Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/34

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24
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

And thus one great result of the new form into which modern science is casting all our conceptions of education will be a vastly higher estimate of the educating value of those pursuits in life which are concerned with material things, and a distinct recognition of them as included among the liberal professions. It is interesting to observe how the list of liberal professions enlarges with the advance of civilization. At first the priest is the divinely-appointed monopolist of all higher knowledge; by degrees he is joined by the lawyer, as the interpreter still of a divinely-established code; it is much later and only after a certain amount of progress has been made in physical knowledge that the importance of his function raises the physician's art to the dignity of a liberal profession; and that more at first through a superstitious belief in the power of his spells and his magic than from respect to the small reality of his science. Now that science has so far entered into other callings as to make them worthy fields for the exercise of the highest faculties, all those pursuits which have for their aim the improvement of man's earthly condition will take their due rank in the list of liberal professions, and the chemist, the engineer, the architect, and the merchant, will have their appropriate liberal educations as much as this clergyman, the lawyer, or the physician. It may safely be affirmed that that view of earthly life of mediæval ascetics which has left its traces so deeply imprinted in much of our sectarian theology is fast vanishing like an ugly dream forever. The intellectual and moral aspect of material pursuits is fast gaining, through the significance given to them by modern science, a predominance over their mere material aspect. The worker in material things is more and more, as the days go by, compelled to be an intellectual being even in order to be a worker, and it is because the study of and working in material things now give scope for the energies of great intellects, that they more and more absorb them. Whoever continues to believe in the antithesis between matter and spirit, and insists upon looking on the world of material things as of necessity the world of the devil, must see in this tendency only disaster to all our higher interests; but whoever sees that it is the true function of modern science to spiritualize material things by enabling us to put them to higher uses, will see in science not the great antagonist but the great hope of the religion and the philosophy of the future.[1]

The advocates of the classical theory are never weary of reproaching their opponents with opinions which, as they say, degrade the dignity of true learning, by making it subservient to mere utilitarian

  1. The spirit of the older education is well represented in the following extract from a work of that learned and arrogant pedant, the late Dr. Donaldson. He says: "If, then, the education of the whole community is so dependent on that of the upper classes, and if these owe their normal influence to the circumstances which enable them to escape the trammels of material interests, it must follow that the liberal education which is the peculiar attribute of the highest order ought to consist in the literature which humanizes and generalizes our views, and not in the science which provides for the increase of opulence