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The sheet-anchor of plain folk, both in the precise line between fact and fiction in political and speculative questions, is a the newspapers; but we can by many unrecourse to first principles. By whatever failing, if somewhat rough, tests, learn to means we may have become possessed of distinguish between sense and nonsense, them, we all have some few convictions, between what is admitted on all hands, according to which we do consciously or and what is put forward for a purpose ; unconsciously judge all human conduct. between what is essential and what is Whether iginally derived froin experi. beside the question. To do this roughly ence or from intuition, these principles is necessary for the transaction of the were at least in possession of our minds most ordinary business; to do it perfectly, long before we ever heard of the particular one of the highest achievements of the questions with which we are now con- trained intellect. The intense emotional cerned; and their proof or disproof must interest of such questions as are now floodrest upon wider grounds than the answers ing every region of modern life almost to any of the questions of the day. No forces the use of these logical exercises doubt, in the process of referring practical upon many who in quieter times might questions to first principles, there are at have been content with dreams or with every step a multitude of risks. Suppos. practice. If the eagerness of discussion ing our principles to be all right, we make induces us, as it should do, to cross-ques. strange blunders in applying them, from a tion ourselves as to our own exact meanwant both of logical faculty or training, ing, to look to our definitions, to become and of knowledge of facts which may be more and more precise and cautious in essential to the case. Or there may be our statements, limiting them more rigidly some fundamental flaw in our first prin- to what we really know, it is doing us ciples themselves, which must vitiate all valuable service. How many people, for our judgments. Better be stupid and instance, have of late been driven to ask ignorant than wrong-headed.
themselves (in the first place, perhaps, with All this is true, and fatally affects the a view to refuting others) what they really value of our conclusions if considered as mean by justice, by international morality, verdicts. But it does not affect the value by imperial policy, and by many other exof the process by which we arrive at them pressions, upon the true meaning of which when considered as mental discipline, nor half the controversies of the day really does it wholly destroy the moral value of turn? If these controversies drive us into our judgments as engines to be used in any degree of clearness on such questions, the cause of right.
they will have served a purpose much By what means, indeed, can we acquire more lasting than that of determining our logical habits of mind if not by exercising immediate action. our faculties upon imperfect information? Not only the intellect, but the conscience, If we do not regard the weighing of evi- may find both food and correction in the dence as a part of the art of reasoning, we process of groping painfully among the pershall have to confine that art to the region plexities of imperfect information. Some of pure mathematics.
of us, especially I should imagine some The problems which come before us in women, suffer to a degree which is perhaps such bewildering profusion every morning unreasonable, though not unnatural, from in the newspapers supply abundance of the sense of ignorance combined with in. exercise for our logical and moral faculties tense interest in the moral issues involved - an exercise which would be not a whit in large public questions. It may serve to the less stimulating and invigorating if quiet and at the same time to encourage Russia and Turkey and Afghanistan and those who are thus harassed, to be reall the telegrams relating to them were minded that the value of our moral verdicts fictions of the editors' brains. We might does not wholly depend upon our being certainly find that we had gone considera- rightly or fully informed as to the facts of bly astray in practice if this proved to be the case. The legal value of a judgment the case; but our wits would none the in a court of law does not depend entirely less have been sharpened by our disputes upon the correctness of the evidence. The if on some blessed day we should awake award might be reversed if the evidence and find that the Eastern question was but proved to have been incorrect or imperfect, a dream. We have, however, in these but any points of law which might have very faculties, the means of ascertaining been cleared up by the judgment would, I but too clearly that it is no dream. We take it, remain clear after its hypothetical cannot, without an amount of leisure and basis had been disproved. And so in conability which belongs to very few, draw troversies involving (as what important controversy does not involve ?) questions his own views. And we may with much of right and wrong, all who take part in more confidence assert that the moral tbem necessarily do something to raise or judgments of the learned will be usefully to lower the tone and spirit in which they corrected by the simpler, and perhaps are conducted, even without being in full stronger, but at any rate more active, feelpossession of the facts, and without, there ing of those to whom the facts may be fore, being in a position to do strict justice comparatively new. to the actors in the affairs in question. Let us try for a moment to trace out the No doubt it is often difficult, when the province of right-minded ignorance in remoral sense is strongly roused, to avoid gard to a particular question. A painfully doing injustice; and, no doubt, it becomes apposite instance is before us all in the us all, in proportion to our ignorance, to case of the Afghan war. Ordinary people be slow in making, and ready to retract, need not be much ashamed if they have to practical and personal applications of our confess the fact that before the meeting of virtuous sentiments. But it is perfectly Parliament they would have been utterly possible, while wholly suspending our without the materials for an outline of our judgment as to the degree in which a par- relations with the ameer since the concluticular kind of praise or blame may have sion of the last war. We may perhaps be been deserved by particular persons, to forgiven for feeling that it would even now arrive at true and useful views of the de- be very difficult to relate them at all fairly gree in which a given course of action from memory. In a long series of more would merit such praise or blame. To do or less complicated transactions there is this rightly is to exercise a really important scarcely one which has not been told on function. We should be adding nothing high authority in such different ways as to to the common stock by ascertaining in all change its character again and again. their detail and complexity all the facts What actually passed between the ameer already known to the few, but we are add- and the successive viceroys, and between ing to the common stock by taking the the viceroys and the home government, right side on any practical question. And may be so told as to convey several difmany such questions arise in which we can ferent impressions; and when to what truly, though roughly, discern the general was actually said and done we add what drift from the broad and unquestioned out. I was felt and intended and suggested, lines presented to us. Strict and detailed these transactions can be infused with coljustice cannot be awarded by the multi-oring matter at discretion. Again, the tude ; but a righteous course will be se facts respecting the comparative strength cured only by the common consent of all. of our present and of various other conOur facts must be supplied to us by the ceivable frontiers are both doubtful in learned ; our logic and our moral choice themselves, and capable of being very vamust be of home growth.
