« VorigeDoorgaan »
indicate especial weakness of judgment among the converts. Mr. Simeon only advocated a more strict observance of Gospel-ordinances and certain modifications of church government, concerning which men of equally sound minds and liberal education may differ in opinion: if most of those who embraced his doctrines were mathematicians, that was the necessary consequence of the majority of students at that university being such. It should have been stated what was the proportion between those who did, and those who did not, become converts to them; and again, of these two numbers, what proportion of each was to be allotted to those who studied mathematics, and to those who pursued classical literature. Unless this statement were made, the assertion is but a vague generality, of no value in such an argument.
We think the tenour of the following passage from Mr. Stewart's “Dissertation on the progress of Philosophy," (Supplement to Edinburgh Encyclopædia,) is not exactly consistent with the conclusion intended to be drawn by the reviewer from those he has adduced.
Nothing is more interesting and instructive than to remark the astonishing combinations in the same mind, of the highest intellectual endowments with the most deplorable aberrations of the understanding, and even in numberless instances, with the most childish superstitions of the multitude. ...... Nor was the study of the severer sciences on all occasions an effectual remedy against such illusions of the imagination.”
As the examples of these deplorable aberrations are taken from divines, jurists, and metaphysicians*, the inference is, that Mr. Stewart, by “the severer,” alluded to physical and mathematical sciences, and that he considered them, generally, as an effectual remedy for keeping down the illusions of imagination by strengthening the faculty of judgment.
Though we do not allow much weight to the opinion of individuals, as to the effects on the intellect of any study in which they either do or do not excel; we admit the full force of the evidence deduced, both from the moral conduct and intellectual cultivation of those celebrated for any particular line of study, as to the effect of that study on the mind. We bow not to the authority of Germans deciding on the inferiority of mathematical to classical, or metaphysical studies, for forming the moral constitution, because the nation is eminently unmathematical; and yet that which could give birth to, and adopt, the speculative systems of Oken, Schelling, Goldbeck, Fries, Nees Von Esenbeck, and others,—the land of mesmerism and phrenology,—the country notorious beyond every other for the universal diffusion of scepticism, for which they arrogate the term rationalism,-cannot, we suppose, be cited by the anti-mathematical party as having attained that healthy state of intellectual cultivation, which the line of studies pursued ought to have engendered,
• The reviewer observes, triumphantly, the world but the reviewer. Leibnitz did that there are four super-eminent meta- not become a mathematician till he was physicians, Descartes, Leibnitz, Male- twenty-three years of age, and his mind, branche, and Locke; that the last was it may be supposed, had nearly attained the only one who was not a mathema- its full vigour. Descartes was a genius, tician, and yet how superior he was to like Pascal, and though inferior to Locke, the other three. Malebranche was so yet he was only so in having been born little of a mathematician, that his acquire considerably before him. ments in that science are unknown to all
according to its advocates. The fact is, imagination is the national characteristic faculty of the Germans, and it will be admitted that, when not duly restrained, this faculty is the source of every moral obliquity; if Germany has produced poets, artists, musicians, metaphysicians, antiquarians, and philologists of a higher rank than other contemporary nations in recent times, it has also given birth to more credulity, fanaticism, folly, and crime.
The French, as a nation, cannot be adduced in evidence on the other side, because there was till lately no general intellectual cultivation in that country: but the most inveterate enemy of abstract science as a study, must admit that, as individuals, the Sçavans of Paris are preeminent for their high moral and intellectual excellence. D'Alembert's virtues are universally allowed; and his contemporaries and successors in cultivating mathematical studies are, almost without exception, exempt from any stain on their character. M. Arago, in the present day, is not more distinguished for his profound mathematical and physical knowledge, than for the political influence which his firmness and rectitude have obtained for him in a country torn by factions. The late Carnot offered to defend an important fortress at a critical juncture, and Napoleon would have accepted his services. Condorcet, whose literary decisions have been pronounced by a competent authority as entitled to the highest deference, was a distinguished mathematician at sixteen. The striking and nearly single exception presented by the two Bernouillis*, to what we consider the general rule, is fully admitted; but it has such an abundance of parallels among philologists, jurists, metaphysicians, and divines, that we think no one can assert equanimity of temper, and exemption from envy, malice, and all uncharitableness, to be the usual result of philosophical studies, as they are termed.
