Imatges de pÓgina
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No. I.-MARCH 1877.

THOSE that of late had fleeted far and fast
To touch all shores, now leaving to the skill
Of others their old craft seaworthy still,
Have charter'd this; where, mindful of the past,
Our true co-mates regather round the mast,
Of diverse tongue, but with a common will
Here, in this roaring moon of daffodil
And crocus, to put forth and brave the blast;
For some, descending from the sacred peak
Of hoar high-templed Faith, have leagued again
Their lot with ours to rove the world about;
And some are wilder comrades, sworn to seck

VOL 1.-No. 1.

any golden harbour be for men

In seas of Death and sunless gulfs of Doubt.




MANY are the tricks of speech; and it has become almost a commonplace of our time to set up, in matters of opinion, an opposition between authority and truth, and to treat them as excluding one another. It would be about as reasonable to set up an opposition between butcher's meat and food. Commonplaces of this character are no better than expressions of a sentiment, which the understanding, betraying its trust, allows to pass unexamined because it flatters the prevailing fashion. For the fashion is to call in question, and to reject as needlessly irksome, all such rules of mental discipline as, within the sphere of opinion, require from us a circumspect consideration, according to the subject-matter, of the several kinds as well as degrees of evidence. These rules are troublesome rules; they sadly detract from the ease and slacken the rapidity of the journey towards our conclusions, and thus postpone the enjoyment of mental rest.

Sir Gilbert Lewis has done good service, which I hope rather than expect will be appreciated, in republishing the valuable work by his elder brother, Sir George, On the Influence of Authority in Matters of Opinion. It is perhaps the best monument of that learned, modest, most dispassionate, and most able man. The volume had become extremely rare, and could only be obtained at a high price. Yet though the admirers were in earnest, the circle of them was very narrow. Only a few, a very few, hundred copies ever passed into the hands of the public. It appeared in 1849, at a time when comparative calm prevailed in the world of philosophy and speculation. The remarkable sobriety of the author, his abhorrence of paradox, his indifference to ornament, his rigidly conscientious handling, made it difficult for him to please the palate of the public, which even then required, as it now greatly more requires, highly seasoned food. Still, this unpretending book, it seems, could not die. Its republication may probably make the work known to a new set of readers; and, as the students of such a book are ordinarily men

'An Essay on the Cornewall Lewis, Esq.

Influence of Authority in Matters of Opinion. By George
London, 1849; 2nd edit. 1875.

who severally act upon the minds of others, it may, and I hope will, attain to an influence relatively wide. It must be owned that the volume contains a considerable amount of matter which would be more appropriately placed in a treatise on the Science of Politics. But the main argument is so important, that I am desirous to present a summary which may convey a fair conception of its contents, and invite to a direct examination. Nor will this be done in the spirit of a partisan; for I shall try to extend the conclusion of this weighty writer on a point of the utmost weight, affecting not the frame of his argument, but its application.

I begin, too, with stating a difference, though one of small moment. Sir George Lewis traces the origin of the word authority through the Latin auctor; and the account he gives is that 'an auctor meant the creator or originator of anything. . . . Hence any person who determines our belief is called an auctor. . . . As writers, particularly of history, were the authorities for facts, auctor came to mean a writer.'2 But the word augeo properly means to increase, to make to grow, not to create; and, while it is plain that auctor means on the one hand maker or originator, and on the other hand voucher, surety, witness, I cannot but think that the last-named is the original sense, and the preceding one secondary. The proper idea is that of one who adds. In strictness, this must be adding to what existed before, as a witness adds to the thing his testimony about the thing; a surety, his own liability to the liability of the principal. From this original form the meaning passes on to a gradual creation, the creation of something that receives successive increment, as in auctor frugum ;' generis nec Dardanus auctor.'5 If my view be sound, the use of the word author for writer is strictly correct, and belongs to the original sense. An author' comes between us and the facts or ideas, and adds to them a Tíoris, or ground of belief, in his own assurance to us respecting them. And Dante is dealing with the word in its first intention when he says, addressing Virgil,


Tu se' il mio maestro, e'l mio autore.

So he himself explains it in the Convito as 'degno di fede e di ubbidienza;' des Gehorsams und Glaubens würdig,' in the note of the King of Saxony to his translation of the Poem; but the secondary sense is that in Milton:

Thou art my father, thou my author, thou."

And hence perhaps we obtain the largest and clearest idea of autho


P. 6, note, edit. 1849, to which all references belong.

Scheller cites Lucr. v. 323 and 389, as bearing the sense of creation, but they in no degree require it; and I think this interpretation of the word auctor has been, so to speak, reflected upon it from the known use of the derivative authority.

'Georg. i. 27.

En. iv. 365.

"Paradise Lost, ii. 864.


Inferno, i. 83.

rity,' as that which comes between us and an object, and in relation to us adds something to the object which is extrinsic to it, which is apart from any examination of it by ourselves, but which forms a motive, of greater or less weight as the case may be, for belief or action respectively in their several spheres.

It is with authority for belief or opinion alone, not distinguishing the two, that the work before us deals. It leaves aside authority applicable to action, whether freely or otherwise, as that of the law, of the parent, of the military officer, physician, clergyman, or other professional or specially instructed person. I shall presently take a portion of these topics into view.

Now, it would sound strangely in our ears were any one of the most distinguished dealers in commonplace, instead of proclaiming, 'not authority, but truth,' to take for his text, 'not examination, not inquiry, but truth.' We should at once reply that examination or inquiry was no more in conflict with truth than our road to London is in conflict with London. The cases are parallel. Inquiry is a road to truth, and authority is a road to truth. Identical in aim, diverse in means and in effect, but both resting on the same basis. Inquiry is the more normal, the more excellent way; but penury of time and faculty absolutely precludes the human being from obtaining, by this truly royal road, a sufficient stock of knowledge for the necessary action of life; and authority is the humble but useful substitute. Nor is the distinction between them in any sense one of antagonism; on the contrary, there is, besides the oneness of their ultimate sanction, this notable affinity betwixt them: the knowledge, referable to action, which we obtain by inquiry, is altogether or commonly probable knowledge; and authority is probable knowledge too. Of course both the authority and the inquiry must be regulated by the laws that belong to their respective kinds. The rule for us, in whatever case, is one: to make the best practicable use of the best available means for thinking truly and acting rightly, using inquiry where we can, accepting authority where we cannot effectually use inquiry.

Having taken this general view of the region before us, I will now follow the guidance of Sir George Lewis, premising that he seems to aim at working definitions rather than such as are strictly scientific.

His inquiry has no reference to matters of fact; and these he defines as anything of which we obtain a conviction from our internal consciousness, or any individual event or phenomenon which is the object of sensation.'s

Disputed questions of fact pass into the region of matters of opinion. And, more largely, matters of opinion are general propositions or theorems relating to laws of nature or mind, principles

P. 1.

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