Practical Essays

Alexander Bain

Practical Essays

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Title: Practical Essays
Author: Alexander Bain
Release Date: January 23, 2006 [EBook #17522]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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The present volume is in great part a reprint of articles contributed to Reviews. The principal bond of union among them is their practical character. Beyond that, there is little to connect them apart from the individuality of the author and the range of his studies.
That there is a certain amount of novelty in the various suggestions here embodied, will be admitted on the most cursory perusal. The farther question of their worth is necessarily left open.
The first two essays are applications of the laws of mind to some prevailing Errors.
The next two have an educational bearing: the one is on the subjects proper for Competitive Examinations; the other, on the present position of the much vexed Classical controversy.
The fifth considers the range of Philosophical or Metaphysical Study, and the mode of conducting this study in Debating Societies.
The sixth contains a retrospect of the growth of the Universities, with more especial reference to those of Scotland; and also a discussion of the University Ideal, as something more than professional teaching.
The seventh is a chapter omitted from the author's "Science of Education"; it is mainly devoted to the methods of self-education by means of books. The situation thus assumed has peculiarities that admit of being handled apart from the general theory of Education.
The eighth contends for the extension of liberty of thought, as regards Sectarian Creeds and Subscription to Articles. The total emancipation of the clerical body from the thraldom of subscription, is here advocated without reservation.
The concluding essay discusses the Procedure of Deliberative Bodies. Its novelty lies chiefly in proposing to carry out, more thoroughly than has yet been done, a few devices already familiar. But for an extraordinary reluctance in all quarters to adapt simple and obvious remedies to a growing evil, the article need never have appeared. It so happens, that the case principally before the public mind at present, is the deadlock in the House of Commons; yet, had that stood alone, the author would not have ventured to meddle with the subject. The difficulty, however, is widely felt: and the principles here put forward are perfectly general; being applicable wherever deliberative bodies are numerously constituted and heavily laden with business.
ABERDEEN, March, 1884.

Error regarding Mind as a whole--that Mind can be exerted without bodily expenditure.
Errors with regard to the FEELINGS.
I. Advice to take on cheerfulness.
Authorities for this prescription.
Presumptions against our ability to comply with it.
Concurrence of the cheerful temperament with youth and health.
With special corporeal vigour. With absence of care and anxiety.
Limitation of Force applies to the mind.
The only means of rescuing from dulness--to increase the supports and diminish the burdens of life.
Difficulties In the choice of amusements
II. Prescribing certain tastes, or pursuits, to persons indiscriminately.
Tastes must repose as natural endowment, or else in prolonged education.
III. Inverted relationship of Feelings and Imagination.
Imagination does not determine Feeling, but the reverse.
Examples:--Bacon, Shelley, Byron, Burke, Chalmers, the Orientals, the Chinese, the Celt, and the Saxon.
IV. Fallaciousness of the view, that happiness is best gained by not being aimed at.
Seemingly a self-contradiction.
Butler's view of the disinterestedness of Appetite.
Apart from pleasure and pain, Appetite would not move us.
Parallel from other ends of pursuit--Health.
Life has two aims--Happiness and Virtue--each to be sought directly on its own account.
Errors connected with the WILL.
I. Cost of energy, of Will. Need of a suitable physical confirmation.
Courage, Prudence, Belief.
II. Free-will a centre of various fallacies.
Doctrines repudiated from the offence given to personal dignity. Operation of this on the history of Free-will.
III. Departing from the usual rendering of a fact, treated as denying the fact.
Metaphysical and Ethical examples.
Alliance of Mind and Matter.
Perception of a Material World.
IV. The terms Freedom and Necessity miss the real point of the human will.
V. Moral Ability and Inability.--Fallacy of seizing a question by the wrong end.
Proper signification of Moral Inability--insufficiency of the ordinary motives, but not of all motives.
* * * * *
Meanings of Relativity--intellectual and emotional.
All impressions greatest at first. Law of Accommodation and habit.
The pleasure of rest presupposes toil.
Knowledge has its charm from previous ignorance.
Silence is of value, after excess of speech.
Previous pain not, in all cases, necessary to pleasure.
Simplicity of Style praiseworthy only under prevailing artificiality. To extol Knowledge is to
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