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i How charming is divine philosophy!
THERE is not any part of learning so little understood, and of course so much neglected, as the art of thinking, of judging, of reasoning, though the only foundation of all valuable knowledge. Such neglect must have been owing to the harsh, tedious, intricate method in which it has been taught, as well as to the frivolous and frequently pernicious purposes to which it has been applied. The general opinion entertained of its language is evident from a common phrase, in the mouth of almost every body, after hearing any thing which he did not understand, “ It was all logic to me,” that is to say, it was all unintelligible jargon; and indeed the prevalence of such an idea may be easily accounted for by whoever will take the trouble to read a few pages of the technical gibberish made use of by the followers, admirers, and interpreters of ARISTOTLE. One would almost suppose, that his treatise on this subject had been dictated by some evil Genius, to put a stop to the progress of the hunian understanding, and to divert it from useful pursuits to ostentatious and pedantic subtilties.
But though such a perverse method of teaching Logic rendered it at once the most difficult and the most use
less of all attainments, we are not thence to conclude that the study is in its own nature either perplexing or unimportant. Let us take away the barbarous terms, the uncouth phrases, the numberless and puzzling intricacies in which it has been involved : let us bring it back from idle researches and from the fallacies of sophistry to its proper object and its end, the improvement of the mental powers, the discovery and communication of truth : in a word, let us confine our attention to the principles on which it is founded, and to the simplicity of the lessons arising out of them; and we shall soon be convinced, that no art or science is plainer or easier, and that its facility can only be equalled by the pleasure and advantage which it never fails to afford.
What then is Logic? I have already intimated that it is the art of thinking, of judging, of reasoning: it is the agreeable exercise of the mind in acquiring wisdom and knowledge with the greatest expedition and exactness: it inculcates and gradually brings on a habit of clearpess and precision in our ideas, of accuracy in our judgments or opinions, and of fair and just inferences in our arguments : it not only precludes error in every thing that can be brought within the natural grasp of the understanding, but marks the true line between demonstration, or argumentative evidence, and probability. Though its rules seem wholly directed to the improvement and proper employment of our reason, yet it thereby regulates the exertions of our other faculties, and determines their real value. Without the aid of sound logic, the stores of the memory become mere lumber; the most brilliant fancy is a gay, sparkling, but delusive meteor; and the productions of genius itself are only amusing trifles.
But it may be said that what is here so highly praised and recommended as an art, must be the gift of Nature
alone; that the reasoning faculty must be born with us ;
“ Without fair culture's kind parental aid,
“ Or yield the harvest promis'd in its spring." It must be acknowledged, at the same time, that the power of reasoning correctly is of such importance on every occasion, and errors in judgment may often prove so fatal and inseparable, that kind Nature has left that faculty less dependent upon artificial education than any
other. She enters upon
her own course of lessons almost at our birth. The love even of food does not long pre. cede a manifest desire of information, and proper efforts to acquire it. The organs of sense begin to exert themselves, and it is remarkable that those, through the medium of which we acquire the greatest number and the most immediately useful of our ideas, are first called into play. The sight takes the lead, then the touch, next the hearing, and finally the taste and smell, these two being of the least service at an early age. Thus subjects for the exercise of thought are collected we may almost say in the cradle ; images of external objects are impressed upon the mind; and infant reason, though under the influence of the senses, gives evident proofs of the commencement of its operations. As soon as the child begins to walk and to speak, he shews still greater eagerness to enlarge his stock of ideas. The young stranger wants to be made acquainted with every thing in the new world, into which he has been lately introduced ; and that curiosity, the main spring of all knowledge, never quits him while he remains in it. Every step in his farther progress is marked by some fresh acquisition, some perception of the difference between truth and erros, be
, tween right and wrong, between wisdom and its opposite. He becomes in time a practical logician, without knowing any thing of the theory; and his natural good sense, assisted by experience, and by the habit of examining and comparing his own ideas, will commonly enable him to judge, to decide, to argue rationally on any point within the sphere of his comprehension.
In the present state of society, however, the regularity of this process cannot be always relied upon, or waited for; and such an untaught expertness in practical logic may come too late to be of any essential service. The aid
of instruction ought therefore to be called in to co-operate with the designs of Nature, to abridge her course of training, and to put young people as soon as possible upon their guard against the deceptions of others, and the still more dangerous sophistry of their own passions. But the early study of logic, though so obviously useful to every body, is of indispensable importance to the orator, whose grand aim is to convince his hearers; and who must also be qualified to detect and refute the fallacious arguments of his adversaries. He should have a clear and quick perception, says CICERO, of the force, the extension, and the different species of words, as they stand singly, or connected with sentences: he should likewise be acquainted with the various modes and forms, in which any conception of the mind may be expressed ; with the methods of distinguishing a true proposition from a false one ; with the different conclusions which result from different premises; with the true consequences and opposites to any given proposition; and, if an argument is embarrassed by ambiguities, he should know how to unravel each of them by an accurate distinction*. To these qualifications his attention will be directed in the study of logic.
After all, the great difficulty does not consist in proving that practical expertness in logic is a desirable or necessary accomplishment, but in pointing out an easy method by which it may be acquired. This is what I shall now attempt to do in a few remarks, ranged under three distinct heads, in conformity to the three principal functions or operations of the mind, thinking, judging, and reasoning,