the sciences which are
thus wanting, and the importance of the field on which
they are employed.

Let us take, for instance, man himself as our object


of contemplation ; then at once we shall find we can
view him in a variety of relations ; and according to
those relations are the sciences of which he is the
subject-matter, and according to our acquaintance
with them is our possession of a true knowledge of
him. We may view him in relation to the material
elements of his body, or to his mental constitution, or
to his household and family, or to the community in
which he lives, or to the Being who made him ; and
in consequence we treat of him respectively as physio-
logists, or as moral philosophers, or as writers of
economics, or of politics, or as theologians. When
we think of him in all these relations together, or as
the subject at once of all the sciences I have named,
then we may be said to reach unto and rest in the
idea of man as an object or external fact, similar to
that which the eye takes of his outward form. On
the other hand, according as we are only physiologists,
or only politicians, or only moralists, so is our idea of
man more or less unreal ; we do not take in the whole
of him, and the defect is greater or less, in proportion
as the relation is, or is not, important, which is omitted,
whether his relation to God, or to his king, or to his
children, or to his own component parts. And if
there be one relation, about which we know nothing
at all except that it exists, then is our knowledge of
him, confessedly and to our own consciousness, deficient
and partial, and that, I repeat, in proportion to the
importance of the relation.

That therefore is true of sciences in general which

we are apt to think applies only to pure mathematics,

though to pure mathematics it applies especially, viz.,

that they cannot be considered as simple representa-



tions or informants of things as they are. We are
accustomed to say, and say truly, that the conclusions
of pure mathematics are applied, corrected, and adapted,
by mixed ; but so too the conclusions of Anatomy,
Chemistry, Dynamics, and other sciences, are revised
and completed by each other. Those several con-
clusions do not represent whole and substantive things,
but views, true, so far as they go ; and in order to
ascertain how far they do go, that is, how far they
correspond to the object to which they belong, we
must compare them with the views taken out of that
object by other sciences. Did we proceed upon the
abstract theory of forces, we should assign a much
more ample range to a projectile than in fact the
resistance of the air allows it to accomplish. Let,
however, that resistance be made the subject of scien-
tific analysis, and then we shall have a new science,
assisting, and to a certain point completing, for the
benefit of questions of fact, the science of projection.
On the other hand, the science of projection itself,
considered as belonging to the forces it contemplates,
is not more perfect, as such, by this supplementary
investigation. And in like manner, as regards the
whole circle of sciences, one corrects another for
purposes of fact, and one without the other cannot
dogmatise, except hypothetically and upon its own
abstract principles. For instance, the Newtonian
philosophy requires the admission of certain meta-
physical postulates, if it is to be more than a theory
or an hypothesis ; as, for instance, that what happened
yesterday will happen to-morrow ; that there is such
a thing as matter, that our senses are trustworthy,
that there is a logic of induction, and so on. Now
to Newton metaphysicians grant all that he asks ;


but, if so be, they may not prove equally accommo-
dating to another who asks something else, and then
all his most logical conclusions in the science of
physics would remain hopelessly on the stocks, though
finished, and never could be launched into the sphere
of fact.

Again, did I know nothing about the passage of
bodies, except what the theory of gravitation supplies,
were I simply absorbed in that theory so as to make
it measure all motion on earth and in the sky, I should
indeed come to many right conclusions, I should hit
off many important facts, ascertain many existing
relations, and correct many popular errors : I should
scout and ridicule with great success the old notion,
that light bodies flew up and heavy bodies fell
down ; but I should go on with equal confidence to
deny the phenomenon of capillary attraction. Here
I should be wrong, but only because I carried out
my science irrespectively of other sciences. In like
manner, did I simply give myself to the investigation
of the external action of body upon body, I might
scoff at the very idea of chemical affinities and com-
binations, and reject it as simply unintelligible. Were
I a mere chemist, I should deny the influence of
mind upon bodily health : and so on, as regards the
devotees of any science, or family of sciences, to the
exclusion of others ; they necessarily become bigots
and quacks, scorning all principles and reported facts
which do not belong to their own pursuit, and thinking
to effect everything without aid from any other quarter.
Thus, before now, chemistry has been substituted for
medicine ; and again, political economy, or intellectual
enlightenment, or the reading of the Scriptures, has


been cried up as a panacea against vice, malevolence,
and misery.

