IMPROVEMENT. MIND. By ISAAC WATTS, D.D.. WITH THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR, mind. Chap. IV. Of reading and books, with directions rela- ting thereto. The improvement of the mind by Isaac Watts, , Jenks, Palmer & Co. edition, in English - Rev. stereotype ed. Ebook `The improvement of the mind`: ebooks list of Isaac Watts. download b/w PDF (original scan) · download EPUB · download MOBI for site · download.
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The Improvement of the Mind. Front Cover · Isaac Watts The Improvement of the Mind: Or, A Supplement to the Art of Logic Isaac Watts Full view - by Isaac Watts I. General Rules for the Improvement of Knowledge. .. Improvement of the Mind, is not so far finished as I could wish, yet I. Written by Isaac Watts, a noted clergyman and hymn writer, the first edition of Improvement of the Mind was published Now made available once again by.
Rule III. A slight view of things so momentous is not sufficient. You should therefore contrive and practise some proper methods to acquaint yourself with your own ignorance, and to impress your mind with a deep and painful sense of the low and imperfect degrees of your present knowledge, that you may be incited with labour and activity to pursue after greater measures. Among others, you may find some such methods as these successful.
Take a wide survey now and then of the vast and unlimited regions of learning. Think what a numberless variety of questions and difficulties there are belonging even to that particular science in which you have made the greatest progress, and how few of them there are in which you have arrived at a final and undoubted certainty; excepting only those questions in the pure and simple mathematics, whose theorems are demonstrable, and leave scarce any doubt; and yet, even in the pursuit of some few of these, mankind have been strangely bewildered.
Spend a few thoughts sometimes on the puzzling enquiries concerning vacuums and atoms, the doctrine of infinites, indivisibles, and incommensurables in geometry, wherein there appear some insolvable difficulties: do this on purpose to give you a more sensible impression of the poverty of your understanding, and the imperfection of your knowledge.
This will teach you what a vain thing it is to fancy that you know all things, and will instruct you to think modestly of your present attainments […] 4. Read the accounts of those vast treasures of knowledge which some of the dead have possessed, and some of the living do possess.
Read and be astonished at the almost incredible advances which have been made in science. Acquaint yourself with some persons of great learning, that by converse among them, and comparing yourself with them, you may acquire a mean opinion of your own attainments, and may thereby be animated with new zeal, to equal them as far as possible, or to exceed: thus let your diligence be quickened by a generous and laudable emulation.
Rule IV. Presume not too much upon a bright genius, a ready wit, and good parts; for this, without labour and study, will never make a man of knowledge and wisdom. This has been an unhappy temptation to persons of a vigorous and gay fancy, to despise learning and study.
They have been acknowledged to shine in an assembly, and sparkle in a discourse on common topics, and thence they took it into their heads to abandon reading and labour, and grow old in ignorance; but when they had lost their vivacity of animal nature and youth, they became stupid and sottish even to contempt aud ridicule.
Lucidas and Scintillo are young men of this stamp; they shine in conversation; they spread their native riches before the ignorant; they pride themselves in their own lively images of fancy, and imagine themselves wise and learned; but they had best avoid the presence of the skilful, and the test of reasoning; and I would advise them once a day to think forward a little, what a contemptible figure they will make in age.
The witty men sometimes have sense enough to know their own foible; and therefore they craftily shun the attacks of argument, or boldly pretend to despise and renounce them, because they are conscious of their own ignorance, aud inwardly confess their want of acquaintance with the skill of reasoning.
Rule V. As you are not to fancy yourself a learned man because you are blessed with a ready wit; so neither must you imagine that large and laborious reading, and a strong memory, can denominate you truly wise.
It is meditation and studious thought, it is the exercise of your own reason and judgment upon all you read, that gives good sense even to the best genius, and affords your understanding the truest improvement. A boy of a strong memory may repeat a whole book of Euclid, yet be no geometrician; for he may not be able perhaps to demonstrate one single theorem.
Memorino has learnt half the Bible by heart, and is become a living concordance, and a speaking index to theological folios, and yet he understands little of divinity. Let the hope of new discoveries, as well as the satisfaction and pleasure of known trains, animate your daily industry.