riously represented; while the bearing of Thus in referring the questions which our relations with Russia and our responcome before us to first principles, we, the sibilities in India, upon our rights and duignorant many, are at once educating our ties towards Afghanistan, is obviously a selves, and taking the best means within problem of the utmost difficulty and imour reach of helping the cause of right. portance. To attempt to bring out from And it would almost seem as if there were the mass of disputed and entangled evione useful function belonging to the igno- dence before us on all these points a clear rant as such. It is that of affording a cer- and duly-balanced judgment of the conduct tain indispensable check to the tendency and veracity of those whose policy and of cultivated minds to run into subtleties, statements have been called in question on and to attach undue importance to the this occasion, would be for most of us conclusions at which they have arrived by ridiculous presumption. Yet is any intellong and laborious processes. If the ig: ligent person likely to rise from a modernorant are sufficiently determined to hold ately careful reading of these debates fast to their principles and to sit loose to without having received, and being not their conclusions, they may, while receiv- only entitled but bound to entertain, and ing instruction and correction, also be the on occasion to express, some strong immeans of imparting it. It would perhaps pressions as to the moral character of the be going too far to say that no theory is war upon which we have entered? Can worth much which cannot be justified to we not see for ourselves, without under. intelligent ignorance, but it is certain that taking to verify a single disputed fact, how no theorist could fail to find in the endeavor these different questions hang together? to do so a useful test of the clearness of | Can we not trace the different degrees of value attached by different speakers to and our blame a restraint, there is indeed moral and to material considerations, to reason enough for not shrinking from the personal and to national interests ? May stormy atmosphere of discussion, even we not gather, in spite of all the reticences, though we may know that a complete masand the cross purposes, and the transienttery of the questions at issue is beyond exigencies of Parliamentary debate, some our grasp. No man, however full of injust though perhaps vague notion of the formation or of theories, is really indiffer. different ideals of national greatness and ent to the sympathy and approbation of of justice and duty which different leaders his comparatively ignorant wife or friend. would hold up before us? And have we Those whose imperfect knowledge comnot a right, is it not even our duty, to pels them to remain on the defensive and choose between them accordingly? We to keep to the modest rôle of inquirers, may feel quite unable even to guess whether have for that very reason an immense adany and what amount of fresh territory vantage in debate. By resolutely mainwould really strengthen our frontier ; but taining a high standard for the quality (both each one of us is quite as much bound, logical and moral) of the explanations and nearly as well qualified, as any states offered as the price of our sympathy, we man to form an opinion as to the compar- impose a more effectual check than we are ative value of a scientific frontier and of often ourselves aware of upon our instrucan unbroken pledge. It seems to me even tors. It is worth while to consider delibclear that the habit of public debating, not erately the importance of the sifting office to say the traditions of official life, tends in of inquirers who are resolute in not being some degree to confuse moral with politi- convinced except upon good grounds, becal ideas. How can we otherwise account cause it is just those who are best qualified for the significant fact that all public to exercise it who are most likely to shrink speakers and writers, on both sides of from it. The very gifts of heart and mind, this question, so far as I can remember the reasonableness, the logical faculty, and without exception, teach us that our duties the keen sense of right and wrong, which and our interest lie on the same side ? make people worth convincing, give them Why else do all those who think we have also a strong sense of their own ignorance; no just cause for war add that we have and for such people the task of grappling none for alarm? Why do all those who with moral questions without complete recognize a pressing necessity for the rec- knowledge is often acutely painful. They tification of our frontier also think the con- are often strongly tempted to retire altoduct of the ameer unjustifiable? Why do gether into serener regions, and to desert those who think that India should bear the ihe cause of right just because they care expense of a war for the defence of India so much about it. also consider our Indian finances to be Such sensitiveness, however, is clearly a prosperous and improving, while those snare, and the plea of ignorance no real who take a gloomy view of the prospects exemption from our responsibility in matof our Indian revenue can always see so ters of common concern. For, after all, plainly the imperial character of the war? the fact is that in all questions of the day
