We are born to be, if we please, rational creatures, but it is use and exercise only that makes us so.
We are born with faculties and powers capable almost of any thing, such at least as would carry us farther than can easily be imagined: but it is only the exercise of those powers, which gives us ability and skill in any thing, and leads us towards perfection.
To what purpose all this, but to shew that the difference so observable in men’s understandings and parts, does not arise so much from natural faculties as acquired habits?
To prejudge other men’s notions before we have looked into them, is not to show their darkness, but to put out our own eyes.
Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge: it is thinking that makes what we read ours.
Nobody is made anything by hearing of rules, or laying them up in his memory; practice must settle the habit of doing, without reflecting on the rule; and you may as well hope to make a good painter, or musician, extempore, by a lecture and instruction in the arts of music and painting, as a coherent thinker, or a strict reasoner, by a set of rules, showing him wherein right reasoning consists.
Many a good poetic vein is buried under a trade, and never produces any thing for want of improvement.
Let not men think there is no truth but in the sciences that they study, or the books that they read.
It is practice alone that brings the powers of the mind as well as those of the body to their perfection.
Hunting after arguments to make good one side of a question, and wholly to neglect and refuse those which favor the other side. What is this but willfully to misguide the understanding, and is so far from giving truth its due value, that it wholly debases it.
False and doubtful positions, relied upon as unquestionable maxims, keep those in the dark from truth, who build on them. Such are usually the prejudices imbibed from education, party, reverence, fashion, interest, et cetera.
Every man carries about him a touchstone, if he will make use of it, to distinguish substantial gold from superficial glitterings, truth from appearances. And indeed the use and benefit of this touchstone, which is natural reason, is spoiled and lost only by assuming prejudices, overweening presumption, and narrowing our minds.