Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/June 1898/Veracity

VERACITY.
By WILLIAM HENRY HUDSON,

PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY.

IT is worth our while at times to turn aside from the investigation of the newer theories and problems of conduct, to examine a little carefully some of the older but not less weighty matters of the law. Familiarity is said to breed contempt in social and domestic intercourse; it certainly has its peculiar dangers in the domain of thought. We may grow so accustomed to a fact that it gradually loses its meaning for us; we may live so long in intimate association with a life-giving idea that little by little it lapses into dry and sterile commonplace. When this happens, it is well to force such fact or idea out again into the current of freshening inquiry, that the mind may play actively about it for a season, and its full significance be thus revealed.

If this general doctrine be recognized as sound, it may be regarded as not altogether waste of time to consider briefly the ancient and well-established ethical principle of truthfulness, or veracity. It will not do to say that we all know that it is wrong to lie, and right to speak the truth, and that there the whole matter ends. For we shall discover, if I mistake not, that in the rediscussion even of a topic so old and apparently threadbare as this we shall come upon some points of theoretical and practical importance which, if not altogether new, may derive an element of novelty from restatement, and which at any rate will be found to furnish food for thought.

What, then, do we mean by veracity? In nine cases out of ten the answer given would be: By veracity we mean simply telling the truth; or, in other words, the making of such statements only as we believe to accord with facts. Now, this rough definition gives what we may describe as the solid substratum or foundation principle of veracity, though it is, in common affairs, rarely pressed to its full meaning. Hence we may accept it as far as it goes. Veracity will always signify, on the positive side, telling the truth; and on the negative, the avoidance of statements not in harmony with facts. But, ethically considered, while it denotes all this, it also connotes a good deal more than this; and some of its more important implications call for distinct formulation.

The complete conception of truthfulness, then, must in the first place be taken to embrace, not only the habit of saying that the thing which is so is so, but also constant care in conveying at all times the correct impression in regard to facts, and that impression only. That in every kind of prevarication, dissembling, and evasion we fall short of strict veracity, even when no directly false statement is made, is a commonly accepted principle; and in current parlance we condemn also as immoral the silence which leaves another in ignorance or with a distorted notion of reality, when we are in a position to set him right. But it is not so generally recognized that overcoloring of any sort, introduced for any purpose, exaggeration, the trick of extravagant epithets, the indiscriminate use of expletives, are to be adjudged as untruthful. How difficult it is to keep the straight line in these matters every one knows who has had occasion to tell a number of times over the story of any adventure or curious experience. Before long the magnifying tendency is almost certain to show itself; the adjectives grow a trifle stronger, the language a shade more pronounced; and unconsciously we presently begin to mold our material with an eye not upon accuracy, but upon effect. Then, after a while, like the redoubtable Tartarin de Tarascon, we lose sight of the plain and simple facts, and take our own more or less imaginative version of the story as correct in outline and color, thus deceiving ourselves.

Our common carelessness in ordinary conversation is revealed by the random employment of superlatives, characteristic of all of us, but of women perhaps more than of men; the highly charged phrases of praise or blame, generally to be pronounced excessive; the irresponsible rhetoric of fancy and caprice. Nor do we need, in illustrating this point, to confine ourselves to everyday intercourse. Literature furnishes numerous examples of the vice of overcoloring, even where we ought least to expect to find them—in the writings of historians. Witness Carlyle and Macaulay. The work of the former is frequently rendered unveracious not only by personal passion, but also through the abuse of his enormous vocabulary of invective; that of the latter, as well by willingness to sacrifice the finer shades of analysis to the production of brilliant antithetical effects, as by the occasional irruption of bias and prejudice. Of neither of these men could it be rightly said, in Mrs. Browning's splendid phrase, that he possessed in full degree "the conscience of the intellect"

