Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/660
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
It is not surprising that, in the last third of the nineteenth century, Arnold's fascinating advocacy of literature, as the paramount agency of culture, should have incurred some criticism from the standpoint of science and of philosophy. The general drift of this criticism was that the claim which he made for literature, though just in many respects, was carried too far; and also that his conception of intellectual culture was inadequate. As a representative of such criticism, I would take the eminent philosopher whose own definition of culture has already been cited, Henry Sidgwick: for no one, I think, could put more incisively the particular point with which we are here concerned. "Matthew Arnold's method of seeking truth," says Sidgwick, "is a survival from a prescientific age. He is a man of letters pure and simple; and often seems quite serenely unconscious of the intellectual limitations of his type." The critic proceeds to enumerate some things which, as he affirms, are 'quite alien to the habitual thought of a mere man of letters.' They are such as these: "How the crude matter of common experience is reduced to the order and system which constitutes it an object of scientific knowledge; how the precisest possible conceptions are applied in the exact apprehension and analysis of facts, and how by facts thus established and analyzed the conceptions in their turn are gradually rectified; how the laws of nature are ascertained by the combined processes of induction and deduction, provisional assumption and careful verification; how a general hypothesis is used to guide inquiry, and, after due comparison with ascertained particulars, becomes an accepted theory; and how a theory, receiving further confirmation, takes its place finally as an organic part of a vast, living, ever-growing system of knowledge." Sidgwick's conclusion is as fol-
particular moment, assigned to culture was narrower or wider, the instrument of culture with which he was chiefly concerned was always literature. Culture requires us, he said, to know ourselves and the world; and, as a means to this end, we must ' know the best that has been thought and said in the world.' By literature, then—as he once said in reply to Huxley—he did not mean merely belles lettres; he included the books which record the great results of science. But he insisted mainly on the best poetry and the highest eloquence. In comparing science and literature as general instruments of education, Arnold observed that the power of intellect and knowledge is not the only one that goes to the building up of human life; there is also the power of conduct and the power of beauty. Literature, he said, serves to bring knowledge into relation with our sense for conduct and our sense for beauty. The greater and more fruitful is the progress of science, the greater is the need for humane letters, to establish and maintain a harmony between the new knowledge and those profound, unchanging instincts of our nature.