We will not, for obvious reasons, cite examples of moral excellence from among our living countrymen distinguished for their scientific attainments; yet we cannot refrain from alluding to one, because the attainment of profound knowledge in abstract science being rare in an individual of her sex, such an example naturally presents itself in a discussion on the beneficial effects on the moral character of such studies. If, then, to a knowledge rarely equalled by men, be united every quality that can adorn a woman, that knowledge being enhanced by the possession of extensive acquirements in other studies—we may at least be allowed to quote her opinions, her pursuits, and her example on our side, in contrast to those of the culpable De Staël.
Let any one recall to his mind all the quarrels which have distracted the world of literature, from the earliest ages to the present moment, let him reflect on the bitter, relentless, bloody hostilities, excited by purely speculative matters of opinion, such as those between the Nominalists and Realists, between the Roman and Canon jurists, the Jansenists and Molinists, with numberless others to which we will not allude; and then let him decide whether the cultivators of abstract and
* We say nearly single, for the unfor- unnatural hostility of the Swiss brothers; tunate differences between Newton and and the exact proportion of blame to be Flamsteed, which have lately been brought imputed to Flamsteed or his great oppoto light, are venial, compared to the nent, is still a matter of discussion.
physical science have not been, at all periods, distinguished for their unanimity and moderation. But we quit this argument, forced on us by the imputations we have been considering, to return to one more general and more likely to conciliate.
If the intellectual faculties are generally referrible to those of judgment and imagination, and the predominance of one class over the other primarily determines each individual mind to those pursuits which more particularly demand the exercise of that one: then the question before us is at once freed from all considerations of imagination, since its influence, when felt, is too powerful to admit of more than control, and is little susceptible of cultivation. When, therefore, the individual is not endowed with that rare genius which renders him a benefactor to mankind, by the happiness his creations as a poet, a painter, or a musician, excite in his own and future ages; the aim of the liberal education he gives himself, that is of his pursuits after he has passed through the discipline of school, should be the improvement of his judgment, so as to preserve his imagination subordinate without suppressing it: by so doing, he will most probably secure the maximum of happiness; the undue influence of ordinary imaginations, when unchecked by the judgment, being the source of all the evils which disturb the peace of the individual, as surely as its dominion, when it is of an exalted nature, is productive of the greatest good to society.
By not suffering any extrinsic cause to induce him to pursue one line of studies in preference to another, but by adopting that for which he feels an especial inclination, he will most certainly attain the end in view, and be secured from the exclusive effects of one study by the invariable tendency of each, if pursued with steadiness and energy, to lead to and connect itself with others. The endeavour to exalt the importance of one line of studies at the expense of another, is particularly to be deprecated, not only as causing an undue influence in determining the choice of pursuits, which, in our opinion his own feelings—the suggestions of the individual's mind, -ought alone to decide; but as fostering those bickerings and animosities so detrimental to the general intellectual advancement. Instead of exciting the philologist, the historian, the metaphysician, the naturalist, the politician, and the mathematician, to regard with jealousy, or to treat with contempt, the pursuits of the others, true philosophy should point out to each, that they are all equal in dignity if they contribute to the real happiness of the individual, by alluring him from the debasing tendency of sensual pleasures; and the contest among the different cultivators of knowledge should be to prove the beneficial effects of each species on the mind, by sedulously cherishing courtesy and charity towards their fellow-labourers in the vineyard, and not to flatter their own indolence or presumption by striving to depreciate the utility of exertions of which they are incapable, or to which they are averse.
A POPULAR COURSE OF ASTRONOMY.
In the last chapter was pointed out to the reader a method readily applicable to the determination of the difference of latitude of any two places on the earth's surface. It was simply to observe the number of degrees through which any of the fixed stars had been made apparently to ascend or descend on the vault of the heavens by the change of the position of the observer.