Pushing the matter still further, we should say that the conception of veracity involves, in the second place, not simply the habit of keeping close to what we believe to be fact, but due inquiry into the basis of such belief. It is one thing to stick consistently to what we take to be truth; another, but equally important thing, to make certain that we are fully justified in accepting and proclaiming it as such. There are many people who, in the daily intercourse of the world, will never be found guilty of willful prevarication or misstatement, but who none the less seldom take the time or trouble necessary to sift the stories they hear and repeat, and test the exact relation between what is reported and what has actually occurred. As "evil is wrought by want of thought as well as want of heart" so also are we often confused and misled, sometimes regarding issues of serious moment, by the mental laxity, inertness, or inattention of ourselves or others, no less than by positive falsehood or malicious dissimulation. How little this side of the question appeals to most of us is clearly shown by the circumstance that the defense, "I thought is was so and so," or, "Well, I didn't know any better at the time" or "Such and such a person told me so" is currently urged and accepted as sufficient answer, when any statement, subsequently proved to be incorrect, is traced back to its immediate source. But no such excuse is ethically valid. The proper rejoinder in all such cases is: "You ought to have known; you ought not to have made allegations or offered opinions until you had been at proper pains to convince yourself of the soundness of what you said" Matthew Arnold once remarked that the English are very good in following their consciences; where they are not good is in finding out first of all whether their consciences are leading them right or wrong. But, in view of the fully developed principle of veracity, we must hold a man responsible, up to the uttermost limit of his opportunity, for knowing the truth as well as for speaking it; for investigating the grounds of his beliefs and judgments, no less than for frankness and courage in the expression of them. In a word, we must insist on enlightenment—on the intellectual as much as the narrowly called moral aspect of the matter.

And this leads us to the conclusion that veracity, at bottom, signifies nothing less than the cultivation of a love of truth for its own sake, and is, therefore, fundamentally synonymous with intellectual integrity, absolute soundness and sanity of mind. Observe, then, the further implication. To complete our conception of veracity we have to remember that it means not alone speaking the truth, not alone proper care in ascertaining what is truth, but also thoroughgoing, unhesitating readiness to accept fact as fact, no matter how unpleasant it may seem to be. This point needs emphasis; for, hard as it may appear to have to say so, there are very few of us who are not, at some times, under some circumstances, guilty of imagining that what we like is the final measure and criterion of what is; few, therefore, who in practice live up to that ideal of complete mental honesty which demands repudiation of all prejudice, snap judgment, self-delusion, make-believe, a stern determination to see things as they are, and the corresponding willingness to adjust ourselves resolutely and without murmur to what is shown to be reality. Presented with a new idea, we are too often inclined to ask—not. What is the evidence for or against it? but. How will it suit my tastes?—not, Is it true? but, How is it likely to affect my present creed? But only when we feel able to declare with Clough, "Fact shall be fact for me, and truth the truth as ever"; to realize with Amiel that "the world must adapt itself to truth, not truth to the world"; and acknowledge with Froude that "whatever the truth may be it is best that we should know it"; and, at the same time, carrying these principles out into practice, make them the impelling and guiding forces of our lives—then, and then only, have we a right to say that our intellectual foundations are deeply and firmly laid.

But such a result requires self-culture of the widest as well as the severest kind, for it calls for balance and regulation of feeling no less than for mental alertness, vigor, clearness, and honesty. Before we can "see life steadily, and see it whole" we must have the entire nature under the complete control of that conscience of the intellect to which reference has been made; we must have trained ourselves up to a degree of fortitude sufficient to bear without flinching what Bagehot once described as the sharpest of all pains—the pain of a new and unwelcome idea. Often enough a fresh truth will bring us not comfort or the sense of satisfaction, but the reverse of these—doubt, misgiving, heart-anguish, agony of mind. The peace and joy which we once found in an older order of thought may henceforth be ours no longer; while, in place of a philosophy of life which had grown rich and sacred to us through association, we may have to accept a new theory of the universe and man which for a time at least may seem chilly and bleak and depressing. In such a crisis as this—and few serious-minded men of our generation can hope to escape some mental upheaval attendant upon the progress of thought—we must nerve ourselves with the high doctrine of veracity: "Let fact be fact, and life the thing it can"—first, the truth as we can learn it, and then, whatever happiness or comfort may be gained from it for ourselves and others.[1]