"p Summing up, gentlemen, what I have said, I lay it
down that all knowledge forms one whole, because its
^ubject-matter is one ; for the universe in its length and
breadth is so intimately knit together, that we cannot
separate off portion from portion, and operation from
operation, except by a mental abstraction ; and then
again, as to its Creator, though He of course in His
own Being is infinitely separate from it, yet He has
so implicated Himself with it, and taken it into His
very bosom, by His presence in it, His providence
over it, His impressions upon it, and His influences
through it, that we cannot truly or fully contemplate
it without contemplating Him. Next, sciences are
the results of that mental abstraction which I have
spoken of, being the logical record of this or that
aspect of the whole subject-matter of knowledge.
As they all belong to one and the same circle of
objects, they are one and all connected together ;
as they are but aspects of things, they are severally
incomplete in their relation to the things themselves,
though complete in their own idea and for their own
respective purposes ; on both accounts they at once
need and subserve each other. And further, the
comprehension of the bearings of one science on
another, and the use of each to each, and the loca-
tion and limitation and adjustment and due appreciation
of them all, one with another, this belongs, I conceive,
to a sort of science distinct from all of them, and in
some sense a science of sciences, which is my own
conception of what is meant by Philosophy, in the
true sense of the word, and of a philosophical habit


of mind, and which in these Discourses I shall call
by that name. This is what I have to say about
knowledge and philosophical knowledge generally;
and now I proceed to apply it to the particular
science which has led me to draw it out.

I say, then, that the systematic omission of any one
science from the catalogue prejudices the accuracy and
completeness of our knowledge altogether, and that,
in proportion to its importance. Not even Theology
itself, though it comes from heaven, though its truths
were given once for all at the first, though they are
more certain on account of the Giver than those of
mathematics, not even Theology, do I exclude from
the law to which every mental exercise is subject,
viz., from that imperfection, which ever must attend
the abstract, when it would determine the concrete.
Nor do I speak only of Natural Religion ; for even
the teaching of the Catholic Church is variously in-
fluenced by the other sciences. Not to insist on the
introduction of the Aristotelic philosophy into its
phraseology, its interpretations of prophecy are directly
affected by the issues of history ; its comments upon
Scripture by the conclusions of the astronomer and the
geologist ; and its casuistical decisions by the various
experience, political, social, and psychological, with
which times and places are ever supplying it.

What Theology gives, it has a right to take ; or
rather, the interests of Truth oblige it to take. If
we would not be beguiled by dreams, if we would
ascertain facts as they are, then, granting Theology
is a real science, we cannot exclude it, and still call
ourselves philosophers. I have asserted nothing as


yet as to the pre-eminent dignity of Religious Truth;
I only say, if there be Religious Truth at all, we
cannot shut our eyes to it without prejudice to truth
of every kind, physical, metaphysical, historical, and
moral ; for it bears upon all truth. And thus I
answer the objection with which I opened this Dis-
course. I supposed the question put to me by a
philosopher of the day, "Why cannot you go your
way, and let us go ours ? " I answer, in the name
of Theology, " When Newton can dispense with the
metaphysician, then may you dispense with us." So
much at first sight ; now I am going on to claim a
little more for Theology, by classing it with branches
of knowledge which may with greater decency be com-
pared to it.

Let us see, then, how this supercilious treatment of
so momentous a science, for momentous it must be, if
there be a God, runs in a somewhat parallel case.
The great philosopher of antiquity, when he would
enumerate the causes of the things that take place in
the world, after making mention of those which he
considered to be physical and material, adds, " and
the mind and everything which is by means of man." l
Certainly ; it would have been a preposterous course,
when he would trace the effects he saw around him
to their respective sources, had he directed his exclu-
sive attention upon some one class or order of origi-
nating principles, and ascribed to these everything
which happened anywhere, pit would indeed have
been unworthy a genius so curious, so penetrating, so
fertile, so analytical as Aristotle's, to have laid it down

* Arist. Ethic. Nicom,, iii. 3,


that everything on the face of the earth could be ac-
counted for by the material sciences, without the
hypothesis of moral agents. It is incredible that in the
investigation of physical results he could ignore so in-
fluential a being as man, or forget that, not only brute
force and elemental movement, but knowledge also is
power. And this so much the more, inasmuch as
moral and spiritual agents belong to another, not to
say a higher, order than physical ; so that the omission
supposed would not have been merely an oversight in
matters of detail, but a philosophical error, and a fault
in division.

