Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/189

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BALFOUR

body, then we must condemn as "dangerous" the knowledge which Archimedes possessed of mechanics, or Copernicus of astronomy; for a shilling primer and a few weeks' study will enable any student to outstrip in mere informa- tion some of the greatest teachers of the past.

No doubt that little knowledge which thinks itself to be great may possibly be a dangerous, as it certainly is a most ridiculous, thing. We have all suffered under that eminently absurd individual who, on the strength of one or two volumes, imperfectly apprehended by himself and long discredited in the estimation of every one else, is prepared to supply you on the short- est notice with a dogmatic solution of every problem suggested by this "unintelligible world " ; or the political variety of the same pernicious genus whose statecraft consists in the ready application to the most complex question of national interest of some high-sounding com- monplace which has done weary duty on a thousand platforms, and which even in its palm- iest days was never fit for anything better than a peroration.

But in our dislike of the individual do not let us mistake the diagnosis of his disease. He suffers not from ignorance, but from stupidity. Give him learning, and you make him, not wise, but only more pretentious in his folly.

I say, then, that so far from a little knowl- edge being dangerous, a little knowledge is all that on most subjects any of us can hope to 163

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