Even this is not quite all. Strict adherence to veracity, still further analyzed, will be found to include not simply fortitude in facing new truths for ourselves, but also the faith that, in the long run, truth will always be better than error for the world at large. Here, of course, we touch a question of acknowledged difficulty, and one of which no adequate treatment can be undertaken in this place. Yet the difficulty must at least be presented. Given a creed or scheme of life which seems to bring hope and comfort to "the complaining millions of men" and many of us, while ourselves convinced of its unsoundness, will more or less deliberately cherish the opinion that it is, on the whole, best that the world should be left unenlightened; and we find a kind of theoretic basis for our position in the modern evolutionary doctrine of the congruity which exists in the average of cases between culture and belief. Many of the older ideas out of which past generations drew strength and inspiration may appear to us to be forever discredited. But shall we, therefore, carry our conclusions out into the common places of life—into the streets, the markets, the schools? Shall we force them, from the outside, upon those intellectually and morally unprepared to receive them? Shall we preach them as truths "to those that eddy round and round"? How great is the responsibility of each of us in these matters will be felt at once by all to whom the present problems in conduct are something more than questions for academic speculation. Is there not, it may be urged, a time and a season for all things—even for speaking the truth? And though it may never be conceived as part of our duty to state publicly what we know to be false, may we not oftentimes be justified in holding our tongues?

I need hardly say that this is a difficulty to which thoughtful men have been fully alive from the time of the Greek and roman moralists onward. In our own day it has been powerfully presented in one of Ibsen's strangest and most enigmatical plays, The Wild Duck. What I have elsewhere written about this extraordinary work bears so directly upon the issue now before us that I may be pardoned for reproducing a portion of it here: "After all, I do not think that it is very difficult to see the point of connection between this play and the body of Ibsen's work. It seems to me to have been the writer's purpose to clinch the ideas already set forth in Hedda Gabler, though allowance must be made for the presence and coloring of an even more dejected mood. Truth may prove destructive; but then it will be the fault not of truth but of ourselves. Its boasted liberty is a blessing to those only who are fit for liberty; to many it may prove nothing more than a short cut to ruin. Men must be educated, not only in truth, but for truth. You can not make people free from the outside. They must achieve freedom for themselves, by inward growth. You may strike off their shackles, but this will only give a man who is a slave by nature an open chance to plunge into a still more desperate servitude. It is useless, worse than useless, to offer new knowledge where the recipient lacks spiritual strength and flexibility to adjust himself to the larger claims which it will undoubtedly force upon him. Gregers Werle, in the play, makes ideal demands upon an individual mentally and morally unable to rise to the level of the occasion; what marvel, then, that the experiment proves fatal to all concerned? It is, therefore, perhaps fair to regard The Wild Duck as a kind of complement or sequel to An Enemy of Society. In the latter drama, Ibsen boldly proclaimed his right to speak out, come what might of it; in the present work, on the other hand, he mournfully acknowledges that the gospel he brings to the world—true gospel though he conceives it to be—may none the less be fraught with vast and incalculable dangers for a society made up for the most part of people like those we meet in the play. . . . Is it not best, he seems to ask, just to leave them as they are? Who shall shoulder the responsibility of uttering the new word, knowing that while it is potent to save, it is also potent to destroy?"

Thus, as well as I am able to read it, runs Ibsen's thought; and the doubt which it expresses must from time to time have been felt by most of us. To proceed further with the discussion of the question thus opened up would here commit us to an unwarrantable digression into casuistry. It therefore must for the present be left where it is.[2] I have raised it with a view only to completeness—that is, to show that the full conception of veracity implies faith in truth as well as love for truth; whether we can any of us declare ourselves in favor of absolute veracity in this respect is quite another matter.