Invisible Helpers by Charles Webster Leadbeater. Thinking for Results by Christian D. Poise and Power by C.
The Whole Works of the Rev. John Howe, M. Success by Max Aitken Beaverbrook.
Evolution and Involution by George Derwent Thomson. Great Philosophical Problems by James Lindsay. The Secret of Solomon by Julian Hawthorne. Library of Health by Charles Brodie Patterson. Watts and Dr. The Personality of God by James H. The advantage of verbal instructions by public or private lectures are these: 1. There is something more sprightly, more delightful and entertaining in the living discourse of a wise, learned, and well-qualified teacher, than there is in the silent and sedentary practice of reading.
The very turn of voice, the good pronunciation, and the polite and alluring manner which some teachers have attained, will engage the attention, keep the soul fixed, and convey and insinuate into the mind the ideas of things in a more lively and forcible way, than the mere reading of books in the silence and retirement of the closet.
A tutor or instructor, when he paraphrases and explains other authors, can mark out the precise point of difficulty or controversy, and unfold it. He can show you which paragraphs are of greatest importance, and which are of less moment. He can teach his hearers what authors, or what parts of an author, are best worth reading on any particular subject, and thus save his disciples much time and pains, by shortening the labours of their closet and private studies. He can show you what were the doctrines of the ancients, in a compendium which perhaps would cost much labour and the perusal of many- books to attain.
A living instructor can convey to our senses those notions with which he would furnish our minds, when he teaches us natural philosophy, or most parts of mathematical learning. He can make the experiments before our eyes.
He can describe figures and diagrams, point to the lines and angles, and make out the demonstration in a more intelligible manner by sensible means, which cannot so well be done by mere reading, even though we should have the same figures lying in a book before our eyes.
A living teacher, therefore, is a most necessary help in these studies. When an instructor in his lectures delivers any matter of difficulty, or expresses himself in such a manner as seems obscure, so that you do not take up his ideas clearly or fully, you have opportunity, at least when the lecture is finished, or at other proper seasons, to inquire how such a sentence should be understood, or how such a difficulty may be explained and removed.
If there be permission given to free converse with the tutor, either in the midst of the lecture, or rather at the end of it, concerning any doubts or difficulties that occur to the hearer, this brings it very near to conversation or discourse. If we mistake the meaning of our friend in conversation, we are quickly set right again; but in reading, we many times go on in the same mistake, and are not capable of recovering ourselves from it.
Thence it comes to pass that we have so many contests in all ages about the meaning of ancient authors, and especially the sacred writers. Happy should we be, could we but converse with Moses, Isaiah, and St.
Paul, and consult the prophets and apostles, when we meet with a difficult text! When we are discoursing upon any theme with a friend, we may propose our doubts and objections against his sentiments, and have them solved and answered at once. The difficulties that arise in our minds may be removed by one enlightening word of our correspondent; whereas in reading, if a difficulty or question arise in our thoughts, which the author has not happened to mention, we must be content -without a present answer or solution of it.
Books cannot speak. Not only the doubts which arise in the mind upon any subject of discourse are easily proposed and solved in conversation, but the very difficulties we meet with in books, and in our private studies, may find a relief by friendly conference. We may pore upon a knotty point in solitary meditation many months without a solution, because perhaps we have gotten into a wrong tract of thought; and nur labour while we are pursuing u false scent is not only useless and unsuccessful, but it leads us perhaps into a long train of error for want of being corrected in the first step.
But if we note down this difficulty when we read it, we may propose it to an ingenious correspondent when we see him; we may be relieved in a moment, and find the difficulty vanish: he beholds the object perhaps in a different view, sets it before us in quite another light, leads us at once into evidence and truth, and that with a delightful surprise. Conversation calls out into light what has been lodged in all the recesses and secret chambers of the soul; by occasional hints and incidents it brings old useful notions into remembrance; it unfolds and displays the hidden treasures of knowledge with which reading, observation, and study, had before furnished the mind.
