Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/359

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345
MEDICAL PROFESSION IN MODERN THOUGHT.

given form to a forefeeling of this higher development. But I will not pursue this pregnant matter further now; I have touched upon it only for the purpose of illustrating the large scope of the medical work of the future, which is to discover those laws which have been in operation through the past to make man the superior being which he is, and to determine his future action in intelligent conformity with them; not only to cure disease of body and mind, as it has aimed to do in the past, and to prevent disease, as its larger aim now is, but to carry on the development of his nature, moral, intellectual, and physical, to its highest reach.

So much, then, concerning the three topics on which I have proposed to myself to discourse in this lecture—namely, the nobility of your direct function as healers of disease, the excellence of the method of medical study as a means of intellectual and moral training, and its fruitfulness in benefits to mankind, and the grandeur and the reach of its aspirations for the future. Let me hope that I have, in fulfillment of my design, said enough to satisfy you that you have made a good choice of a profession for your life's work. Having chosen, it remains only that you should justify your choice by your work, so that it may be said of each of you, when his long day's task is over and the night has come, that he was in his right position in the world, and made a right good use of it. Life has its three stages—youth, manhood, and old age; let it be your anxious care now, in the first stage of joy and hope, so to pass the second stage of work and duty that the last stage may not be a long regret.

I will ask your indulgence only for a few minutes more, while I detain you for one or two final reflections of what I may call an inhibitory character. In pursuing resolutely the course of scientific inquiry which I have indicated, it must needs be that offenses sometimes occur, for we can hardly fail to come into collision with some of the prejudices and traditions of mankind. I do not know how it is possible, for instance, to prosecute the physiological investigation of mind to its farthest reach without shaking the foundations of the metaphysical notions which have been held concerning it and its functions; and with the fall of these notions, long cherished of mankind, other notions that are bound up with them may totter to their fall. But, if this must be, we shall do well to acknowledge it more in sorrow than in anger. Let us not rush with eager fury and exultant clamor to the work of destruction; it behooves us, as products of the past, who will one day ourselves constitute the past, to deal gently and even reverently with it. We cannot break with it if we would, nor should we if we could. The very language which we use we owe to the slow acquisitions of generations which have preceded us; we cannot compassionate or contemn them except in words for which we are indebted to them. There is hardly a word I have used in this lecture which, were its history searched out, does not mean