 

We may now regard our subject from a different point of view, briefly considering veracity under the three partially independent forms distinguished by Mr, Lecky—the industrial, the political, and the philosophical.European Morals, third edition (New York, 1891), vol. i, pp. 137-139.

1. Industrial Veracity.—By this we may understand, with Mr. Lecky, "that accuracy of statement and fidelity to engagements which is commonly meant when we speak of a truthful man" The description of this kind of rectitude as "industrial" may, however, cause some surprise, since the idea that the industrialization of life has cultivated not candor, but mendacity, is deeply rooted in popular thought, and finds numerous expressions in literature—as, for instance, in Pope's line—"The next a tradesman, meek, and much a liar."[3] And that this common notion is apparently supported by many conspicuous facts can not be denied. We are all of us too familiar with the countless abuses of trade as they come home to us in our own experiences—with the tricks and subterfuges to which all classes of dealers resort, the adulteration of almost everything we eat and drink, the lying advertisements of our newspapers—to need to be reminded that the commercial spirit is not in these days marked by any profound respect for truth. Might it not even be urged that, in this particular respect, we have lost by the encroachments which industrialism has made upon the old chivalrous code of honor? That code—at least as we know it through romance—insisted upon a certain integrity of character, squareness of dealing, honesty even with enemies. But a moment's thought will convince us that, after all, these manifest facts give us only one side of the matter. It is equally certain that, whatever results may reveal themselves in practice, nations come more and more to recognize in theory the need and importance of veracity as their relations grow more and more industrial. Mutual confidence, like justice, is a prerequisite condition to industrial development; and mutual confidence is possible only when people as a whole fulfill their promises, keep their engagements, and to some extent stick to the truth. Even the abuses of trade are, in a certain sense, evidence of the growth of general veracity. The liar depends for the success of his lying upon a broadly accepted tradition of truthfulness; the dishonest trader is as much interested as those whom he cheats in the honesty of other people. If no one were expected to speak the truth, false statements would lose their value; if we all ceased to believe in fair dealing, the deceiver's occupation would be gone. As Mr. Lecky says, in industrial societies "veracity becomes the first virtue in the moral type, and no character is regarded with any kind of approbation in which it is wanting. It is more than any other the test distinguishing a good man from a bad man. . . . This constitutes probably the chief moral superiority of nations pervaded by a strong industrial spirit over nations like the Italians, the Spaniards, or the Irish, among whom that spirit is wanting. The usual characteristic of the latter nations is a certain laxity or instability of character, a proneness to exaggeration, a want of truthfulness in little things, an infidelity to engagements, from which an Englishman, educated in the habits of industrial life, readily infers a complete absence of moral principle" We may even go with him when he adds, "The promotion of industrial veracity is probably the single form in which the growth of manufactures exercises a favorable influence upon morals"

It is important to note the almost entire absence of this kind of veracity among the Greeks, because this fact shows us that truthfulness is not necessarily the result of a high state of civilization, but only of a state of civilization accompanied by such life conditions as tend to make truthfulness a habit. And if we inquire what such conditions are, we shall probably find that they depend, more than upon any other single cause, upon the gradual subsidence of the regime of mutual antagonism, and the rise of the régime of mutual help.[4] So far as industrialism has abated the struggle for existence among individuals and nations, it has promoted veracity; while to the extent to which it only keeps this struggle alive under changed forms, it merely perpetuates the untruthfulness which was from the first a concomitant of such struggle.

