Sunday, July 24, 2016

Geometer and Jurist

A mind well disciplined in elementary geometry and in general jurisprudence, would be as well prepared as mere discipline can make a mind, for most trains of human speculation and reasoning. The mathematical portion of such an education would give clear habits of logical deduction, and a perception of the delight of demonstration; while the moral portion of the education, as we may call jurisprudence, would guard the mind from the defect, sometimes ascribed to mere mathematicians, of seeing none but mathematical proofs, and applying to all cases mathematical processes. A young man well imbued with these, the leading elements of Athenian and Roman culture, would, we need not fear to say, be superior in intellectual discipline to three-fourths of the young men of our own day, on whom all the ordinary appliances of what is called a good education have been bestowed. Geometer and jurist, the pupil formed by this culture of the old world, might make no bad figure among the men of letters or of science, the lawyers and the politicians, of our own times.
[William Whewell, Influence of the History of Science Upon Intellectual Education: A Lecture, pp. 24-25.]

(Whewell goes on to note, however, that this would give a purely deductive education, and thus that there would be a need to add inductive approaches to these. Whewell notes that you could do this by picking some natural science, but his recommendation is a focus on the study of the history of natural sciences. One cannot help noticing that geometry, jurisprudence, and history of science would describe a very large portion of Whewell's oeuvre.)

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