Part 3s of Chapter 1 of Book 5 of The Wealth of Nations Simplified

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August 1, 2021

159 The following was the common course of philosophical education in most European universities:

  • Logic was taught first
  • Ontology came in second
  • Pneumatology came in third. This was the doctrine on the nature of the human soul and the Deity
  • A debased system of moral philosophy came in fourth. This was immediately connected with:
    • The doctrines of Pneumatology
    • The immortality of the human soul
    • The rewards and punishments from the Deity to be expected in a life to come

A short and superficial system of Physics usually concluded the course.

160 The changes introduced by European universities into the ancient course of philosophy were all meant to:

  • educate ecclesiastics, and
  • render it as a more proper introduction to the study of theology

But those changes introduced the following into philosophy:

  • additional subtlety,
  • sophistry,
  • casuistry, and
  • ascetic morality.

These certainly did not:

  • render it more proper for education,
  • improve understanding, nor
  • mend the heart.

161 This course of philosophy is still taught diligently in most European universities.

In some of the richest and best endowed universities, the tutors teach a few unconnected shreds and parcels of this corrupted course. They commonly teach it very negligently and superficially.

162 Most of the improvements made in several branches of philosophy were not made in universities.

Most universities did not even want to adopt those improvements. For a long time, several of those universities chose to remain the sanctuaries for exploded systems and obsolete prejudices after they had been hunted out of other parts of the world.

In general, the richest and best endowed universities were the slowest in adopting those improvements. They were most averse to permit any major change in the established plan of education. Those improvements were more easily introduced into the poorer universities. The teachers there depended on their reputation for most of their subsistence. They were obliged to pay more attention to the current world opinions.

163 European public schools and universities were originally intended only for the education of churchmen.

Those churchmen were not always very diligent in instructing their pupils. But they gradually drew to themselves the education of almost everyone, particularly those of gentlemen and men of fortune. It was the best way to spend the time between infancy to adulthood for learning the business of the world. However, most of what is taught in schools and universities is not the most proper preparation for that business.

164 In England, it becomes everyday more the custom to send young people to foreign countries immediately after leaving school, without sending them to university.

It is said that our young people generally return home much improved by their travels. A young man who goes abroad at 17 or 18 and returns home at 21. At that age, it is very difficult not to improve much in three or four years.

He acquires some knowledge of foreign languages from his travels though he is seldom able to speak or write them fluently.

He commonly returns home more conceited, unprincipled, dissipated, and more incapable of any serious application to study or business than if he had lived at home. By traveling so very young, he spends the most precious years of his life in the most frivolous dissipation.

He is far from the inspection and control of his parents and relations. Every useful habit formed by his early education might be weakened or erased instead of being riveted and confirmed.

Only the discredit of the universities could have ever created this very absurd practice of travelling at a young age. By sending his son abroad, a father delivers himself from seeing his own son unemployed, neglected, and going to ruin.

165 Such were the effects of some modern educational institutions.


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