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The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated by John Henry Newman Pt. 103

created Apr 24th, 22:47 by Obiyer



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And next, it must be borne in mind, that when we aim at providing a Catholic Literature for Catholics, in place of an existing literature which is of a marked Protestant character, we do not, strictly speaking, include the pure sciences in our desideratum. Not that we should not feel pleased and proud to find Catholics distinguish themselves in publications on abstract or experimental philosophy, on account of the honour it does to our religion in the eyes of the world;—not that we are insensible to the congruity and respectability of depending in these matters on ourselves, and not on others, at least as regards our text-books;—not that we do not confidently anticipate that Catholics of these countries will in time to come be able to point to authorities and discoverers in science of their own, equal to those of Protestant England, Germany, or Sweden;—but because, as regards mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, and similar subjects, one man will not, on the score of his religion, treat of them better than another, and because the works of even an unbeliever or idolator, while he kept within the strict range of such studies, might be safely admitted into Catholic lecture-rooms, and put without scruple into the hands of Catholic youths. There is no crying demand, no imperative necessity, for our acquisition of a Catholic Euclid or a Catholic Newton. The object of all science is truth;—the pure sciences proceed to their enunciations from principles which the intellect discerns by a natural light, and by a process recognized by natural reason; and the experimental sciences investigate facts by methods of analysis or by ingenious expedients, ultimately resolvable into instruments of thought equally native to the human mind. If then we may assume that there is an objective truth, and that the constitution of the human mind is in correspondence with it, and acts truly when it acts according to its own laws; if we may assume that God made us, and that what He made is good, and that no action from and according to nature can in itself be evil; it will follow that, so long as it is man who is the geometrician, or natural philosopher, or mechanic, or critic, no matter what man he be, Hindoo, Mahometan, or infidel, his conclusions within his own science, according to the laws of that science, are unquestionable, and not to be suspected by Catholics, unless Catholics may legitimately be jealous of fact and truth, of divine principles and divine creations.
I have been speaking of the scientific treatises or investigations of those who are not Catholics, to which the subject of Literature leads me; but I might even go on to speak of them in their persons as well as in their books. Were it not for the scandal which they would create; were it not for the example they would set; were it not for the certain tendency of the human mind involuntarily to outleap the strict boundaries of an abstract science, and to teach it upon extraneous principles, to embody it in concrete examples, and to carry it on to practical conclusions; above all, were it not for the indirect influence, and living energetic presence, and collateral duties, which accompany a Professor in a great school of learning, I do not see (abstracting from him, I repeat, in hypothesis, what never could possibly be abstracted from him in fact), why the chair of Astronomy in a Catholic University should not be filled by a La Place, or that of Physics by a Humboldt. Whatever they might wish to say, still, while they kept to their own science, they would be unable, like the heathen Prophet in Scripture, to "go beyond the word of the Lord, to utter any thing of their own head."
So far the arguments hold good of certain celebrated writers in a Northern Review, who, in their hostility to the principle of dogmatic teaching, seem obliged to maintain, because subject-matters are distinct, that living opinions are distinct too, and that men are abstractions as well as their respective sciences. "On the morning of the thirteenth of August, in the year 1704,” says a justly celebrated author, in illustration and defence of the anti-dogmatic principle in political and social matters, "two great captains, equal in authority, united by close private and public ties, but of different creeds, prepared for battle, on the event of which were staked the liberties of Europe.… Marlborough gave orders for public prayers; the English chaplains read the service at the head of the English regiments; the Calvinistic chaplains of the Dutch army, with heads on which hand of Bishop had never been laid, poured forth their supplications in front of their countrymen. In the meantime the Danes might listen to the Lutheran ministers; and Capuchins might encourage the Austrian squadrons, and pray to the Virgin for a blessing on the arms of the holy Roman Empire. The battle commences; these men of various religions all act like members of one body: the Catholic and the Protestant generals exert themselves to assist and to surpass each other; before sunset the Empire is saved; France has lost in a day the fruits of eight years of intrigue and of victory; and the allies, after conquering together, return thanks to God separately, each after his own form of worship.”

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