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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

First Principles                327

sure that the criminal on whom he was looking was not say-
ing much the same thing as he looked upon John Bunyan ?
Does any one who knows me doubt that if I were offered my
choice between a bishopric and a halter, I should choose the
halter ? I believe half the bishops would choose the halter
themselves if they had to do it over again.

Philosophy

As a general rule philosophy is like stirring mud or not
letting a sleeping dog lie. It is an attempt to deny, circum-
vent or otherwise escape from the consequences of the inter-
lacing of the roots of things with one another. It professes
to appease our ultimate " Why ? " though in truth it is
generally the solution of a simplex ignotum by a complex
ignotim. This, at least, is my experience of everything that
has been presented to me as philosophy. I have often had
my " Why " answered with so much mystifying matter that I
have left off pressing it through fatigue. But this is not
having my ultimate " Why ? " appeased. It is being knocked
out of time.

Philosophy and Equal Temperament

It is with philosophy as with just intonation on a piano,
if you get everything quite straight and on all fours in one
department, in perfect tune, it is delightful so long as you
keep well in the middle of the key; but as soon as you
modulate you find the new key is out of tune and the more
remotely you modulate the more out of tune you get. The
only way is to distribute your error by equal temperament
and leave common sense to make the correction in philo-
sophy which the ear does instantaneously and involuntarily
in music.

Hedging the Cuckoo

People will still keep trying to find some formula that
shall hedge-in the cuckoo of mental phenomena to their
satisfaction. Half the books—nay, all of them that deal
with thought and its ways in the academic spirit—are but so
many of these hedges in various stages of decay.