Skip to main content
First Principles 331
is to tell a man that he is a fool by saying "Which is absurd."
If his opponent chooses to hold out in spite of this, Euclid
can do no more. Faith and authority are as necessary for
him as for any one else. True, he does not want us to believe
very much ; his yoke is tolerably easy, and he will not call
a man a fool until he will have public opinion generally on
his side; but none the less does he begin with dogmatism
and end with persecution.
There is nothing one cannot wrangle about. Sensible
people will agree to a middle course founded upon a few
general axioms and propositions about which, right or wrong,
they will not think it worth while to wrangle for some time,
and those who reject these can be put into mad-houses. The
middle way may be as full of hidden rocks as the other ways
are of manifest ones, but it is the pleasantest while we can
keep to it and the dangers, being hidden, are less alarming.
In practice it is seldom very hard to do one's duty when
one knows what it is, but it is sometimes exceedingly diffi-
cult to find this out. The difficulty is, however, often re-
ducible into that of knowing what gives one pleasure, and
this, though difficult, is a safer guide and more easily dis-
tinguished. In all cases of doubt, the promptings of a kindly
disposition are more trustworthy than the conclusions of
logic, and sense is better than science.
Why I should have been at the pains to write such truisms
I know not.