William Whewell

William
Whewell
1794
1866

English Philosopher

Author Quotes

And so no force however great can stretch a cord however fine into an horizontal line which is accurately straight.

It is far from being true, in the progress of knowledge, that after every failure we must recommence from the beginning. Every failure is a step to success; every detection of what is false directs us towards what is true; every trial exhausts some tempting form of error. Not only so; but scarcely any attempt is entirely a failure; scarcely any theory, the result of steady thought, is altogether false; no tempting form of error is without some latent charm derived from truth.

There is a mask of theory over the whole face of nature.

And so no force, however great, Can stretch a cord, however fine, Into a horizontal line That shall be absolutely straight. Quoted as an example of accidental metre and rhyme.

Man is the interpreter of nature, science the right interpretation.

To discover a Conception of the mind which will justly represent a train of observed facts is, in some measure, a process of conjecture, ... and the business of conjecture is commonly conducted by calling up before our minds several suppositions, selecting that one which most agrees with what we know of the observed facts. Hence he who has to discover the laws of nature may have to invent many suppositions before he hits upon the right one; and among the endowments which lead to his success, we must reckon that fertility of invention which ministers to him such imaginary schemes, till at last he finds the one which conforms to the true order of nature.

As science means knowledge, conscience etymologically means self-knowledge?. But the English word implies a moral standard of action in the mind, as well as a consciousness of our own actions?. Conscience is the reason employed about questions of right and wrong, and accompanied with the sentiments of approbation and condemnation.

Nobody since Newton has been able to use geometrical methods to the same extent for the like purposes; and as we read the Principia we feel as when we are in an ancient armoury where the weapons are of gigantic size; and as we look at them we marvel what manner of man he was who could use as a weapon what we can scarcely lift as a burden.

To discover the laws of operative power in material productions, whether formed by man or brought into being by Nature herself, is the work of a science, and is indeed what we more especially term Science.

Astronomy is? the only progressive Science which the ancient world produced.

Our assent to the hypothesis implies that it is held to be true of all particular instances. That these cases belong to past or to future times, that they have or have not already occurred, makes no difference in the applicability of the rule to them. Because the rule prevails, it includes all cases.

We cannot observe external things without some degree of Thought; nor can we reflect upon our Thoughts, without being influenced in the course of our reflection by the Things which we have observed.

But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this;-we can perceive that events are brought about, not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular ease, but by the establishment of general laws.

Prudence supposes the value of the end to be assumed, and refers only to the adaptation of the means. It is the relation of right means for given ends.

What it is our duty to do we must do because it is right, not because any one can demand it of us.

By speaking of space as an Idea, I intend to imply...that the apprehension of objects as existing in space, and of the relations of position, &c., prevailing among them, is not a consequence of experience, but a result of a peculiar constitution and activity of the mind, which is independent of all experience in its origin, though constantly combined with experience in its exercise.

Since happiness is necessarily the supreme object of our desires, and duty the supreme rule of our actions, there can be no harmony in our being except our happiness coincides with our duty.

When any one acknowledges a moral government of the world; perceives that domestic and social relations are perpetually operating, and seem intended to operate, to retain and direct men in the path of duty; and feels that the voice of conscience, the peace of heart which results from a course of virtue, and the consolations of devotion, are ever ready to assume their office as our guides and aids in the conduct of all our actions; he will probably be willing to acknowledge also that the means of a moral government of each individual are not wanting; and will no longer be oppressed or disturbed by the apprehension that the superintendence of the world may be too difficult for its Ruler, and that any of His subjects and servants may be overlooked. He will no more fear that the moral than that the physical laws of God?s creation should be forgotten in any particular case: and as he knows that every sparrow which falls to the ground contains in its structure innumerable marks of the Divine care and kindness, he will be persuaded that every man, however apparently humble and insignificant, will have his moral being dealt with according to the laws of God?s wisdom and love; will be enlightened, supported, and raised, if he use the appointed means which God?s administration of the world of moral light and good offers to his use.

Every failure is a step to success. Every detection of what is false directs us towards what is true: every trial exhausts some tempting form of error. Not only so; but scarcely any attempt is entirely a failure; scarcely any theory, the result of steady thought, is altogether false; no tempting form of Error is without some latent charm derived from Truth.

That we ought to do an action, is of itself a sufficient and ultimate answer to the questions, Why we should do it??how we are obliged to do it? The conviction of duty implies the soundest reason, the strongest obligation, of which our nature is susceptible.

Every man has obligations which belong to his station. Duties extend beyond obligations, and direct the affections, desires, and intentions, as well as the actions.

The catastrophist constructs theories, the uniformitarian demolishes them.

Fundamental ideas are not a consequence of experience, but a result of the particular constitution and activity of the mind, which is independent of all experience in its origin, though constantly combined with experience in its exercise.

The commentator?s professed object is to explain, to enforce, to illustrate doctrines claimed as true.

Gold and iron at the present day, as in ancient times, are the rulers of the world; and the great events in the world of mineral art are not the discovery of new substances, but of new and rich localities of old ones.

Author Picture
First Name
William
Last Name
Whewell
Birth Date
1794
Death Date
1866
Bio

English Philosopher