The moral significance of certain rap- many of the most important elements are prochements is at least as striking to those only those of our own daily experience who are new to the subject as it can be to “writ large;" and to be ignorant is not veteran partisans; and while it is only be necessarily to be either inexperienced or coming in us outsiders to bow to any cor- uncultivated. Those who are least bur. rections on matters of fact which may be dened with the results of conscious study vouchsafed to us by the initiated, it would often possess in a high degree that strange be mere weakness to let our feelings be instinct by which the intellectual comparaswayed by sympathy with authority. No tive anatomist seizes upon the backbone amount of ignorance can deprive us of the of a new subject as unerringly as Professor right to exercise our judgment with regard Owen lays his finger on the rudimentary to such facts as we do know or assume limbs of a strange beast. Ignorance with to be true. All that we have to do is to a hearty appetite, the full use of its limbs, distinguish clearly between what we assume and an abundant supply of raw material, and what we know, and to keep our as- is not so very badly off even in this wellsumptions open to correction. While we informed age. do this our praise and blame are not likely The appeal from special knowledge to to be worthless, even though they may be universal experience is not in these days in occasionally and provisionally misplaced. much danger of being disallowed. But the
If we can make our praise worth having sense either of ignorance or of power may
hinder us from using our scanty materials may be provided by the diligent study of -intelligently and under a due sense of re- some subject which is limited enough for sponsibility. The great thing is to fix our grasp. There is no better way of rightly the scale upon which we can hope testing the trustworthiness of our guides to construct a tolerably complete chart of than to take their opinion on some subject any subject which comes before us. A which we really do understand, and no pocket atlas may be as correct in its pro- better chance of increasing our store than portions as an ordnance survey of an inch to possess ourselves of a good solid nuto the quarter of a mile; but the propor-cleus of truth round which other truths tion may be as easily destroyed by enlarg. may group themselves. If we bestowed ing one part as by diminishing another. more pains upon correcting the bearings Carelessness about details is not necessa- and strengthening the foundations of our rily the result of blind presumption. It central framework, and less upon extendmay be part of a wise economy of mental ing the circumference of our information, space. An over-crowded mind'is as bad a the sense of our ignorance might become thing as an empty one, and less remedi- less oppressive, and its effects would at able. The worst fate is to become a mere any rate be less disabling. What most of dust-bin for the accumulation of chance us need is not so much to acquire more scraps, without choice, without arrange- knowledge, as to acquire a more complete ment, and without vent. For what we mastery of the knowledge we have, and at want to know is not what are the exact the same time to practise a more unflinchdetails, but what are the true bearings, ing obedience to it.
C. E. S. and the comparative weight, of the different considerations by which action must be determined. Without some principle of arrangement, details are as oppressive as they are worthless.
From The Spectator. If the ignorant have an important part THE INTELLECTUAL to perform with regard to public affairs, we may with still better reason “magnify THERE is one unpleasantness, to us at our office” with regard to the moral and least, in reading about Australian savages. religious questions which so deeply agitate They have been very carefully observed the whole mental atmosphere of our times. by very intelligent men, almost as carefully In these questions individual experience observed as the children of a household, furnishes not only important analogies, but and those men always seem to us to come a large part of the very subject-matter in to two conclusions: first, that the savages debate; and however difficult may be the are men; and secondly, that the power of art of rightly interpreting it, the unlearned accumulation, the power which more than have as large a share as any one else any other differentiates men from animals, in “creating history." We allow ourselves is in them exceeding low, or rather, posito be too much troubled by the specula- tively limited. The power exists, that is tions of others upon subjects wholly be- demonstrable, but its exercise involves, yond our grasp (if not beyond theirs), and with some tribes, such fatigue that they we are not half careful enough to keep our will not employ it unless driven by sharp own path straight, or our own windows and continuous necessity, and not always clear. Upon these awful subjects light is even then. They consequently remain, to be found less through answering ques: and will remain always, not animals, but tions than through "obeying the truth” little children, never advancing, and never we do know.
