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on through a course of ages; others “ have given a small beginning to things “ which, in succeeding
times, will be brought to greater perfection. The be“ ginning of a thing, though small, is the chief
part of it, and requires the great“ est degree of invention ; for it is easy
to make additions to inventions once
begun. Now with regard to the dia« lectical art, there was not something “ done, and something remaining to be
done. There was absolutely nothing “ done: for those who professed the art ” of difputation, had only a set of ora“ tions composed, and of arguments, and “ of captious questions, which might suit
many occasions. These their scholars ” soon learned, and fitted to the occasion. “ This was not to teach you the art, but to furnish
with the materials pro“ duced by the art : as if a man profes“ fing to teach you the art of making
shoes, should bring you a parcel of “ shoes of various sizes and shapes, from « which you may provide those who want. ! This may have its use; but it is not to ço teach the art of making shoes. And
indeed, with regard to rhetorical decla
“ mation, there are many precepts handed « down from ancient times; but with re
gard to the construction of fyllogisms,
“ We have therefore employed much “ time and labour upon this subject; and " if our system appear to you not to be
in the number of those things, which, being before carried a certain length, were left to be perfected; we hope for your favourable acceptance of what is
done, and your indulgence in what is “ left imperfect.”
Reflections on the Utility of Logic, and
the Means of its improvement.
SECT. I. Of the Utility of Logic.
MEN rarely leave one extreme without
running into the contrary. It is no wonder, therefore, that the excessive admiration of Aristotle, which continued for 3 F 2
many ages, should end in an undue contempt; and that the high esteem of logic as the grand engine of science, should at last make way for too unfavourable an opinion, which seems now prevalent, of its being unworthy of a place in a liberal education. Those who think according to the fashion, as the greatest part of men do, will be as prone to go into this extreme, as their grandfathers were to go into the contrary.
Laying aside prejudice, whether fashionable or unfashionable, let us consider whether logic is, or may be made, subfervient to any good purpose. Its professed end is, to teach men to think, to judge, and to reason, with precision and accuracy. No man will say that this is a matter of no importance; the only thing therefore that admits of doubt, is, whether it can be taught.
To resolve this doubt, it may be obferved, that our rational faculty is the gift of God, given to men in very different measure. Some have a large portion, some a less; and where there is a remarkable defect of the natural power, it cannot be supplied by any culture. But this natural
power, even where it is the strongest, may lie dead for want of the means of improvement: a savage may have been born with as good faculties as a Bacon or a Newton : but his talent was buried, being never put to use; while theirs was cultivated to the best advantage.
It may likewise be observed, that the chief mean of improving our rational power, is the vigorous exercise of it, in various ways and in different subjects, by which the habit is acquired of exercising it properly. Without such exercise, and good sense over and above, a man who has ftudied logic all his life, may after all be only a petulant wrangler, without true judgement or skill of reasoning in
I take this to be Locke's meaning, when in his Thoughts on Education he says, “ If you would have your son to reason “ well, let him read Chillingworth." The state of things is much altered since Locke wrote. Logic has been much improved, chiefly by his writings; and yer much less stress is laid upon it, and less time consumed in it. His counsel, therefore, was judicious and seasonable ; to wit,
That the improvement of our reasoning power is to be expected much more from an intimate acquaintance with the authors who reason the best, than from studying voluminous systems of logic. But if he had meant, that the study of logic was of no use nor deserved any attention, he surely would not have taken the pains to have made fo considerable an addition to it, by his Esay on the Human Understanding, and by his Thoughts on the Conduct of the Understanding. Nor would he have remitted his pupil to Chillingworth, the acutest logician as well as the best reasoner of his age; and one who, in innumerable places of his excellent book, without pedantry even in that pedantic age, makes the happiest application of the rules of logic, for unravelling the sophistical reasoning of his antagonist.
Our reasoning power makes no appearance in infancy; but as we grow up,
it unfolds itself by degrees, like the bud of
When a child first draws an inference, or perceives the force of an inference drawn by another, we may call this the birth of his reason : but it is yet like a new-born babe, weak and tender; it must