Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/520

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FROM the moment we are born into this world down to the day when we leave it, we are called upon every moment to exercise our judgment with respect to matters pertaining to our welfare. While Nature has supplied us with instincts which take the place of reason in our infancy, and which form the basis of action in very many persons through life, yet, more and more as the world progresses and as we depart from the age of childhood, we are forced to discriminate between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood. No longer can we shelter ourselves behind those in authority over us, but we must come to the front and each one decide for himself what to believe and how to act in the daily routine and the emergencies of life. This is not given to us as a duty which we can neglect, if we please, but it is that which every man or woman, consciously or unconsciously, must go through with.

Most persons cut this gordian knot, which they can not untangle, by accepting the opinions which have been taught them and which appear correct to their particular circle of friends and associates; others take the opposite extreme, and, with intellectual arrogance, seek to build up their opinions and beliefs from the very foundation, individually and alone, without help from others. Intermediate between these two extremes comes the man with full respect for the opinions of those around him, and yet with such discrimination that he sees a chance of error in all, and most of all in himself. He has a longing for the truth and is willing to test himself, to test others and to test nature until he finds it. He has the courage of his opinions when thus carefully formed, and is then, but not till then, willing to stand before the world and proclaim what he considers the truth. Like Galileo and Copernicus, he inaugurates a new era in science, or like Luther, in the religious belief of mankind. He neither shrinks within himself at the thought of having an opinion of his own, nor yet believes it to be the only one worth considering in the world; he is neither crushed with intellectual humility, nor yet exalted with intellectual pride; he sees that the problems of nature and society can be solved, and yet he knows that this can only come about by the combined intellect of the world acting through ages of time, and that he, though his intellect were that of Newton, can, at best, do very little toward it. Knowing this, he seeks all the aids in his power to ascer-

  1. Reprinted, by permission of the author, from "Johns Hopkins University Circular" for June, 1886.