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THERE are few things in history the thread of its continuous labour. more curious than the position How charming is divine philosowhich philosophy has occupied in phy! There is no intellectual the world since ever men began to occupation to which the common think upon their thoughts. By mind yields such unvarying revegeneral consent the title of a great rence. Poetry is to some but de philosopher has been allowed to re- light art, a minstrel's song, half present the highest eminence to amusement, half waste of time. which the human mind can attain. Of science, even at the present day, Something more stable and not less and much more in former ages, men divine than poetry, more lofty and have asked, Cui bono? but it is a comprehensive than mere science, kind of instinct in humanity (as apmore searching than theology, more pears) to respect philosophy. There profound than ethics---embracing is no educated man of the present and transcending common reason, or of many preceding generations, common observation, all the best who would not take shame to gifts of ordinary mortals--this himself if obliged to confess that noblest of pursuits has everywhere he knew nothing of, or had no symtaken the foremost rank in the opin- pathy with, this science of the soul. ion of the world. It reveals itself We may scoff at the unpractical out of the depths of antiquity the tendency of abstract thought, at its oldest of all studies. Before phy- exaggerations, its unrealities, its sical science had come into being, want of a true hold upon the steady or when it existed but as a series of soil; but yet there is not one of us distorted guesses at the wonders of who is not more or less impressed by external nature, philosophy was. the often misapplied title of "the Though it has changed with every greatest thinker of his age.” We changing generation, developed, may-nothing more probable-disWaned, undergone countless revo- like the bearer of that title, disaplutions, there has been no break in prove of him, feel that by very ex
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cess of logie he makes himself futile; the concession grudgingly made by yet we cannot contest the supremacy one has been annulled by his sucit confers. And thus, looking back cessor. Let one man afford us the along the line of ages, there appears cheering certainty that our conto us a line of great figures figures sciousness is a reality, and that we almost more notable in their calm can know and be sure that we live; than those of the greatest practical another comes after him to declare, agents the world has seen. Bacon, no: that: Something lives of which age. The greatest of English poets cannot understand, yet may believe; is on the same scene, and with and that this Something is the sole him a sovereign of personal note reality in the universe. If one
us the some of the most picturesque and the image of things so truly as to noble gentlemen--Sidney, Raleigh, be able to trust in our conception Essex-that ever adorned England. of them, another contradicts him
that it is difficult to say that Bacon is alone exist, while of the things
with not the most illustrious-for his we can have no assurance; and a deeds ? alas! no--his deeds damn third follows with the still more the man—but because of his trans- disheartening warning, that It is thought, and thought only, that our minds being like a distorted
those gives him his supremacy. It is need- mirror, full of false reflections. A less to pursue through history the discouraging, humiliating, unadnames of those who have won on the vancing science, making progress, same ground a long-enduring fame. perhaps, in method and form, but, Yet the science which has confer- so far as result goes, arriving only red this fame has become in mo- at the conclusion that it is itself dern times the most unsatisfactory, a delusion and impossibility. All
the least beneficial, the most un- other knowledges have contributed practical of all knowledges. Amid something to the common stock of the busy world, in which every man human profit: philosophy alone has his work to do and his burden has given us nothing. She has to bear, to walk over real thorns . bidden us believe that we live as
that tear his flesh, and burning shadows in an unreal world--that ploughshares that penetrate to the nature and all her glories are but
bone, the greatest thinkers have the phantasmagoria of a dreambut lived to prove that nought that the skies and the winds are is everything and everything is but so many notions of our own nought. Their researches have uneasy, restless brain. While we, only led them to the conclusion the ignorant, have been roaming, that nothing can be found out. It not uncheerily, about a world full as the labour of Sisyphus, never of sunshine and of moonlight, she lending, still beginning, which has - has groped on from one darkness east over them the mist of splen- to another, losing a faculty, a faith, dour through which posterity be- a scrap of feeble certainty, at every holds them. Instead of expanding step. Such is the story as traced our horizon and bringing new truths even by her own votaries. Yet it to our knowledge, the only practical is this constantly-failing, constantlyissue of their labours has been to re- dissatisfied science which has given educe the number of our beliefs and their chief title to immortality to
make us uncertain of all things. some of the names most known and