2. Political Veracity.—By this, still following Mr. Lecky, we mean the spirit of impartiality which, in matters of controversy, desires that all facts, arguments, opinions, should be freely and fully stated—in a word, the spirit of fair play. We call it "political" because it is undoubtedly to be interpreted as a growth, immediately, out of developing freedom in political life. Democratic progress, then, provided it be democratic in reality as well as in name, will favor the spread of this particular form of truthfulness; coercive rule (whether it come through the tyranny of the one or of the many) will always prove hostile to it. It suffices here to observe these connections, without undertaking any analysis of the relations subsisting between forms of government and social activities. A free platform and press, open debate, the habit of challenging, sifting, criticising—these are the conditions which foster the spirit of political veracity; where they do not exist we shall search for it in vain. The famous conversation between Tom Brown and Harry East on the ethics of lying, with the conclusion of the latter that there is nothing wrong in deceiving a master if you can do it with safety, simply expresses in little what is everywhere exhibited at large by the moral history of the world. For the spread, therefore, of this form of truthfulness we must look to the decline of despotic authority and to the democratic habit of unchecked discussion; and we must expect to see it accompanied, on the one hand, by increased self-dependence and insistence on one's own right of thought and speech, and, on the other hand, by a wider and more generous toleration of the opinions of other people.

3. Philosophical Veracity.—This may be defined as the most abstract and disinterested form of truthfulness—the simple love of truth for its own sake. The conditions of its development are complete emancipation from prejudice and party contentiousness, freedom from the disturbing influences of passion, tradition, personal and other kinds of bias, the cultivation of a calm and judicious spirit in all matters of controversy, and that steadiness of mental vision which enables us to envisage without wavering the hardest and most disagreeable facts. It is this pure and unreserved devotion to truth as such—this complete willingness to follow whithersoever it may lead—that more than anything else distinguishes the man of the highest mental character from those of lower types—which marks off the philosopher, properly so called, from the heated partisan, the bigoted sectary, the whole crowd of ignorant, ill-reasoning, or indifferent adherents of churches, classes, schools. It is to be considered as the last and noblest of the intellectual virtues—the very flower and fruitage of the finest developments of thought.

This form of veracity, it is evident, then, is possible only in certain high states of civilization, wherein mental freedom and alertness, a wide interest in every field of inquiry, and the largest and most solid intellectual culture, combine at once to establish the ideal, and to bring about and maintain the conditions necessary to its attainment. But we must not rest content with these rather vague and general statements. We must investigate a little more closely the habits of life and thought, and particularly the kind of mental discipline, by which philosophical veracity is fostered and strengthened.

After all, the question thus introduced is, fortunately, a very simple one. If, remembering that we have here to do with a love of truth as such, with the desire to know all that is to be known about any subject, and with the willingness to accept whatever is proved to be fact, no matter whether it may fit into our preconceived theories or make havoc of them, we ask: How best are these high qualities to be cultivated? What is the method and training by which such results are to be secured?—we shall find that in the very terms of our statement the answer is clearly given by implication. It is in the scientific spirit, and in the spread of scientific ideals, methods, and habits of mind, that we have to seek the ultimate cause of philosophical veracity. Of this austere virtue, science itself offers the one great training school. We are there taught, as we are taught nowhere else, to estimate evidence and weigh hypotheses; to discount ready-made conclusions, and set aside authority and tradition; to look steadily at facts and theories, and hold lightly to creeds and systems as, in the nature of things, nothing more than provisional. Such drill, such training in mental conduct, is bound to affect the whole life, nurturing patience, reserve, precision of observation, thought, and statement, care in forming opinions, the judicial temper of mind, on which stress has been laid. Nor is this all. Science furthermore teaches us, and beyond all things else, to seek fact as fact, allowing the judgment to be in no way swayed or disturbed by any consideration of its real or supposed consequences. Elsewhere, truth may be made subordinate to social convenience, established philosophies, pet theories of man, nature, and God. In science, it is sought for its own sake, and from first to last is held supreme.

