The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
In conclusion, I feel some explanation is due to you for the course I have taken in introducing into my address a number of controverted subjects. I think my best apology for this course will be the statement that I have myself in former years derived great benefit from listening to the opinions expressed by my seniors in the profession, even in cases where I did not at the time see my way to agree with those opinions, and have since come to entirely contrary conclusions. This leads me to believe that it is an advantage to the junior members of any profession that the head of it for the time being should state the opinions he has formed upon the various questions that have recently come up for discussion, and the reflections and conclusions that have been suggested by his experience. The value of these opinions and reflections will be to a great extent independent of their truth. Even when they are most questionable they are still of value as page 20 stimulating thought in others; but when a man of experience, who has not been content simply to adopt the current opinions, but has independence enough to form opinions for himself, and, if necessary, the courage to give free expression to them, when such a man states the conclusions at which he has arrived, I believe it will always be found that, although his opinions may be onesided, there will be elements of truth in them. In all controverted matters, truth is best arrived at when each of the opposing views is supported by its own adherents and advocates, and in many such matters time is an essential element in coming to a correct conclusion. The persons who have taken part in a heated discussion are very rarely qualified to be impartial judges of its merits, and sometimes it is necessary to leave the decision to a new generation, who shall grow up without the prejudices of their predecessors, and who will thus be better able to recognise how much of truth there is in each of the conflicting views, and to form a final judgment, which may, perhaps, be very different from either of the original ones. In making these remarks, I have kept in view the fact that there is never any public discussion on the president's address, also that it would be in every way undesirable that a future president should criticise and discuss the address of one of his predecessors. There is, however, no objection to his taking the opposite view of any questions that have been discussed, and stating his own conclusions and the arguments in their favour. The discussions at this Institute have, I think, always been distinguished by the freedom with which opposing views have been stated and advocated by the members. As I have already mentioned, I believe that in this way the object which we all have at heart—viz., the search after truth—is best promoted, and I shall be gratified if time proves that the reflections I have put before you to-day are a contribution to this object.
M'Carron, Bird and Co., Printers, Melbourne.