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Certain it is, that these false heroes who seek glory from the destruction of their own species, are, of all men, most ignorant of themselves; by this wicked ambition they entail infamy and curses upon their name, instead of that immortal glory they pursued. According to the prophet's words, woe to him who coveteth an evil covetouisness to his house, that he may fet his neft on high; that he may be delivered from the power of evil. Thou haft confulted shame to thine house
, by cutting off many people ; and haft forned against thy foul (9).
him into a true hero; and justifies all the waste he made of mankind, under°(the same colour with which the Spaniards excused their inhuman barbarities towards the poor Indians, viz.) a pretence of civilizing them. And in attributing all his fuccefs to his virtue, he talks more like a soldier ferving under him in his wars, than an historian who lived many years afterwards, whose business it was to transmit his character impartially to future ages. And in what other respects Mr. Dryden may prefer Plutarch to Seneca, (which he does with much zeal in his Preface to Plutarch's Lives) yet it must be allowed that, in this instance at least, the latter shows more of the philofopher. See Plut. Mor. Vol. i. ad fin. ; (9) Heb. ii. 9, 10. yn ys3 y 83: that gaineth a wicked gain.
Oh! fons of earth! attempt ye still to rise, By mountains pil'd on mountains, to the skies? Heav'n still with laughter the vain toil surveys, And buries madmen in the heaps they raise.
No man can truly know himself till he be acquainted with this, which is so often the fecret and unperceived spring of his actions, and until he observe how far it governs him in his conversation and conduct : virtue and real excellence will rise to view, tho' they be not mounted on the wings of ambition, which, by soaring too high, procures but a more fatal fall.
To correct the irregularity and extravagance of this passion, let us reflect how unfubftantial a pleasure the highest gratifications of it can afford; how many cruel mortifications it exposeth us to, by awakening the envy
of others; to what neanness it often makes us fubmit; how frequently its end is loft by pursuing it with too much ardor ; and how much more folid pleasure the approbation of conscience will yield, than the acclamations of ignorant men, who, judging by externals only, cannot know our true character; and whose commendations a wife man would rather despise than court. • Ex• amine but the size of people's sense, and • the condition of their understanding, and you
will never be fond of popularity, nor · afraid of censure; nor solicitous what
Who wickedly is wife, or madly brave,
Pope's Ellay on Man.
judgment they may form of you, who • know not how to judge rightly of them
• felves (r):
CH A P. XIII.
What kind of Knowledge we are already fur
nished with, and what Degree of Esteem we set upon it. XII. MAN can never rightly know him.
unlefs he examine into his knowledge of other things.
We must consider then the knowledge we have; and whether we do not set too high a price upon it, and too great a value upon ourselves on the account of it; of what real use it is to us, and what effect it has upon us; whether it does not make us too stiff, unsociable and assuming; testy, supercilious and ready to despise others for their supposed ignorance : if so, our knowledge, be it what it will, does us more harm than good, and we are better without it; ignorance itself would not render us so ridiculous : such a temper, with all our knowledge, shows that we know not ourselves.
(η) Διελθε 6'ω εις τα ηγεμονικα αμον, και c-441 nivas xginas porn 0186 xai nepi avlop orla's xgimas. Mark Anton, lib. ix. $ 18,
' A man is certainly proud of that know“ ledge he despises others for the want of.
How common is it for some men to be fond of appearing to know more than they do, and of seeming to be thought men of knowledge ? to which end they exhaust their fünd almost in all companies, to outshine the rest: so that in two or three conversations they are drawn dry, and you see to the bot. tom of them much fooner than you could at first imagine ; and even that torrent of learning, which they pour out upon you at first fo unmercifully, rather confounds than satisfies you : their visible aim is not to inform your judgment, but to display their own; you have many things to except against
, but their loquacity gives you no room: and their good sense, set off to so much advantage, strikes a modest man dumb; if
you insist upon your right to examine, they retreat, either in confusion or equivocation ; and, like the scuttle-fish, throw a large quantity of ink behind them, that you may not see where to pursue : whence this foible flows is obvious enough, self-knowledge would soon correct it.
But as fome ignorantly affect to be more knowing, so others vainly affect to be more ignorant than they are ; who; to show they
have greater insight and penetration than other men, insist upon the absolute uncer • tainty of science; will dispute even first principles ; grant nothing as certain, and so run into downright Pyrronism ; the too common effect of abstracted debates excejhvely refined (s).
Every one is apt to set the greatest value upon that kind of knowledge, in which he imagines he himself most excels; and to undervalue all other in comparison of it: there wants fome certain rule then, by which every man's knowledge is to be tried, and the value of it estimated; and let it be this,
- That is the best and most valuable kind • of knowledge, that is most subfervient to • the beft ends ; i. e. which tends to make a
man wiser and better, or more agreeable
and useful both to himself and others.' For knowledge is but a means that relates to fome end; as all means are to be judged of
by (s) Socrates's saying. Nihil fe scire, nisi id ipfum, favoured of an affected humility. But they that followed went further; and particularly Arcefilas, Negabat elle quicquam, quod sciri poteft ; ne illud quidem ipsum quod Socrates sibi reliquisfet. And thus the absurdity grew to a lize that was monstrous. For to know that one knows nothing, is a contradi&tion. And not to know that he knows even that, is not to know but that he may know fomething. Relig. of Nat. delin. pag. 40.