capable of cumulative advance, but living The ignorant, however, like their beton unchanged till the conditions around ters, are of necessity treading a perilous them become too much for their limited and perplexing path, leading them across powers, and then dying sadly out. It is misty morasses of imperfect information, not a pleasant thought, by any means, and no aid within their reach is to be de. though no more inconsistent with the spised. If first principles may be com Providential scheme than the existence of pared to the stars, by which (when we can congenital idiotcy or hereditary insanity, see them) our course must be guided, there -- because it suggests that in each race are other helps which, though less perma. there may be an inherent line beyond nent and less infallible, are in foggy which it will not pass, and that no race, weather more available. These are the therefore, is certainly capable of indefinite stepping-stones laid down for us by the advance, but it will obtrude itself some. judginent of others, and the compass which I times. We have a huge book before us,
for example, a present from the govern- on them disagreeable restrictions, and ment of Victoria, in which Mr. Brough which sometimes require great efforts of Smyth, a gentleman employed for sixteen memory, just as children will act upon years in the Department for the Protection mamma's rules, and recollect long strings of the Aborigines, gives to the world much of things forbidden, apparently without of what he has collected about the aborigi- using their minds at all. Mr. Brough nes of Victoria. He had intended to give Smyth gives one example of this, which is all he had accumulated, but was prevented to us new and strangely suggestive, a cusby “circumstances,” for which, unless they tom that seems to have tumbled out of were very unpleasant to him, we are heartily another world, or to have descended from grateful. God knows what his book would another civilization. The aborigines of have grown to, if his design had been per- Victoria will eat the most loathsome things fected. It is extremely valuable, however, -tree-worms, slugs, snakes, and so on and interesting, in spite of its gigantic and it was at first believed that they would scale ; and it is impossible to read the eat anything. It was, however, discovered chapters we have read those bearing on that not only were certain articles of food the mental status of the aborigines — with. forbidden to the young, the object being to out the thought we have described. The reserve them to the old, who govern the aborigines of Victoria, who, it seems cer: tribes, and who cannot hunt vigorously, tain, were all originally alike, and who all but that they had a classification in their speak dialects of one tongue, seem stricken minds binding animate and inanimate with perpetual childhood. They have all things together, in some inexplicable tribal the capacities of other races, physical and connection. They hold, as it were, that mental, except the capacity of advance; hares and Campbells have a relation, and they produce as many children to the Frasers and wombats, so that any Fraser family, a statement often denied; Count may eat any hare, but no Campbell may; Stzrelecki's often-quoted account of the while a Campbell may dine off a wombat, sterility of their women, after bearing chil. while a Fraser may not. The statement dren to white men, is a fable; and the is so strange, that we give it in the origipopular notion of their low vitality is a de- nal:lusion, they recovering from severe wounds with singular ease and rapidity. Their The statements made in his letter to me by young shift for themselves very early, as Mr. Bridgman, of Queensland, and the pecul"early as the kangaroo,” showing great jar arrangement under one and the same quickness and readiness in hunting up division, as ascertained by Mr. Stewart, of food for themselves; and they are quite Mount Gambier, of things ánimate and inanias active as Europeans, though not so mate, show that much is yet to be learned enduring or so strong. They have good respecting the principles which guide the memories, but it is in the way children within their kriowledge. The two classes of
natives in placing in classes all that comes have, — memories, for instance, for words, the tribes near Mackay in Queensland are and for stories, and for the customs of the Youngaroo and Wootaroo, and these are again house, but not for anything requiring sepa- subdivided, and marriages are regulated in rate and original mental exertion, nor, it accordance therewith. But the blacks say may be suspected, for things that are long alligators are Youngaroo and kangaroos are past. They learn English, for example, Wootaroo, and that the sun is Youngaroo and very readily, and sometimes very perfectly,
the moon is Wootaroo. Strange to say, this, just as children in India will learn two or found at Mount Gambier. There the pelican,
or something as nearly like this as possible, is three languages apparently without any the dog, the blackwood-tree, and fire and frost mental effort, and certainly without any are Boort-parangal, and belong to the division draft upon the intelligence, which remains Kumite-gor (gor=female); and tea-tree scrub, as undeveloped in the trilingual child
the duck, the wallaby, the owl, and the craysuch, for example, as the well-to-do child fish are Boort-werio, and belong to the division in Pondicherry often is, and the English Krokee. A Kumite may marry any Krokeechildren in Calcutta always are — as in the gor, and a Krokee may marry a Kumite-gor. monolingual one. They know great num- And Mr. Stewart says a man will not, unless bers of myths, wild and rather grotesque under severe pressure, kill or use as food any stories about the origin of things, and the of the animals of the division in which he is food, and the feats of the bunyips, or evil hunger compels him to eat anything that bears
placed. A Kumite is deeply grieved when spirits, just as children know fairy-stories, his name, but he may satisfy his hunger
with but are without any system of theology. anything that is Krokee. These divisions and And they remember and obey, customs subdivisions have an important influence in which they cannot explain, which impose all arrangements between natives, not only as