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"ing, that by degrees he grew confident of nothing."-
The foregoing observations, if well founded, conclude strongly, not merely against the form of the school logic, but against the importance of the end to which it is directed. Locke and many others have already sufficiently shewn, how inadequate the syllogistic theory is to its avowed purpose; but few seem to be sufficiently aware, how very little this purpose, if it were attained, would advance us in the knowledge of those truths which are the most interesting to human happiness.
"There is one species of madman (says Father Buffier) that Madness. "makes an excellent logician."*-The remark has the appearance
of being somewhat paradoxical; but it is not without a solid foun-favourable dation, both in fact, and in the theory of the human understanding. toy excix. Nor does it apply merely (as Buffier seems to have meant it) to the scholastic defenders of metaphysical paradoxes: it extends to all whose ruling passion is a display of argumentative dexterity, without much solicitude about the justness of their premises, or the truth of their conclusions. It is observed by Lord Erskine, in one of his admirable pleadings lately published, that "in all the cases which "have filled Westminster-Hall with the most complicated consid"erations--the lunatics, and other insane persons who have been "the subjects of them, have not only had the most perfect knowl"edge and recollection of all the relations they stood in towards others, and of the acts and circumstances of their lives, but have in general, been remarkable for subtlety and acuteness;"" These," (he adds) are the cases which frequently mock the wisdom of the "wisest in judicial trials; because such persons often reason with a "subtlety which puts in the shade the ordinary conceptions of mankind : "their conclusions are just, and frequently profound; but the pre"mises from which they reason, when within the range of the malady, "are uniformly false :-not false from any defect of knowledge or "judgment; but because a delusive image, the inseparable com"panion of real insanity, is thrust upon the subjugated understanding. "incapable of resistance, because unconscious of attack." In the instances here alluded to, something, it is probable, ought Explanation to be attributed to the physical influence of the disorder, in occaof this fart. sioning, together with an increased propensity to controversy, a preternatural and morbid excitation of the power of attention, and of some other intellectual faculties; but much more, in my opinion, to
*Traité des Prem. Vérités. Part 1. chap. xi.
its effects in removing the check of those collateral circumstances by which, in more sober understandings, the reasoning powers are perpetually retarded and controlled in their operation. Among these circumstances, it is sufficient to specify, for the sake of illustration, 1. That distrust, which experience gradually teaches, of the accuracy and precision of the phraseology in which our reasonings are expressed;-accompanied with a corresponding apprehension of involuntary mistakes from the ambiguity and vagueness of language; 2. A latent suspicion, that we may not be fully in possession of all the elements on which the solution of the problem depends; and 3. The habitual influence of those first principles of propriety, of morality, and of common sense, which, as long as reason maintains her ascendant, exercise a paramount authority over all those specu lative conclusions which have any connexion with the business of life. Of these checks or restraints on our reasoning processes, none are cultivated and strengthened, either by the rules of the logician, or by the habits of viva voce disputation. On the contrary, in proportion as their regulating power is confirmed, that hesitation and suspense of judgment are encouraged, which are so congenial to the spirit of true philosophy, but such fatal incumbrances in contending with an antagonist whose object is not truth but victory. In madness, where their control is entirely thrown off, the merely logical process (which never stops to analyze the meaning of words) is likely to go on more rapidly and fearlessly than before; --producing a volubility of speech, and an apparent quickness of conception, which present to common observers all the characteristics of intellectual superiority. It is scarcely necessary to add, that the same appearances, which, in this extreme case of mental aberration, are displayed on so great a scale, may be expected to shew themselves, more or less, wherever there is any deficiency in those qualities which constitute depth and sagacity of judgment.
