The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives


…once we have recognised that knowledge in itself is good for man, we shall need to invent no pretexts for studying this subject or that; we shall import no extraneous considerations of use or ornament to justify us in learning one thing rather than another. If a certain department of knowledge specially attracts a man, let him study that, and study it because it attracts him; and let him not fabricate excuses for that which requires no excuse, but rest assured that the reason why it most attracts him is that it is best for him. The majority of mankind, as is only natural, will be most attracted by those sciences which most nearly concern human life; those sciences which, in Bacon’s phrase, are drenched in flesh and blood, or, in the more elegant language of the Daily Telegraph, palpitate with actuality. The men who are attracted to the drier and the less palpitating sciences, say logic or pure mathematics or textual criticism, are likely to be fewer in number; but they are not to suppose that the comparative unpopularity of such learning renders it any the less worthy of pursuit. Nay, they may if they like console themselves with Bacon’s observation that ‘this same lumen siccum doth parch and offend most men’s watery and soft natures’ and infer, if it pleases them, that their natures are less soft and watery than other men’s. But be that as it may…

—A. E. Housman
Lecture, 18921

  1. Also:
    I do not believe that the proportion of the human race whose inner nature the study of the classics will specially transform and beautify is large; and I am quite sure that the proportion of the human race on whom the classics will confer that benefit can attain the desired end without that minute and accurate study of the classical tongues which affords Latin professors their only excuse for existing.


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