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employer, together with the manual operations in which he is occupied. Owing to the cheapness of newspapers and tracts, he may occasionally obtain imperfect and partial glimpses into some of the political questions of the day; but he can rarely exercise any independent judgment, except upon the matters with which his labour makes him personally conversant. This description applies particularly to the agricultural labourers, who are not within the influence of the more stirring life of towns. A great part of mankind,' (says Locke,) are, by the natural and unalterable state of things in this world, and the constitution of human affairs, unavoidably given over to invincible ignorance of those proofs on which others build, and which are necessary to establish those opinions; the greatest part of men, having much to do to get the means of living, are not in a condition to look after those of learned and laborious inquiries.”1


With the middle classes, there is more opportunity for the independent formation of opinions, by the acquirement of knowledge and observation of the world. Their time is, however, from an early age, engrossed with their industrial pursuits. Their daily business, combined with the care of their families, necessarily consumes the chief part of their attention, and leaves few opportunities for study and reflection. Such knowledge, however, and fitness for judgment as springs from special skill, and from a familiar acquaintance with the mechanical processes of certain arts, trades, and manufactures, will often be found in this class.

With regard to the wealthier classes, comprising a large number of persons who have received a liberal education, and have leisure and means for study, observation, investigation, and reflection, the facilities for the independent formation of opinions are greater. But many of these, particularly the more energetic, are occupied with business and the affairs of active life, which either leave little time for reading and thought, or restrict it to one subject. Others consume a large portion of their time in amusements, or, at the most, in pursuits of mere curiosity; and still more acquiesce, without examination, in the opinions current amongst their friends and associates. Even persons of a speculative turn of mind, having leisure for speculation, confine their thoughts to a limited class of subjects, and entertain on all other subjects opinions mainly derived from authority. For example,

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a mathematician takes his historical and political opinions, a moral philosopher or an historian takes his physical opinions, on trust. The difficulty and labour of original thought and investigation are great; the number of subjects is enormous; every year adds to the stock of known facts, both in history and physics. The invention of printing and paper, by multiplying and perpetuating the records of facts and opinions, has rendered it impossible even for a professed student to explore more than certain portions of the field of knowledge. Hence (as we shall show more fully lower down 1), the use of reviews, manuals, compendia, encyclopædias, and other books of reference, which serve as guides to the character of works, which contain results and opinions without the scaffolding by which they were constructed, and abridge intellectual labour.

§ 3. Men in general, with regard even to their opinions, are influenced by the prevailing fashion. They fear singularity more than error; they accept numbers as the index of truth; and they follow the crowd.2 The dislike of labour, the fear of unpopularity, the danger even of setting up individual opinion against established convictions and the voice of the multitude, contribute to strengthen this inclination. In the voting of political bodies, it is necessary (as we shall see hereafter) to make the decision depend upon the numerical majority. But although everybody is aware that numbers are not a test of truth, yet many persons, while they recognise this maxim in theory, violate it in practice, and accept opinions simply because they are entertained by the people at large. It may be added, that a state of doubt, or suspense, as to opinions, particularly on important subjects, is painful to most minds, and men are impatient of the delay, or unwilling to make the exertion needful for the independent examination of the evidence and arguments on both sides of a disputed question. Hence, they are prone to cut the knot by accepting without verification, or with a very partial examination of its grounds, the opinion of some person whom, for any reason, they look to with respect, and whom they consider a competent judge in the matter. This feeling is naturally much strengthened by a conviction which

⚫ Chapter IX.

2 Pendemus toti ex alienis judiciis, et id optimum nobis videtur, quod petitores laudatoresque multos habet, non id, quod laudandum petendumque est. Nec viam bonam ac malam per se æstimamus, sed turbâ vestigiorum, in quibus nulla sunt redeuntium.-SENECA de Ot. Sapient. c. xxviii.

the modesty and candour of most persons will suggest to them— viz., that if they do their best to form an independent judgment, they are not more likely to be right than other persons who have previously examined the subject, and whose opinions are known.