By mutual discourse, the soul is awakened and allured to bring forth its hoards of knowledge, and it learns how to render them most useful to mankind. A man of vast reading without conversation, is like a miser, who lives only to himself. In free and friendly conversation, our intellectual powers are more animated, and our spirits act with a superior vigour in the quest and pursuit of unknown truths.
There is a sharpness and sagacity of thought that attends conversation, beyond what we find whilst we are shut up reading and rousing in our retirements.
Our souls may be serene in solitude, but not sparkling, though perhaps we are employed in reading the works of the brightest writers. Often has it happened in free discourse, that new thoughts are strangely struck out, and the seeds of truth sparkle and blaze through the company, which in calm and silent reading would never have been excited. By conversation you will both give and receive this benefit; as flints, when put into motion, and striking against each other, produce living fire on both sides, which would never have arisen from the same hard materials in a state of rest, 6.
It is also another considerable advantage of conversation, that it furnishes the student with the knowledge of men and the affairs of life, as reading furnishes him with book learning. A man who dwells all his days among books, may have amassed together a vast heap of notions; but he may be a mere scholar, which is a contemptible sort of character in the world.
The scholar now becomes a citizen or a gentleman, a neighbour and a friend; he learns how to dress his sentiments in the fairest colours, as well as to set them in the strongest light.
Isaac Watts - The Improvement of the Mind
Thus he brings out his notions with honour; he makes some use of them in the world, and improves the theory by the practice. But before we proceed too far in finishing a bright character by conversation, we should consider that something else is necessary besides an acquaintance with men and books: and therefore I add, V. Mere lectures, reading, and conversation, without thinking, are not sufficient to make a man of knowledge and wisdom.
It is our own thought and reflection, study and meditation, must attend all the other methods of improvement, and perfect them. It carries these advantages with it: 1. Though observation and instruction, reading and conversation, may furnish us with many ideas of men aud things, yet it is our own meditation, and the labour of our own thoughts, that must form our judgment of things.
The Improvement of the Mind, or a Supplement to the Art of Logic
Our own thoughts should join or disjoin these ideas in a proposition for ourselves: it is our own mind that must judge for ourselves concerning the agreement or disagreement of ideas, and form propositions of truth out of them. Reading and conversation may acquaint us with many truths, and with many arguments to support them; but it is our own study and reasoning that must deteimine whether these propositions are true, and whether these arguments are just and solid.
It is confessed there are a thousand things which our eyes have not seen, and which would never come within the reach of our personal aiid immediate knowledge and observation, because of the distance of times and places: these must be known by consulting other persons; and that is done either in their writings or in their discourses. But after all, let this be a fixed point with us, that it is our own reflection and judgment mast determine how far we should receive that which books or men inform us of, and how far they are worthy of our assent and credit.
It is meditation and study that transfers and conveys the notions and sentiments of others to ourselves, so as to make them properly our own.
It is our own judgment upon them, as well as our memory of them, that makes them become our own property. It does as it were concoct our intellectual food, and tarns it into a part of ourselves: just as a man may call his limbs and his flesh his own, whether he borrowed the materials from the ox or the sheep, from the lark or the lobster: whether he derived it from corn or milk, the fruits of the trees, or the herbs and roots of the earth; it is all now become one substance with himself, and he wields and manages those muscles and limbs for his own proper purposes, which once were the substance of other animals or vegetables; that very substance which last week was grazing in the field or swimming in the sea, waving in the milk-pail, or growing in the garden, is now become part of the man.
By study and meditation we improve the hints that we have acquired by observation, conversation, and reading: we take more time in thinking, and by the labour of the mind we penetrate deeper into the themes of knowledge, and carry our thoughts sometimes much farther in many subjects, than we ever met with, either in the books of the dead or discourses of the Living.
It is our own reasoning that draws out one truth from another, and forms a whole scheme or science from a few hints which we borrowed elsewhere. By a survey of these things we may justly conclude, that he who spends all his time in hearing lectures, or poring upon books, without observation, meditation, or converse, will have but a mere historical knowledge of learning, and be able only to tell what others have known or said on the subject: he that lets all his time flow away in conversation, without due observation, reading, or study, will gain but a slight and superficial knowledge, which will be in danger of vanishing with the voice of the speaker: and he that confines himself merely to his closet, and his own narrow observation of things, and it taught only by his own solitary thoughts, without instruction by lectures, reading, or free conversation, will be in danger of a narrow spirit, a vain conceit of himself, and an unreasonable contempt of others; and after all, he will obtain but a very limited and imperfect view and knowledge of things, and he will seldom learn how to make that knowledge useful.