For my own part, so little value does my individual experience lead me to place on argumentative address, when compared with some other endowments subservient to our intellectual improvement,
Argumen. that I have long been accustomed to consider that promptness of tation skill reply and dogmatism of decision which mark the eager and practis ed disputant, as almost infallible symptoms of a limited capacity; a indicative capacity deficient in what Locke has called (in very significant, though somewhat homely terms) large, sound, roundabout sense." of or small In all the higher endowments of the understanding, this intellectual quality (to which nature as well as education must liberally contribute,) may be justly regarded as an essential ingredient. It is this which, when cultivated by study, and directed to great objects or pursuits, produces an unprejudiced, comprehensive, and efficient mind; and, where it is wanting, though we may occasionally find a more than ordinary share of quickness and of information; a plausibility and brilliancy of discourse; and that passive susceptibility of
Conduct of the Understanding, § 3.
polish from the commerce of the world, which is so often united with imposing but secondary talents, we may rest assured, that there exists a total incompetency for enlarged views and sagacious combinations, either in the researches of science or in the conduct of affairs.*
If these observations hold with respect to the art of reasoning or argumentation, as it is cultivated by men undisciplined in the contentions of the schools, they will be found to apply with infinitely greater force to those disputants (if any such are still to be found) skill in who, in the present advanced state of human knowledge, have been at pains to fortify themselves, by a course of persevering study, with
especially logistick the arms of the Aristotelian logic. Persons of the former description often reason conscientiously with warmth, from false premises, disputation which they are led by passion, or by want of information, to mistake for truth. Those of the latter description proceed systematically on the radical errour of conceiving the reasoning process to be the most powerful instrument by which truth is to be attained; combined with the secondary errour of supposing, that the power of reasoning may be strengthened and improved by the syllogistic art. In one of Lord Kames's sketches, there is an amusing and instructive collection of facts to illustrate the progress of reason; a phrase, by which he seems to mean chiefly the progress of good sense, or of that quality of the intellect which is very significantly expressed by the epithet enlightened. To what is this progress owing to skill (which has been going on with such unexampled rapidity during the two last centuries) to be ascribed? Not surely to any improvement
art of rea soning!
in the art of reasoning; for many of the most melancholy weaknesses which he has recorded, were exhibited by men, distinguished by powers of discussion, and a reach of thought, which have never been surpassed; while, on the other hand, the same weakness would now be treated with contempt by the lowest of the vulgar. but to i The principal cause, I apprehend, has been, the general diffusion
The outlines of an intellectual character, approaching nearly to this description, is exhibited by Marmontel in his highly finished (and I have been assured, very faithful) portrait of M. de Brienne. Among the other defects of that unfortunate statesman, he mentions particularly un esprit à facettes; by which expression he seems, from the context, to mean a quality of mind precisely opposite to that described by Locke in the words quoted above :-" quelques lumières, mais éparses; des appercus plutôt que des vues ; et dans les grands objets, de la facilité à saisir les petils détails, nulle capacité pour embrasser l'ensemble." A consciousness of some similar deficiency has suggested to Gibbon the following criticism on his own juvenile performance, entitled Essai sur l'Etude. It is ex ecuted by an impartial and masterly hand; and may perhaps, without much injustice, be extended, not only to his Roman history, but to the distinguishing features of that peculiar cast of genius, which so strongly marks all his writings.
"The most serious defect of my essay is a kind of obscurity and abruptness which always fatigues, and may often elude the attention of the reader. The obscurity of many passages is often affected; proceeding from the desire of expressing perhaps a common idea with sententious brevity: brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio. Alas! how fatal has been the imitation of Montesquieu! But this obscurity sometimes proceeds from a mixture of light and darkness in the author's mind; from a partial ray which strikes upon an angle, instead of spreading itself over the surface of an object."
+[A genius for trifles, some intelligence, but irregular and scattered; glimpses rather than views; and in great objects, a facility in seizing little details, but no ability to embrace the whole.]
Credit of syt
of knowledge (and more especially of experimental knowledge) by the art of printing; in consequence of which, those prejudices which had so long withstood the assaults both of argument and of ridicule, have been gradually destroyed by their mutual collision, or lost in the infinite multiplicity of elementary truths which are identified with the operations of the infant understanding. To examine the process by which truth has been slowly and insensibly cleared from that admixture of errour with which, during the long night of Gothic ignorance, it was contaminated and disfigured, would form a very interesting subject of philosophical speculation. At present, it is sufficient to remark, how little we are indebted for our emancipation from this intellectual bondage, to those qualities which it was the professed object of the school logic to cultivate; and that, in
Logism hade the same proportion in which liberality and light have spread over and, as Europe, this branch of study has sunk in the general estimation.