§ 4. There is a further motive which induces us to rely upon the judgment of persons whom we believe to have previously examined a subject with care and attention, and to be competent to form a sound opinion upon it. Even if we have, at some former time, gone through a process of study and examination, and have arrived at a given conclusion, the reasons for that conclusion do not always remain present to our mind. We may hold the opinion, rather upon the recollection of our having once ascertained it to be well grounded, than from a present perception of its grounds. I confess, (says Locke,) in the opinions men have, and firmly stick to, in the world, their assent is not always from an actual view of the reasons that at first prevailed with them; it being in many cases almost impossible, and in most very hard, even for those who have very admirable memories, to retain all the proofs which, upon a due examination, made them embrace that side of the question. It suffices that they have once with care and fairness sifted the matter as far as they could, and that they have searched into all the particulars that they could imagine to give any light to the question, and with the best of their skill cast up the account upon the whole evidence; and thus, having once found on which side the probability appeared to them, after as full and exact an inquiry as they can make, they lay up the conclusion in their memories as a truth they have discovered; and for the future they remain satisfied with the testimony of their memories, that this is the opinion that, by the proofs they have once seen of it, deserves such a degree of their assent as they afford it. This is all that the greatest part of men are capable of doing in regulating their opinions and judgments; unless a man will exact of them either to retain distinctly in their memories all the proofs concerning any probable truth, and that, too, in the same order and regular deduction of consequences in which they have formerly placed or seen them, which sometimes is enough to fill a large volume on one single question; or else they must require a man, for every opinion that he embraces, every day to examine the proofs, both which are impossible. It is unavoidable, therefore, that the memory be relied on in the case, and that men be persuaded of several opinions, whereof the proofs are

not actually in their thoughts-nay, which perhaps they are not able actually to recal. Without this, the greatest part of men must be either very sceptics, or change every moment, and yield themselves up to whoever, having lately studied the question, offers them arguments, which, for want of memory, they are not able presently to answer.'1

As is very clearly explained in the preceding passage of Locke, our belief in a matter of opinion often rests upon our memory of an investigation which we have formerly made; we rely on a process of reasoning which we remember that we went through, though we cannot now recollect its several steps, and only recal its final result: we know that we had once sufficient reasons for the opinion, though the reasons themselves are no longer in our thoughts; so that we believe, as it were, upon our own authority; we refer to a foregone process of inquiry, as a ground of present belief, in the faith that it was adequately performed, but without feeling the force of the reasons by which our mind was originally satisfied. If men did not thus fall back upon their own authority; if they did not for a time hold to an opinion in the confidence that their previous assent to it had been founded on adequate reasons, though these reasons may have faded from their memory, they would, as Locke truly remarks, be perpetually floating about in doubt, or they would be at the mercy of any person who had a readier and more retentive memory than themselves, or who happened from accidental circumstances to have mastered the arguments on one side of the question. There is one class of cases in particular, which may be referred to as illustrating our habit of entertaining opinions without any accurate memory of their grounds. This is, the estimates which we form of the characters of persons either in private or public life; our judgment of a man's character is derived from observing a number of successive acts, forming in the aggregate his general course of conduct. Now in proportion as our opportunities for observation are multiplied, our judgment is likely to be correct; but the facts from which our ultimate opinion is collected are so numerous, and often so trivial in themselves, that however sound the opinion may be, a large part of them necessarily soon vanish from the memory.

Being thus familiarised with the habit of entertaining an opinion without any present consciousness of its grounds, and from

1 On the Understanding, B. IV. c. xvi. §§ 1 and 2.

a mere remembrance of a process of investigation which we formerly went through, it is easy to transfer this origin of belief to another person, and to accept an opinion because that other person, (whom, moreover, we believe to be more competent to judge in the matter than ourselves) has gone through a similar process of investigation. Being accustomed to treat his former self as a sort of alter ego, and practically to divide his own identity, a man can easily apply the same mode of reference to another person. At all events, such a ground of belief is quite legitimate until we are able to examine the question for ourselves; and is far preferable to the alternative of a temporary suspension of belief, (which in practical matters may tend to serious evils,) or subjection to a sophistical advocate whose business it is to present one side of the case in a favourable point of view.

§ 5. In the preceding remarks, we have had chiefly in view those general opinions which are termed speculative; and which, although they in fact ultimately determine men's conduct, yet have not an immediate bearing upon practice. The extensive department of Practice, however, also involves a constant succession of questions which cause a man to hesitate as to the course to be pursued, which give rise to diversity of opinions, and require the interference of a competent judge for their solution. In many of the affairs of private life, it is customary to follow the advice of professional and other persons having had an appropriate training and peculiar experience in the subject matter. Thus a physician is consulted in questions of health, a lawyer in legal questions, an architect or engineer in questions of building, a gardener in questions of horticulture, a sailor in questions of navigation, and the like. There is likewise frequent occasion in the administration of justice, and the transaction of public business, for appealing to the opinion of persons of professional and special knowledge. In practical affairs, too, many opinions are formed upon the authority of the civil government, of public bodies and persons in conspicuous and responsible positions, of the heads of churches and religious bodies, of universities, academies, and places of learning, and of leaders of parties, and other voluntary associations.

For the present, we merely indicate these sources of authority, as influencing the opinions of numerous persons: and we merely point out, in general terms, the extent of the opinions accepted upon trust, and formed without independent investigation, or a

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