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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 439 Volume 17, New Series, May 29, 1852   By:

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CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.

No. 439. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, MAY 29, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.

THEREFORE AND BECAUSE.

A distinguished general officer being appointed to a command in which he would be called on to discharge judicial as well as military duties, expressed to Lord Mansfield his apprehensions, that he would execute his office but ill in the former respect, and that his inexperience and ignorance of technical jurisprudence would prove a serious impediment to his efficient administration of justice. 'Make your mind perfectly easy,' said the great judge; 'trust to your native good sense in forming your opinions, but beware of attempting to state the grounds of your judgments. The judgment will probably be right the argument infallibly wrong.'

This is a common case, especially with practical men, who rarely have either leisure or inclination to recall the workings of their own minds, or observe the intellectual process by which they have been conducted to any conclusion. By what they are prone to consider as a kind of instinct if by chance they are philosophers, and delight in what old Wilson, the essayist, calls 'inkhorn terms,' they designate it 'intuition' they arrive at a truth, but have no recollection whatever of the road they travelled to reach it, and are able neither to retrace their own steps nor indicate to another the way they came. The poet, in describing and contrasting the intellectual characteristics of the two sexes, attributes to the softer something of this instinct as a distinguishing mental peculiarity, and seems to consider it as somewhat analogous in its constitution to those animal senses by means of which the mind becomes cognisant of external objects, of their existence, their qualities, and their relations. In his view, the reasoning process is vitally and essentially distinct, as it is exercised by men and by women

'Her rapid mind decides while his debates; She feels a truth which he but calculates.'

And certainly this is a very pretty, very poetical, and very convenient way of accounting for a phenomenon that, if examined with common care, suggests a solution more accurate and complete, if not exactly so complimentary. In sober truth, a positive incapacity clearly to point out the precise manner in which a conviction has been formed, is one of the commonest of logical deficiencies, and no more to be ascribed exclusively to the softer sex, than it is an attribute of intellectual excellency in either.

When, in Euripides's beautiful play, the untranslatable Hippolylus , Phædra's nurse is made to conclude that certain men she refers to cannot be otherwise than lax in their morals, because they have finished the roofs of their houses in a very imperfect manner, her reasoning is inconsequential enough; but not more so than that of the renowned French chancellor, Michael L'Hôpital, who, when employed in negotiating a treaty between Charles IX. and our Elizabeth, insisted on the well known line of the Latin poet

'Et penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos,'

as a reason that Calais should not be returned to the English. The connection between the premises and the conclusion was not more real in one case than in the other. A learned member of the medical profession, in an elaborate work on the climate and the people of Malta, enjoins on the invalid a participation in the amusements of cheerful society; and the propriety of his injunction few will be disposed to dispute: they may well, however, marvel at the reason he assigns for such sensible advice that, so far as invalids are concerned, society has a direct tendency to promote cutaneous perspiration!

Cardinal de Retz severely reprehends the historians of his time for their pedantic affectation of explaining and accounting for every event they record the motives that actuated this statesman, the reasons which prompted that policy, the wherefore it was this enterprise miscarried, or that undertaking brought to a successful issue... Continue reading book >>


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