The difference between the scientific and the non-scientific spirit in these important matters is made clear when we remind ourselves that almost every great conclusion established by scientists has at the outset been angrily denounced on account of its imagined bearings upon questions of conduct or the creeds of the organized churches and schools. When, to take only a single conspicuous illustration, Darwin published the results of his investigations into the origin of species and the descent of man, pulpits and newspapers all over the civilized world vehemently attacked the new doctrines because "they made a personal God unnecessary" or "debased man to the level of brutes" or "tended to materialism" or "contradicted the first chapter of Genesis" or did something else equally impertinent, equally subversive of preconceived ideas. And even where no rancor was shown, the position too often assumed was no less fatal to genuine veracity. "Here is the established creed of my party and church; as this is truth, whatever does not harmonize with it must be false; the Darwinian hypothesis does not harmonize with it—it is therefore false; it only remains in one way or another to disprove it; let me cast about to see how this can be done" This, I think, is no unfair description of the popular plan of campaign; and it is easy to see that here we have the intellectual attitude and temper, not of the calm, unprejudiced judge, but of the interested, brief-holding advocate—an attitude and temper which must inevitably lead to prevarication, special pleading, evasion, and the innumerable evils of sophistry.

In the so-called conflict of science and religion—which in reality is the conflict of newly discovered truth with older and exploded theories of things—we are thus shown again and again that while the finest discipline for philosophical veracity is to be found in the growth of the scientific spirit, its worst foe is always to be sought in the diametrically opposite spirit of theology. "Science abhors finality in belief" said a distinguished English clergyman,[5] "but this is precisely what theologians like. Science discovers facts, but theology accepts revelation, and clings to creeds" Exactly; and the contrasted mental results brought about by such conditions respectively need scarcely be specified. Science has no creed to support; theology has always had, and always will have. Science, therefore, is free to look at all theories from the point of view of facts; while theology is bound to look at all facts from the point of view of accepted theories. In this simple circumstance lies a part explanation of the everlasting warfare between them.

But the spirit of theology is hostile to strict veracity for other reasons than this finality of belief, this tenacity in regard to established creed. Theology professes esoteric knowledge of what lies beyond the reach of verification, and thus breeds contempt for the processes of verification and disparagement of their importance. It labels all sorts of things which transcend knowledge, or contradict accumulated evidence, "mysteries" thus dismissing them from inquiry and encouraging looseness of thought. It fosters undue reverence for tradition, authority, the "wisdom of our ancestors" and therefore tends to mental dependence, sluggishness, and debility. It postulates belief as the ideal of the intellectual life; proclaims implicit faith the greatest of virtues; teaches credence in default or in spite of testimony; and so condemns the skepticism, balance of judgment, reservation of opinion, acknowledgment of nescience, in the absence of which the quest for truth is impossible, and which are often the last results that the truthseeker is able to offer as the reward of all his toil. Finally, theology, by its familiar device of "reconciling" science with its own postulates when the conclusions of science are no longer to be ignored or abused, undermines frankness, straightforwardness, the sense of honor and fair play, and cultivates that habit of equivocation, subterfuge, hairsplitting, and forced interpretation, than which nothing can be more disastrous in its influence on the intellectual life.

We do not wonder, then, that in the "ages of faith"—in the days when theology held undisputed sway—truth should have been so little prized, and falsehood, provided only it were falsehood in a good cause, held so venial. John Sterling's uncompromising words on leaving the priesthood—"No, I can not lie for God"—are very far indeed from describing the mental attitude of the early and mediæval Church. "By the fourth century" says Mosheim, "the monstrous and calamitous error" had taken possession of the ecclesiastical world, "that it was an act of virtue to deceive and lie when, by that means, the interests of the Church might be promoted" The history of the Church and councils, and of the growth of Christian doctrine, only too clearly shows to what extent this principle was put into practice.[6] "This absolute indifference to truth" writes Mr. Lecky, "whenever falsehood could subserve the interests of the Church, is perfectly explicable, and was found in multitudes who, in other respects, exhibited the noblest virtue. An age which has ceased to value impartiality of judgment will soon cease to value accuracy of statement; and when credulity is inoculated as a virtue, falsehood will not long be stigmatized as a vice. When, too, men are firmly convinced that salvation can only be found within their church, and that their church can absolve from all guilt, they will speedily conclude that nothing can possibly be wrong which is beneficial to it. They exchange the love of truth for what they call the love of the truth"[7] Thus, under the predominating influence of theology, men came to care more for creed than for veracity; and among the countless evils which followed as a matter of course, the habit of persecution sprang up and grew apace. Strictly logical, from the theological standpoint, this habit simply carried accepted principles over from theory into practice. In attacking opinions with the strong arm of civil authority, in punishing them with bodily torture, men merely treated the quest of truth as a social crime, when already it had been denounced as a religious sin.

