Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/368

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enable you to put your finger on your error, or by a demonstration to convince you of it. But it will take months or years to modify a feeling, an inclination, or a habit. Intelligence is, therefore, more flexible, more movable, more progressive, than the rest of our constitution, and for that reason we can act upon it with more facility. Put over the eye of a near-sighted man glasses that will make things visible to him, and he will be obliged to agree that he sees them; show an ignorant man a drop of water in the microscopic field, and he will have to recognize that it is inhabited. Intelligence is to the other faculties of our mind what the eyes are to the organs of our body—a touch at a distance. Hence intellectual activity has a superior power to direct and transform the other kinds of activity. As it discovers new sides in things, it thereby produces a double effect. It excites new feelings and opens new ways to action. Every new idea tends thus to become a sentiment and an impulse, and consequently an idea-force. The intelligence is the great instrument of voluntary selection. It is a shortening means of evolution; it accelerates and accomplishes in a few years selections that might otherwise have required centuries.

If, instead of the individual, we regard the social organism, we shall find that here, too, the diverse activities and the diverse products of civilization are conditioned upon one another, while the products of intelligence and knowledge stimulate or direct all the social functions. Religious, moral, æsthetic, political, and economical creations are determined by the progress made by mankind, whether in the real knowledge of things or in the discovery of new ideals. Instruction is a motor of prime importance in the social mechanism; but on condition that it is brought to bear on truly directive and selective ideas, on those which, by their intimate relation with feeling and will, conspicuously merit the name of idea-forces.

There is, therefore, a medium between prepossessions for and against education. If education does not manifest all the power of which it is capable, it is because it is rarely directed toward its true end and by means adapted to that end. From this results a loss of living forces by the mutual neutralization and disorder of ideas. We sow ideas, as it were, at haphazard in the mind. They germinate in like manner according to the chances of circumstances, of internal predispositions and of the external medium. This is fortuitous selection, as in the domain of material forces. It is not sufficient to instruct; instruction itself must become an education, a process of reflected and methodical selection between ideas that tend to assume reality in acts. We say continually, instruction; other peoples say cultivation, and they are right. The former word leads us to consider the material bearing of what is acquired; the latter the degree of fertility gained by the mind.