Enlargement of the mind

Enlargement of the mind is ‘the action of a formative power, reducing to order and meaning the matter of our acquirements; it is a making the objects of our knowledge subjectively our own, or, to use a familiar word, it is a digestion of what we receive, into the substance of our previous state of thought’. (Idea of a university)

This organic, living knowledge, not just of things themselves, but of their mutual relations, enables the intellect to gain, ‘a connected view of old and new, past and present, far and near, and which has an insight into the influence of all these one on another; without which there is no whole, and no centre. It possesses the knowledge, not only of things, but also of their mutual and true relations; knowledge, not merely considered as acquirement, but as philosophy.’ (Idea of a university)

Acquiring this overview or ‘philosophical habit of mind’ is one of the chief goals of a university education. By this means a lawyer, physician, geologist, or economist studying at a University, ‘will just know where he and his science stand, he has come to it, as it were, from a height, he has taken a survey of all knowledge, he is kept from extravagance by the very rivalry of other studies, he has gained from them a special illumination and largeness of mind and freedom and self-possession, and he treats his own in consequence with a philosophy and a resource, which belongs not to the study itself, but to his liberal education’. (Idea of a university)


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