Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/127

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

classical education, as opposed to the modern study of nature by the method of science. Exactly what he means by "Nature" does not so plainly appear, but by his instincts as a classicist, alive to the present emergencies, he is "down upon it" whatever it be—witness the following passage:

For what is this "Nature" (with a capital N) which figures so largely as a final arbiter in the enthusiastic eulogies of Science (with a capital S)? Does this Nature include man and his operations, or does it not? If it does, then these very interferences are also a part of Nature. And certainly the human part of Nature has as good a claim to be the arbiter as any other part. But if it does not include man, and is merely a name for the forces and processes of the world outside of the human world, then we may safely assert our right to come down upon this Nature, and mold and control it according to our needs. Or if, to take a third supposition, this capital-lettered Nature is meant to include man only in his "natural" condition—the wild man so called, the savage, the animal—then surely the very effort of all civilization, and of education as its chief instrument, is to oppose, and whip in, and convert, and take command of these untamed forces of Nature, that we may develop the savage into the higher human being.

Now, the nature about which Mr. Sill is here so dubious, and of which he seems to be so jealous, is by no means a difficult thing to define and understand. For the purpose here in view it is the order of things in which man is placed, of which he is a part, and of which it is his highest intellectual prerogative to be the interpreter. And it is to be remembered that "this Nature" is something which had no existence in that golden age of classical antiquity which gave origin to those literatures still claimed to be best for the cultivation of the human mind.

It is sufficiently obvious that relatively to man what nature is depends upon what he is. To him who is ignorant of it, nature is one thing; to him who understands it, nature is another and a very different thing. How the savage regards the world, we need not here inquire, but it is desirable to know how it was possible to regard it after human culture had become greatly advanced.

Man did not begin his mental career by the study of nature. The earlier forms of mental cultivation were literary. The Greeks and Romans developed poets, dramatists, orators, historians, critics, and artists of fine accomplishments while yet nothing was known of nature. The external aspects of things were described with great fidelity, but the view was sentimental, poetic, and superficial. Into the secrets of nature at that time men could not penetrate, its course they could not explain, its order they could not conceive. They had no clew to the interpretation of even its simplest phenomena. They could look, but they could not observe; they could construct, but they could not experiment; they could guess, but they could not verify; they could speculate, but they could not create positive knowledge. There is much of interest, art, and beauty in the literatures of Greece and Rome that has been a source of pleasure to all succeeding times; but these proficiencies brought no capacity to explore and understand the surrounding world. In all the thinking, therefore, of the classical ages, nature was simply left out.

But this was not always to continue. The earlier and lower forms of mental effort gave a preparation for profounder work. Yet it was only in modern times that men began to learn how properly to inquire, and to prize the truth that results from inquiry. After much vagrant exertion, and a long and painful apprenticeship in the processes of investigation, science began to take definite form as a higher manifestation of intellectual power. Humanity had grown to a new function. The art of questioning Nature through observation and experiment was slowly perfected; the facts arrived at were classified and inductive truths established, and there