These five methods of improvement should be pursued jointly, and go hand in hand, where our circumstances are so happy as to find opportunity and conveniency to enjoy them all: though I must give my opinion that two of them, viz, reading and meditation, should employ much more of our time than public lectures, or conversation and discourse.
As for observation, we may be always acquiring knowledge that way, whether we are alone or in company.
But it will be for our further improvement, if we go over all these five methods of obtaining knowledge more distinctly and more at large, and see what special advances in useful science we may draw from them all. Rules relating to Observation. Let the enlargement of your knowledge be one constant view and design in life; since there is no time or place, no transactions, occurrences, or engagements in life, which exclude us from this method of improving the mind.
When we are in company, we may discover something more of human nature, of human passions and follies, and of human affairs, vices, and virtues, by conversing with mankind, and observing their conduct.
Isaac Watts and the Improvement of the Mind
Nor is there any thing more valuable than the knowledge of ourselves, and the knowledge of men, except it be the knowledge of God who made us, and our relation to him as our Governor.
When we are in the house or the city, wheresoever we turn our eyes, we see the works of men; when we are abroad in the country, we behold more of the works of God.
The skies and the ground above and beneath us, and the animal and vegetable world round about us, may entertain our observation with ten thousand varieties. Endeavour therefore to derive some instruction or improvement of the mind from every thing which you see or hear, from every thing which occurs in human life, from every thing within you or without you.
Fetch down some knowledge from the clouds, the stars, the sun, the moon, and the revolutions of all the planets. Dig and draw up some valuable meditations from the depths of the earth, and search them through the vast oceans of water.
Learn some lessons from the birds and the beasts, and the meanest insect. Heed the wisdom of God, and his admirable contrivance in them all: read his almighty power, His rich and various goodness, in all the works of his hands.
From the day and the night, the hours and the flying minutes, learn a wise improvement of time, and be watchful to seize every opportunity to increase in knowledge.
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From the vicissitudes and revolutions of nations and families, and from the various occurrences of the world, learn the instability of mortal affairs, the uncertainty of life, the certainty of death. From a coffin and a funeral, learn to meditate upon your own departure. From the virtue of others, learn something worthy of your imitation.
From the deformity, the distress, or calamity of others, derive lessons of thankfulness to God, and hymns of grateful praise to your Creator, Governor, and Benefactor, who has formed you in a better mould, and guarded you from those evils. Learn also the sacred lesson of contentment in your own estate, and compassion to your neighbour under his miseries. From the sorrows, the pains, the sicknesses, and sufferings that attend you, learn the evil of sin, and the imperfection of your present state.
From your own sins and follies, learn the patience of God toward you, and the practice of humility toward God and man. Thus from every appearance in nature, and from every occurrence of life, you may derive natural, moral, and religious observations, to entertain your minds, as well as rules of conduct in the affairs relating to this life and that which is to come.
In order to furnish the mind with a rich variety of ideas, the laudable curiosity of young people should be indulged and gratified, rather than discouraged. It is a very hopeful sign in young persons, to see them curious in observing, and inquisitive in searchiug into the greatest part of things that occur; nor should such an enquiring temper be frowned into silence, nor be rigorously restrained, but should rather be satisfied by proper answers given to all those queries.
For this reason also, where time and fortune allow it, young people should be led into company at proper seasons, should be carried abroad to see the fields, and the woods, and the rivers, the buildings, towns, and cities distant from their own dwelling; they should be entertained with the sight of strange birds, beasts, fishes, insects, vegetables, and productions both of nature and art of every kind, whether they are the products of their own or foreign nations: and in due time, where Providence gives opportunity, they may travel under a wise inspector or tutor to different parts of the world for the same end, that they may bring home treasures of useful knowledge.
