The Grounds Of Knowledge -- By: Charles B. Hadduck
BSac 15:58 (April 1858) p. 337
The Grounds Of Knowledge
The first exercise of our faculties is spontaneous; we begin to acquire knowledge long before we think of proposing it to ourselves as an end. As soon as the objects of knowledge and the cognitive power come into connection, that experience takes place, which, by the constitution of nature, results from this connection, and in which our intellectual life consists. And even after we come to seek for knowledge as an object and to adopt means for its attainment, and discipline, and direct the faculties, whose office it is to discover truth; after we have separated our acquisitions into distinct departments, and given to our various sciences a systematic character and adapted them to practice, — it is still a long time before we think of subjecting the process itself by which knowledge is acquired, to a rigid analysis.
Such analysis, however, sooner or later takes place. It cannot be that curiosity, awakened and stimulated to intensity by the world of wonders in which we are placed, should remain forever dormant in regard to the greater wonders in ourselves. The mysterious power to which all truth is revealed, and the mysterious process by which this power unfolds such secrets and appropriates such treasures, is itself in fact the most marvellous and the most inviting and absorbing of all the marvels it contemplates.
At a certain stage of mental culture, therefore, and with persons of the requisite contemplative and introspective habits, the theory of human knowledge, the origin of our ideas, becomes a subject of profound inquiry and commanding interest. The validity of our judgments, the grounds of belief upon which the vast structures of human science rest,
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appear to them invested with a dignity equalled only by the grandeur of our moral destiny, and permeated through all their crystal depths by brilliant, grateful rays from the sunlight life above them.
Nor is it as a matter of rational curiosity alone, that the study of the phenomenon of human knowledge is commended to thoughtful men; it is, in truth, indefensible to an intelligent delineation of the proper limits of inquiry in every department of philosophy; without it we remain in ignorance as to what our faculties are capable of teaching us, and equally in ignorance as to what they do unquestionably teach upon any of the thousand subjects within their sphere. The progress of knowledge has consisted as much in rejecting old beliefs as in establishing new ones. Things once generally and strongly believed have been disproved. Errors for which men have been willing to risk not only their reputation as philosophers, but their very life, have been abandoned. System after ...
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