The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53
Philosophy of Results
Philosophy of Results.
For a philosophy of grave importance there is probably none so little understood—amongst us generally as a people—as the philosophy of results. Gamblers call it luck—pietists providential interposition—the oi polloi, fortune and misfortune. But it is the wise man only—whether he be gambler, (pietist, or otherwise-who attributes every result (which word, by the way, has now almost lost its primary meaning of "leaping or bounding back")—be it so-called luck, providential interposition, or fortune—to a natural cause; that is, to accrue (with only (most extreme exceptions, if even such there be) from certain fixed unalterable natural laws, whose workings may be unknown, but whose course and whose mandates nevertheless are as inexorable as the once unknown, and still apparently (although only apparently) uncertain doctrine of average, For although Fortuna may be mythically represented as blindfolded, inconstant, and winged, yet the sage know that this is indeed myth, and that she is to be wooed, won, and retained with a certainty far in excess of any material goddess of flesh and blood.
Thus Fielding—whom Byron terms the Homer of human nature—in his "Amelia" says: "To speak a bold truth, I am, after much mature deliberation, inclined to suspect that the public voice hath, in all ages, done much injustice to Fortune, and hath convicted her of many faults, in which she had not the least concern. I question much whether we may not, by rational means, account for the success of knaves, the calamities of fools, with all the miseries in which men of sense sometimes involve themselves by quitting the direction of Prudence, and following the blind guidance of a predominant passion; in short, for all the ordinary phenomena which are imputed to Fortune." And Josh Billings—who employs the guise of quaint folly to attract attention to concentrated essence of wisdom, in the most novel and forcible of garbs—also says, "Thare is no Bitch thing as an aksident: things hav often happened different from what we expekted, but they are part ov a plan we kno nothing about," and "it iz very seldom, if ever, you hear a bizzy man complain ov bad luck."
So with education. Given as premises a person of competent age, and the amount of education that he possesses, and the wise man, whose judgment has been trained to weigh correctly propositions and probabilities (and the more he studies and analyses causes the more correct will he be in foreseeing consequences), can, with as great a certainty as pertains to fallible reason, logically predicate what these premises will result in—that is what fruit such education will bear. And hence what the future of the man will be.
And we are compelled to admit that—in this utilitarian age—results, obtained per fas out per nefas, are what are worshipped: however ignorant we may be of the precise processes by which such results are obtained.
Which affords another illustration of Hume's remark that "Ignorance is the mother of devotion," and of Fielding's, in probably one at least if not the most instructive novel in our language (Tom Jones), where he says, "'Men are strongly inclined to worship what they do not understand."