« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
manner in which they discharged the duties of the office referred to.
Dr. Mouat resumed charge on the 16th of June last.
power to offer to the memory of their The late J. E.
late lamented colleague, they have reD. Bethune.
solved to embody, in their own report, the addresses made by him in February and March last to the students of the Kishnaghur and Dacca Colleges, after the distribution of prizes in those Institutions.
The former contains an able vindication of the course of study contained in the Council's scheme, and the latter abounds in the sound lessons of practical wisdom which Mr. Bethune always endeavoured to inculcate, when he had an opportunity of coming into personal contact with the pupils of the Institutions under our charge. “ This is my third visit to Kishnaghur: and I hope that all among
you, who were assembled to meet me here on the last Address at Kishnaghur.
occasion of my coming among you, are able to give a
good account of the past year; and are conscious not only of having stored your minds and memories with new words and ideas, but of having improved your reasoning faculties, and strengthened your powers of independent thought. For it is a truth of which
you will become more and more convinced as you advance in years that, valuable as the information is which you imbibe in your scholastic lessons, the great end to be sought in any scheme of education, worthy of the name, is to enable you to think for yourselves in your future life; and, by the habits of patient study which you acquire here to gain a facility and the right temper of mind for meeting and overcoming difficulties which you may find in your future career, when you have to apply your sharpened intellect to the right apprehension of the world in which you will have to live, and your own moral and social duties with respect to the position you may occupy in it.
“ And it is by this test, of their fitness for leading to such results, that the importance of the studies should be tried which are adopted in our Colleges.
“I have been led into the train of thought which has given rise to these remarks by observing that Omesh Chunder Dutt of this College, who was the first senior scholar of last year, would have re-appeared in the same place, if he had not fallen so far behind his successful competitor, Sreenath Doss, of the Hindu College, in mathematics and natural philosophy. It has been frequently said of late, either ignorantly or maliciously, but at all events very untruly, that for some years an undue preference has been given in our Colleges to the study of science, in discouragement of literature; and this has been attributed to my personal predilection for that branch of knowledge. It may not therefore be useless to explain my views of the function which such studies are meant to fulfil: because the remarks to which I allude, though crude and shallow, have been extensively circulated ; and, if left wholly unanswered, may give rise to misapprehension among the real friends of Education in this country.
“ The study of foreign languages has ever been a favourite pursuit in almost every celebrated place of Education in modern Europe: and those who are opposed to the particular system of our English schools and colleges, have found ample ground for attack in the inordinate time which, according to their views, is wasted in mastering the difficulties of two dead languages, Greek and Latin. The moderate defenders of that system, admitting that some changes in the plan of study might be desirable, have grounded their defence, not only on the fact that the study of these powerful and elegant languages purifies and elevates the taste and genius of those who become familar with the masterpieces of poetry, oratory, and historical narrative which are enshrined in their literature, but also on this, that the difficulty of mastering the artificial subtlety of their construction affords an excellent mental discipline for preparing young
student for the acquisition of any other kind of knowledge which he desires. But they do not supply all that is needed Assuredly it would not be to them that we should resort for a code of ethics or of moral and political philosophy: for the minds which should be filled only with the precepts of the master-spirits of antiquity, on such topics, would possess at least as much of error and positive falsehood as of truth, however harmonious and concisely elegant might be its embodied expression. The founders of these institutions, therefore, feeling that the human intellect is never more nobly or more profitably employed than in the search after truth, would have thought their schools very imperfectly endowed, if they had not made some special provision for
training the minds of their pupils for entering upon that study. In the colleges of this country, the principle is the same, though the details are different. The English language here supplies the place which is filled in England by the Latin and Greek : inferior for the purposes of education in some respects, far superior to them in others. I do not consider it an overstrained assertion that those languages do not surpass English in majesty and power of diction more than English is superior to them in the real instrinsic value of the knowledge that is to be gained by studying the works of the best classical authors in each. The want, therefore, to which I have referred is not quite so great for the Hindu student of English, as for the English student of Greek; yet still even here something more is needed : some branch of study in which the attention of the learner shall be fixed exclusively or almost exclusively on the truth taught, and little or not at all on the form of the vehicle through which it is conveyed.
“ There are three subjects of science which have been prominently put forward for accomplishing this purpose, each of which is preferably cultivated at one of three famous British universities. Without meaning to allege of any of them that its attention is exclusively devoted to its favourite science, I may say that the study of logic has met with most favour at Oxford, metaphysics at Edinburgh, and physics, by which term I include mathematics and natural philosophy, at my own university of Cambridge.
“ The advocates of logic, by which is meant the science of pure reasoning, without reference to the subjects of its propositions, seem to consider that they have established their claim to preference when they find that their assertion cannot be denied, that no legitimate reasoning can be carried on, which in any way sins against the rules which it formally teaches.
