Part 1b

The Sciences Icon

January 28, 2022

As to the other sciences, inasmuch as these borrow their principles from philosophy, I judged that no solid superstructures could be reared on foundations so infirm; and neither the honour nor the gain held out by them was sufficient to determine me to their cultivation:

Thank God I was not a writer of science for my livelihood.

The false sciences are alchemy, astrology, and magic.

This is why as soon as I was able to graduate away from my instructors, I entirely:

  • abandoned the study of letters
  • resolved no longer to seek any other science than the knowledge of myself, or of the great book of the world.

I spent the remainder of my youth:

  • travelling
  • visiting courts and armies
  • meeting with men of different dispositions and ranks
  • collecting varied experience
  • proving myself in the different situations into which fortune threw me
  • above all, in making such reflection on the matter of my experience as to secure my improvement.

I would find much more truth in the reasonings of each individual with reference to the affairs in which he is personally interested.

The issue of which must presently punish him if he has judged amiss, than in those conducted by a man of letters in his study, regarding speculative matters that are of no practical moment, and followed by no consequences to himself, farther, perhaps, than that they foster his vanity the better the more remote they are from common sense; requiring, as they must in this case, the exercise of greater ingenuity and art to render them probable.

I had a most earnest desire to know how to distinguish the true from the false so that I could clearly to discriminate the right path in life, and proceed in it with confidence.

While busied only in considering the manners of other men, I found here, too, scarce any ground for settled conviction, and remarked hardly less contradiction among them than in the opinions of the philosophers.

So that the greatest advantage I derived from the study consisted in this, that, observing many things which, however extravagant and ridiculous to our apprehension, are yet by common consent received and approved by other great nations, I learned to entertain too decided a belief in regard to nothing of the truth of which I had been persuaded merely by example and custom; and thus I gradually extricated myself from many errors powerful enough to darken our natural intelligence, and incapacitate us in great measure from listening to reason.

But after I had been occupied several years in thus studying the book of the world, and in essaying to gather some experience, I at length resolved to make myself an object of study, and to employ all the powers of my mind in choosing the paths I ought to follow, an undertaking which was accompanied with greater success than it would have been had I never quitted my country or my books.