Of the inefficacy of mere reasoning in bringing men to an agreement on those questions which, in all ages, have furnished to the learned the chief matter of controversy, a very just idea seems to have been formed by the ingenious author of the following lines; who has, at the same time, hinted at a remedy against a numerous and important class of speculative errours, more likely to succeed, than any which is to be derived from the most skilful application of Aristotle's rules; or, indeed, from any direct argumentative refutation, how conclusive and satisfactory soever it may appear to an unbiassed judgment. It must, at the same time, be owned, that this remedy is not without danger; and that the same habits which are so useful in correcting the prejudices of the monastic bigot, and so instructive to all whose principles are sufficiently fortified by reflection, can scarcely fail to produce pernicious effects, where they operate upon a character not previously formed and confirmed by a judicious education.
En parcourant au loin la planète ou nous sommes
Que verrons nous ? les torts et les travers des hommes !
lei c'est un synode, et la c'est un divan,
Nous verrons le Mufti, le Derviche, l'Iman,
To these verses it may not be altogether useless to subjoin a short quotation from Mr. Locke; in whose opinion the aid of foreign travel seems to be less necessary for enlightening some of the classes of controversialists included in the foregoing enumeration, than was suspected by the poet. The moral of the passage, (if due allowances be made for the satirical spirit which it breathes) is pleasing on the whole, as it suggests the probability, that our common estimates of the intellectual darkness of our own times are not a little exaggerated.
* Discours sur les Disputes, par M. de Rulbiere.
"Notwithstanding the great noise that is made in the world about 46 errours and opinions, I must do mankind that right as to say, "There are not so many men in errours and wrong opinions, as is "commonly supposed. Not that I think they embrace the truth; "but, indeed, because concerning those doctrines they keep such a "stir about, they have no thought, no opinion at all. For if any "one should a little catechise the greatest part of the partisans of "most of the sects in the world, he would not find, concerning those "matters they are so zealous for, that they have any opinion of "their own: much less would he have reason to think that they "took them upon the examination of arguments and appearance of "probability. They are resolved to stick to a party that education "or interest has engaged them in; and there, like the common sol"diers of an army, shew their courage and warmth as their leaders "direct, without ever examining, or so much as knowing the cause "they contend for. If a man's life shews that he has no serious re"gard for religion, for what reason should we think that he beats "his head about the opinions of his church, and troubles himself to "examine the grounds of this or that doctrine? 'Tis enough for "him to obey his leaders, to have his hand and his tongue ready for "the support of the common cause, and thereby approve himself to "those who can give him credit, preferment, and protection in that "society. Thus men become combatants for those opinions they "were never convinced of; no, nor ever had so much as floating in "their head; and THOUGH ONE CANNOT SAY THERE ARE FEWER IMPROBABLE OR ERRONEOUS OPINIONS IN THE WORLD THAN THERE ARE, YET THIS IS CERTAIN, THERE ARE FEWER THAT ACTUALLY ASSENT TO THEM, and 66 MISTAKE THEM FOR TRUTHS, THAN IS IMAGINED.”*
If these remarks of Locke were duly weighed, they would have a tendency to abridge the number of controversial writers; and to encourage philosophers to attempt the improvement of mankind, rather by adding to the stock of useful knowledge, than by waging a direct war with prejudices, which have less root in the understandings, than in the interests and passions of their abettors.
In what respects the study of the Aristotelian Logic may be useful to disputants.—A general acquaintance with it justly regarded as an essential accomplishment to those who are liberally educated.-Doubts suggested by some late writers, concerning Aristotle's claims to the invention of the Syllogistic Theory.
THE general result of the foregoing reflections is, That neither the means employed by the school logic for the assistance of the discursive faculty, nor the accomplishment of that end, were it really attained, are of much consequence in promoting the enlargement of
Essay on Human Understanding. Book iv. c. 20.