Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/465

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449
LEARN AND SEARCH.


the background. Those to the understanding of whose branches the ancient languages as such contribute directly no essential part have to consider how far a full training in mathematics and science can furnish for their branches and for general cultivation as well an adequate substitute for the want of classical training. Experience has not supplied a decision on this point. It can be remarked only that among the foreigners who have been admitted to our classes are many who have not enjoyed a gymnasial training in our sense, and who yet attend the lectures with commendable interest and with evident good results.

There undeniably exists an essential difference in respect to the demands which individual faculties have to make on the preparation of those coming to them from the schools. The future must teach us whether a single kind of higher schools can satisfy these various demands. But a definite answer can already be given respecting one of them. If the classical languages are no longer competent to supply the unifying bond that formerly connected all the different directions of learned culture, a substitute for them can be found only in that golden triad of mathematics, philosophy, and science on the development of which all modern civilization touches.

It is a matter of secondary importance for this discussion whether the roots of this culture should be sought still further in the East, in Egypt or in Babylonia. The continuity of Western civilization actually begins for us on the western coasts of Asia Minor with those Ionian Greeks who first laid mathematical study of the heavenly bodies at the base of their discussions concerning the universe, and who produced the first natural philosophy, in which all that man knew about Nature was reduced to a harmonious picture. In this philosophy lies the actual beginning of that universal consideration of the world which has been significantly called “world wisdom,” and which has gradually led to a fundamental transformation of the old conceptions of the heavens and the earth and of man himself. That is the imperishable title of the Grecian philosophy to be held in honor.

The full comprehension of this fact arose very late among the Western peoples. When, after the fall of Constantinople, Greek scholars fled to Italy, and Greek literature spread rapidly at that time, when the humanists arose in Germany, and one university after another was founded, then the independent spirit of investigation first lifted itself up in all nations. Mathematicians and naturalists abounding in original strength appeared, and philosophers were soon active in adapting the conceptions of men to the new views and in grasping the fundamentals of intellectual life.

Right in the beginning of this memorable period appeared the man whose great achievement mankind has just been festively

VOL. XLIII. — 80