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principle of the continual increase of those powers.
66 As nalure," observes a French metaphysician,
presents to us nothing but units, or rather individuals, and our ideas themselves are successive, how should man have attained the conception of numbers, had he not experienced the plague of confusion, that is, the necessity of introducing order within and without him, of making himself master of the multitude of bodies, of their duration and all their movements; in a word, of counting? The science of calculation, like all the other sciences, sprung from the very obstacles which the genius of man has encountered, and which his perseverance has overcome. The most ingenious inventions are owing, in some respects, as much to the weakness as to the strength of the human mind.”+
* In the sciences, and in all pursuits, obstacles, universally susceptible of being converted into means of success, become springs, levers, and powerful engines, to stimulate and uphold courage, industry, and perseverance.
+ This assertion, that inventions are owing to the natural weakness of the human mind, to the inadequacy of its resources, and the necessity of making up for it, is not, perhaps, quite correct. A man cannot carry above three hundred pounds weight. He invents a lever, which enables him to move three
“ If we have ships," continues the same writer, “it is because we should be unable to walk upon the sea; if we count, because units, or individuals, escape us; if we have clocks, the reason is, that we could not master time by thought; if we construct so many instruments and machines, it is to make up for our own weakness and insufficiency. Thus the arts, the sciences, and all our inventions, are but resources, which, the more ingenious they are, the more strongly they prove our embarrassment. In man, strength has truly sprung
from weakness, and light from darkness. We are born limited; but our limits are moveable; while those of the irrational animals are almost immoveable."
All the obstacles to the progress of the sciences, and of the human mind, ought therefore to be studied and meditated upon : they will then furnish resources for the advancement of the sciences.
War is an obstacle to the advancement of the arts and sciences : but the processes of military
thousand. Man feels his weakness and creates; but weakness itself does not create. The most ingenious inventions then are due to our intelligence, stimulated by our wants. These wants may be considered as obstacles, which our nature excites us to surmount, and which give birth to the various productions of the arts.
tactics, ingeniously modified, and applied in the intellectual world, may be the means of achieving discoveries and conquests in it.
Military habits and manners, which tend in various ways to deprave the morals of mankind, give, at the same time, more energy to the sentiments of elevation and courage, and fortify and ennoble the soul, by rendering it superior to the fear of death itself.
The skill of the mariner is most conspicuous in the tempest, bravery in danger, and virtue in adversity.
Let us take a rapid survey of the different classes of society, of the diversified scenes of life.
Voyages and travels, which do not admit of the prosecution of regular study, seem to be an obstacle to the cultivation of the mind; but to the man who knows how to benefit by them they prove a fertile source of information : they furnish him with numberless observations, and with subjects for useful and profitable meditation.
The most disagreeable employments, and the most ignorant persons, may be turned to good account by the man whose mind is accustomed to study how to convert all obstacles into means of
success. Our very enemies are useful: they impel talent to new efforts, and excite it to surpass itself.*
There is no man, however limited his capacity, no situation, how unfavourable soever it may appear, but something or other may be gained from them. Your time is occupied, and your mind engaged with disagreeable details; but the numerous accessaries with which your duties bring you in contact may promote your favourite pursuits, as well as concur in those to which you are obliged to attend. In this manner they indemnify you for the loss which you sustain, and return frequently with usury that portion of time which your situation compels you reluctantly to sacrifice. In this they themselves necessarily find their advantage, as we shall be convinced on applying the general law of exchanges or mutual services, the basis and point of support of the intercourse between man and man.
A party of pleasure, an entertainment, or a meeting, to which you are summoned by social duties, robs your mind of valuable moments, in which it would have enjoyed itself, and created noble and generous conceptions. You derive, however, from animated conversation, skilfully directed to the objects which interest you, the means of making yourself more completely master of your thoughts, of expressing them with greater force, energy, and clearness, by striking them, like flints, which only give out sparks by collision, against the thoughts of others. A circumstance, therefore, which seemed likely to be an obstacle to your plans of study and meditation serves, on the contrary, to promote them.
* See Plutarch's Treatise on the utility of enemies and the art of deriving advantage from them.
In all three points of view then, physical, moral, and intellectual, as well as in regard to the employment of time, which is the real science of happiness and virtue, obstacles may be converted into means of power and elements of success. In every pursuit, surmounted obstacles strongly attest the energy of human genius.
ELEVENTH GENERAL LAW.
LAW OF PROPORTIONS OR HARMONIES.
All Things are relative.
This general principle, which I shall term the law of proportions or adaptations, enables him