Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/188

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THE WORLD'S FAMOUS ORATIONS

I admit, of course, at once, that discoveries the most apparently remote from human con- cerns have often proved themselves of the ut- most commercial or manufacturing value. But they require no such justification for their existence, nor were they striven for with any such object.

Navigation is not the final cause of astronomy, nor telegraphy of electro-dynamics, nor dye- works of chemistry. And if it be true that the desire of knowledge for the sake of knowledge was the animating motives of the great men who first wrested her secrets from nature, why should it not also be enough for us, to whom it is not given to discover, but only to learn as best we may what has been discovered by others ? Another maxim, more plausible but equally per- nicious, is that superficial knowledge is worse than no knowledge at all. That "a little knowl- edge is a dangerous thing" is a saying which has now got currency as a proverb stamped in the mint of Pope's versification, — of Pope who, with the most imperfect knowledge of Greek, translated Homer; with the most imperfect knowledge of the Elizabethan drama, edited Shakespeare ; and with the most imperfect knowl- edge of philosophy, wrote the "Essay on Man."

But what is this "little knowledge" which is supposed to be so dangerous ? What is it " little ' ' in relation to ? If in' relation to what there is to know, then all human knowledge is little. If in relation to what actually is known by some- 162

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