Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/410

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over us so insensibly that some degree of abstraction and keen observation is needed in order to detect it. This danger has already often been pointed out with apprehension; in fact, it is a very common thing to speak of the state of affairs from which it results as being one of the evils of our time; but yet it is not always clearly perceived that we have here to do with a necessary consequence of the progress of civilization as set forth in the preceding considerations.

When cultivated one-sidedly, natural science, like every other form of activity under the same conditions, narrows the mental horizon. Under such circumstances natural science confines our vision to what lies nearest to us, what is palpable, what can be directly apprehended with apparent certitude by the senses. It turns the mind away from more general and less positive considerations, and disaccustoms it to act in the region of the quantitatively indeterminable. In a certain sense we hold this to be a priceless advantage for natural science; but, where this tendency dominates exclusive, it is not to be denied that the mind becomes poorer in ideas, the fancy in images, the heart in sentiment, and the result is a narrowness, a dryness, and a hardness of mental constitution, abandoned by the Muses and Graces. Again, it is a peculiarity of natural science that on the one hand it has a part in the highest aspirations of the human soul, while on the other by insensible gradations it passes into handicraft, into activities whose sole end is lucre. Under the ever-rising demands of every-day life, a steady deviation in the latter direction is inevitable. That side of scientific activity which has to do with the useful arts is ever, unnoticed, coming more and more into the foreground; generation after generation find themselves more and more bent on caring for material interests. Even the universal participation in the over-estimated benefits of political life diminishes the respect for ideas. Amid the unrest which has taken possession of the civilized world, men's minds live as it were from hand to mouth. Who now has the time or the inclination to go down into the deep well of truth, to plunge into the sea of the Ever Fair? Education nowadays, too often an unorganized patchwork, consists of individual facts plucked up by the roots, so to speak, useful it is true, but dry and crude. Few now are concerned about the mode in which the truth has been discovered, or about the relations between things perceivable only in reascending to their origin—to say nothing of the charm of perfect form. Art and literature prostitute themselves to the gross and variable taste of the multitude, swayed hither and thither by the daily newspaper. Where fame lasts only for a day, one of the noblest incitements of human nature—the thought of being famous after death—ceases to have any effect. Hence the decay of intellectual production, which brings forth imperishable masterpieces only when the mind gives itself to its work with wholehearted devotion and with patient fidelity. And if, as Fontenelle has said, industry is indebted for its quickening impulse mostly to pure