However, we live in an age of the world when the
career of science and literature is little affected by what
was done, or would have been done, by this venerable
authority ; so, we will suppose, in England or Ire-
land, in the middle of the nineteenth century, a set
of persons of name and celebrity to meet together,
in spite of Aristotle, to adopt a line of proceeding
which they conceive the circumstances of the time
render imperative. We will suppose that a difficulty
just now besets the enunciation and discussion of all
matters of science, in consequence of the extreme sen-
sitiveness of large classes of the community, ministers
and laymen, on the subjects of necessity, responsibility,
the standard of morals, and the nature of virtue.
Parties run so high, that the only way of avoiding
constant quarrelling in defence of this or that side of
the question is, in the judgment of the persons I am
supposing, to shut up the subject of anthropology
altogether. This is accordingly done. Henceforth
man is to be as if he were not, in the general course
of Education ; the moral and mental sciences are to
have no professorial chairs, and the treatment of them


is to be simply left as a matter of private judgment, which
each individual may carry out as he will. I can just
fancy such a prohibition abstractedly possible ; but one
thing I cannot fancy possible, viz., that the parties in
question, after this sweeping act of exclusion, should
forthwith send out proposals on the basis of such ex-
clusion for publishing an Encyclopaedia,;; or erecting
a National University. It is necessary, however,
gentlemen, for the sake of the illustration which I am
setting before you, to imagine what cannot be. I say,
let us imagine a project for organising a system of
scientific teaching, in which the agency of man in the
material world cannot allowably be recognised, and
may allowably be denied. Physical and mechanical
causes are exclusively to be treated of; volition is a
forbidden subject. A prospectus is put out, with a
list of sciences, we will say, Astronomy, Optics, Hy-
drostatics, Galvanism, Pneumatics, Statics, Dynamics,
Pure Mathematics, Geology, Botany, Physiology,
Anatomy, and so forth ; but not a word about the
mind and its powers, except what is said in explana-
tion of the omission. That explanation is to the
effect that the parties concerned in the undertaking
have given long and anxious thought to the subject,
and have been reluctantly driven to the conclusion that
it is simply impracticable to include in the list of Uni-
versity Lectures the Philosophy of Mind. What
relieves, however, their regret is the reflection, that
domestic feelings and polished manners are best culti-
vated in the family circle and in good society, in the
observance of the sacred ties which unite father,
mother, and child, in the correlative claims and duties
of citizenship, in the exercise of disinterested loyalty
and enlightened patriotism. With this apology, such


as it is, they pass over the consideration of the human
mind and its powers and works, " in solemn silence,"
in their scheme of University Education.

Let a charter be obtained for it; let professors be
appointed, lectures given, examinations passed, degrees
awarded : what sort of exactness or trustworthiness,
what philosophical largeness, will attach to views formed
in an intellectual atmosphere thus deprived of some of
the constituent elements of daylight ? What judgment
will foreign countries and future times pass on the
labours of the most acute and accomplished of the
philosoi hers who have been parties to so portentous an
unreality? Here are professors gravely lecturing on
medicine, or history, or political economy, who, so far
from being bound to acknowledge, are free to scoff at
the action of mind upon matter, or of mind upon mind,
or the claims of mutual justice and charity. Common
sense indeed and public opinion set bounds at first to
so intolerable a license ; yet, as time goes on, an
omission which was originally but a matter of expe-
dience, commends itst-lf to the reason ; and at length a
professor is found, more hardy than his brethren, still
however, as he himself maintains, with sincere respect
for domestic feelings and good manners, who takes on

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 6 of 22)