But every star has another apparent motion besides that which arises out of an alteration in the place from which it is observed. There is an apparent motion from east to west, which is common to the whole host of the stars, and by which each star is made to describe about 15 degrees of the circle, which is its apparent path, every hour. Hence, whilst an observer is changing his place and his latitude, the star which he has observed will itself have had an apparent motion towards the east, arising from a cause quite independent of his changed place, and out of the whole apparent motion of the star he will find a difficulty in ascertaining how much is, and how much is not, due exclusively to this change of place.
Fortunately, however, the star will return after 24 sidereal hours, or 23' 56' 44:09" mean solar time, exactly to the same place in which it was at the period of his first observation ; and if he repeat his observation at that moment, the result will be precisely the same as though the stars had not moved at all in the interval.
Thus, then, if he makes his second observation precisely 23h 56' 44:09" after the first, he knows that any change in the apparent altitude of the star must arise from his motion, and not from any apparent motion proper to it. And this remark applies to all that has been said before of that apparent motion of the stars which is produced by a change in the position of the observer,
This subject will, however, be better understood, when the reader's attention shall have been called more specifically to the diurnal motion of the earth.
It has been shown that the earth is a huge isolated mass, having no contact with any other, but self-supported in space.
Now it will at once occur to the reader, that a mass, placed under these circumstances, whose surface had no other contiguous surface to rest against, no fixed pedestal or suspending-chain to keep it in its place, would necessarily move, if any external force were applied to it. And those who have studied the theory of mechanics know further, that any motion thus communicated to it would, since there is no friction or other opposing resistance to destroy it, continue for ever. And that this is true as to the fact, however great or however small may be the amount of the disturbing force, varying only in this respect as to the degree
of the motion. It will occur to them, therefore, as quite possible that this ball should be, and should have been from all eternity, in motion, provided there be, or ever have been in existence, an external power capable of moving it. Nay, their speculations on the probability of the
case may be carried yet further. It is a principle of mechanics, that if motion be communicated, by impact or otherwise, to a mass in any other direction than through its centre of gravity, this mass, when left to itself, will have two motions, one a motion of translation, in which all its parts, including its centre of gravity partake in common-the other, a motion which will ultimately be a motion of rotation about a certain axis through its centre of gravity, in which only those parts of the body which are without this axis will partake. And it is a remarkable fact that these two motions of translation and rotation will be quite independent of one another, so that the motion of translation will be precisely the same as though the mass had been struck through its centre of gravity, and there had been no rotation, and the motion of rotation the same as though there had been no translation, the centre of gravity of the mass having been held at rest. Thus, were the mass a sphere, and had it been struck otherwise than through its centre, it would necessarily spin round one of its diameters, and at the same time move forward in a straight line, with a motion of translation. Also this spinning motion would be the same as if the axis about which it takes place had been kept at rest like that of a globe, and the motion of translation the same as though the ball had been struck through its centre, and had not therefore spun at all on its axis.
And all this is true, however slight the impulse which might be given to it.
To put this fact in a more striking light, let us suppose the force of gravity on the earth's surface for an instant to be destroyed, and let the reader be imagined to have constructed a sphere of clay, and having done so, to hold it up in his hand, and then to unloose his
from it. It would immediately begin to spin upon one of its diameters, and to move onward through space with an uniform motion, which would never of its own accord alter its direction, or cease. There being no force of gravity to draw it downwards, had no force whatever been communicated to it when it was set free, it would have rested; but it will have been found impossible to set it free from the hand without communicating some motion to it, and it is an infinity of chances, that the direction of that motion shall not have been precisely through its centre; in which case there will, of necessity, have resulted a motion of translation, and one of rotation.
It is scarcely necessary to apply this illustration to the case now under our discussion: that the Hand by which the materials of our globe were brought together could have been withdrawn, and yet that mass left quiescent in space no one ventures to deny; but that it should move is the simpler case, and that the same Hand, when it had spread upon the face of the earth its glorious covering of green herbage, of flowers, and of forest-trees, and sent forth the cattle on a thousand hills, should then have imparted to it that impulse in space, whence should result the alternations of day and night for the repose of every living animal, and the periodical changes of heat and cold, whereby every variety of vegetable life should be made to bring forth its fruit in due season, is by far the more probable of the two suppositions. That this earth, then, which we know to exist, isolated in space,