“ There is, however, another question behind, whether most of those rules are not elaborate and complicated expressions for elementary and almost intuitive truths. I frankly own that, notwithstanding the con. trary opinion of some eminent persons, I have never been able to bring myself to attach much value to the study of logic as a formal science, at least as usually taught: and I believe that all in it that is of any practical use is learned with much greater facility by every mathematical student, who has advanced as far as to understand the doctrine of simple algebraical equation : and that, as soon as he has mastered the toler oly obvious principle that he must be careful not to chan the meaning of his symbols in the course of his investigations, he is as safe from being misled by the usual fallacies that are put forward in treatises on logic as exercises in the art, as if he had been regularly trained to discourse of an illicit process of the minor, or an undistributed middle term. Dr. Whateley's treatise, is, I believe, considered a text book on this subject, and at the end of it, he has given more than an hundred examples of propositions which may be taken fairly enough as tests of the value of all the precepts that precede them. I took the trouble to read them through lately, and I own that I should be grievously disappointed if any of those whom I see in the front benches before me would find much difficulty in distinguishing on the first perusal which are true and which are false inferences among them; though probably there are few, if any, who can use the received logical phraseology in describing the process by which he arrived at his conviction in each case.
Ménage probably meant nothing more than a lively joke when he defined logic to be the art of talking unintelligibly of things of which we are ignorant'; for to take this sarcasm seriously would imply a complete misapprehension of the objects of the science: nevertheless, it is not denied by any who are acquainted with the history of philosophy in Europe, it is indeed admitted by the friends of formal logic, though of course they seek to avoid the inference drawn from their admission, that men never reasoned worse than when the science of formal reasoning was in greatest vogue and reputation. I have been informed that the Hindus possess a Sanscrit form of the same science, which does not appear to have been more fortunate as an improver of the reasoning faculty in man, than its European brother.
“ The study of metaphysics, which term I do not now use in the extensive sense given to it by some German philosophers, according to whom it seems to include almost every possible branch of human knowledge, but with the more confined and yet still sufficiently wide meaning of the study of the laws of human perceptions, thoughts and feelings, is most interesting and important: but the vagueness of it, still more than the difficulty, renders it in my opinion ill-suited for the purpose which I now have in view. The real progress that has been made in it is very slight, and the primary truths, on which its conclusions must be made to rest, cannot be exhibited as it were experimentally and objectively by the teacher : he is forced to call on his pupils to exercise a process of self-examination, in order to understand and assent to his theory, which even highly cultivated minds find difficult to sustain long, and which presupposes a considerable amount of mental training in the
minds of its recipients. There is also considerable danger, from the very nature of the ideas with which this science is conversant, that it should foster a tendency to dreamy barren speculation, which I believe to be a prevalent intellectual vice of the inhabitants of this country: the remoteness and indistinctness of its images do not supply that healthy corrective which is needed for a people whose philosophy has much in it everywhere which is cognate to their old cosmical theory, explaining the stability of the earth by supposing it supported by an elephant, the elephant upon a tortoise, and the tortoise they know not upon what; and so considering the difficulty disposed of when removed two steps farther out of the reach of sense and observation.
“Now mathematics and natural philosophy, when rightly taught, are exactly and excellently well calculated to supply this defect.
“ Through the hard, dry, incontestable truths of elementary arithmetic and geometry, founded upon our simplest conceptions of number and form, we are able to give good practical lessons in the art, if not in the science of logic : and this application of logical reasoning I believe to furnish a far better mental discipline than the formal science itself affords; and that there is an incalculable advantage in forcing the young student to perceive that there is such a thing as abstract truth, not in any way dependent upon the opinions and authority of his instructors, but derived from the very nature of the subject of his thoughts; and in accustoming him, when he has seized such truth, to follow it boldly and steadily into its remote consequences, as unassailable as the principles from which they are derived.
"Accordingly, a favorite reproach against mathematical studies by those who, it is charitable to think, have little knowledge of their nature, scope, and tendency, is that they make men too logical; that the habit of strict reasoning to which they become accustomed unfits them for balancing probabilities, and weighing one kind of evidence against another, expertness in which makes a shrewd practical man of business. I apprehend this to be an utter mistake ; and the probability of its being so seems in some degree supported by the great number of distinguished mathematicians who have become acute lawyers, skilful physicians, and eminent statesmen. Besides, it is a complete misapprehension to suppose that the study of physics deals solely with certainties. Even in the purely mathematical branch we have the elegant and abstruse theory of probabilities, specially concerned with those propositions only of which we have only obscure and imperfect evidence; and