Among all these observations write down what is most remarkable and uncommon: reserve these remarks in store for proper occasions, and at proper seasons take a review of them.
Such a practice will give you a habit of useful thinking; this will secure the workings of your soul from running to waste; and by this means even your looser moments will turn to happy account both here and hereafter. And whatever useful observations have been made, let them be at least some part of the subject of your conversation among your friends at next meeting. Let the circumstances or situations in life be what or where they will, a man should never neglect this improvement which may be derived from observation.
Let him travel into the East or West Indies, and fulfil the duties of the military or the mercantile life there; let him rove through the earth or the seas, fof his own humour as a traveller, or pursue his diversions in what part of the world he pleases as a gentleman: let prosperous or adverse fortune call him to the most distant parts of the globe; still let him carry on his knowledge aud the improvement of his soul by wise observations.
In due time, by this means, he may render himself some way useful to the societies of mankind. Theobaldino, in his younger years, visited the forests of Norway on the account of trade and timber, and besides his proper observations of the growth of trees on those northern mountains, he learned there was a sort of people called Fins, in those confines which border upon Sweden, whose habitation is in the woods: and he lived afterwards to give a good account of them and some of their customs to the Royal Society for the improvement of natural knowledge.
Puteoli was taken captive into Turkey in his youth, and travelled with his master in their holy pilgrimage to Mecca, whereby he became more intelligent in the forms, ceremonies, and fooleries of the Mahometan worship, than perhaps any Briton knew before; and by his manuscripts we are more acquainted in this last century with the Turkish sacred than any one had ever informed us.
Let us keep our minds as free as possible from passions and prejudices; for these will give a wrong turn to our observations both on persons and things. The eyes of a man in the jaundice make yellow observations on every thing; and the soul tinctured with any passion or prejudice, diffuses a false colour over the real appearances of things, and disguises many of the common occurrences of life: it never beholds things in a true light, nor suffers them to appear as they are.
Whensoever, therefore, you would make proper observations, let self, with all its influences, stand aside as far as possible: abstract your own interest and your own concern from them, and bid all friendships and enmities stand aloof and keep out of the way, in the observations that you make relating to persons and things. If this rule were well obeyed, we should be much better guarded against those common pieces of misconduct in the observations of men, viz. How ready is envy to mingle with the notices which we take of other persons?
How often is mankind prone to put an ill sense upon the actions of their neighbours, to take a survey of them in an evil position, and in an unhappy light? And by this means we form a worse opinion of our neighbours than they deserve; while at the same time pride and self-flattery tempt us to make unjust observations on ourselves in our own favour.
In all the favourable judgments we pais concerning ourselves, we should allow a little abatement on this account.
Let your observation, even of persons and their conduct, be chiefly designed in order to lead you to a better acquaintance with things, particularly with human nature; and to inform you what to imitate and what to avoid, rather than to furnish out matter for the evil passions of the mind, or the impertinencies of discourse and reproaches of the tongue. Though it may be proper sometimes to make your observations concerning persons as well as things, the subject of your discourse in learned or useful conversations, yet what remarks you make oo particular persons, especially to their disadvantage, should for the most part lie hid in your own breast, till some just and apparent occasion, some necessary call of Providence, leads you to speak to them.Please do not assume that a books appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
But may there not be Sir Isaac Newtons in every science? His annual income did not exceed one hundred pounds, of which he allowed one third to the poor. By a survey of these things we may justly conclude, that he who spends all his time in hearing lectures, or poring upon books, without observation, meditation, or converse, will have but a mere historical knowledge of learning, and be able only to tell what others have known or said on the subject: he that lets all his time flow away in conversation, without due observation, reading, or study, will gain but a slight and superficial knowledge, which will be in danger of vanishing with the voice of the speaker: and he that confines himself merely to his closet, and his own narrow observation of things, and it taught only by his own solitary thoughts, without instruction by lectures, reading, or free conversation, will be in danger of a narrow spirit, a vain conceit of himself, and an unreasonable contempt of others; and after all, he will obtain but a very limited and imperfect view and knowledge of things, and he will seldom learn how to make that knowledge useful.
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