So far as philosophical veracity is concerned, therefore, we have to conclude that its growth must depend almost wholly upon the decline of the theological and the spread of the scientific spirit. And, indeed, whatever else the expansion of science may do for men in the years to come, it is probably just in this extremely important particular that its influence will be most pronounced and most beneficial in the intellectual life of the world at large.

 

This little essay has been intended simply to give some of the most important principles of veracity in a purely abstract statement. Special questions and problems have, therefore, been purposely left untouched. All moralists, it may be assumed, will agree that, in the actual ordering of life, there are occasions when not only are we not called upon to speak the truth, but when even by direct lying we incur no proper reproach. To mislead the would-be robber concerning the exact whereabouts of the family plate is clearly justifiable; and so, too, is the false statement of his condition by means of which, as every physician knows, a patient is often given a better chance of recovery. Numerous cases of these or other kinds will occur in common experience; there is unfortunately no single rule of conduct which can be taken as inflexible and universal in its applicability; and we must each of us face the individual crisis when it arises as best we can. But meanwhile it may be useful sometimes to consider general and fundamental principles in ethics without relating them to exceptional issues. After indulging in such a discussion as the foregoing we may, it is possible, be inclined to say that, as Rasselas was convinced by Imlac that no human being could ever be a poet, so are we fully convinced that we can never be wholly and consistently truthful. Yet it may help us none the less to have the ideal distinctly set before us, and whatever difficulties may be in the way of our approach to it, it will never cease to be our duty to hold it steadily and bravely in view.

 


 
After Heinrich Hertz had gone to Munich to study engineering in 1877, he wrote back to his parents that he wanted to change his plans and return to the study of natural science. He felt that the time had come either to devote himself to this entirely or else to say good-by to it; for if he gave up too much time to science in the future it would end in his neglecting his professional studies and becoming a second-rate engineer. His parents consented to his desire and his course of studies was changed in conformity to it. A year later he wrote from the laboratory that the greater part of the time spent there was devoted to "things which are very useless, or at any rate don't teach one much, such as cutting cork and tiling wires, and the observations themselves are naturally not very delightful. Possibly it may be doubtful whether it is quite right for me to spend so much time at these things when I still have so much to learn. And yet I feel that it is right; to get information for myself and for others dii-ect from Nature gives me so much more satisfaction than to be always learning it from others and for myself alone—so much more that I can hardly express it. When I am only studying books I am never free of the feeling that I am a perfectly useless member of society."
  1. Noteworthy examples of courage shown in the acceptance of what the writers deemed truth, though unpalatable truth, will be found in James Thomson's sonnet, A Recusant; the last chapter of Romanes's Candid Examination of Theism (published under the pseudonym of Physicus); and the concluding paragraphs of Pearson's National Life and Character.
  2. The reader desirous of following; up this part of the subject will be glad to be reminded of John Morley's extremely able essay On Compromise.
  3. Moral Essays, i, 152. See also Tennyson's vigorous denunciation of commercial morality in Maud.
  4. For evidence on this point, see Spencer's Principles of Ethics, Part II, chapter ix, Mr. Spencer, of course, connects the growth of veracity, directly or indirectly, with the decline of militancy and the spread of peaceful activities.
  5. Dr. Magee, late Bishop of Peterborough.
  6. On the mendacity of the early Church and the way in which it forged prophecies and fabricated evidence, see, e. g., Lecky's History of Rationalism, vol. i, pp. 434, 435.
  7. History of European Morals, vol. ii, p. 213.