Conservative Mind

It is curious, Hawthorne remarks in The Marble Faun, that Americans pay for portrait busts: “The brief duration of our families, as a hereditary household, renders it next to a certainty that the great-grandchildren will not know their father’s grandfather, and that half a century hence, at farthest, the hammer of the auctioneer will thump its knock-down blow against his blockhead, sold at so much for the pound of stone!”

Without personal religion, secular knowledge commonly is a tool of unbelief. Conviction is not produced by the logic of words, nor by the accumulation of facts. Physical science cannot bring certitude, for the most plausible scientific theories are no more than probable suppositions founded upon such scanty facts as we are able to grub together in our fumbling human way.

Without a foundation of first principles, science itself is worthless—a meaningless accumulation of unrelated facts. Our first principles are not obtained by heaping together data, after Bacon’s method, and drawing inferences. “Life is for action. If we insist on proofs for everything, we shall never come to action: to act you must assume, and that assumption is faith.” Reason does not impel our impressions and our actions; it follows them.

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