essay: The Will to Believe, 1896
I recently encountered a brief snippet praising scientists in "some book", borrowed from this essay.
- "When one turns to the magnificent edifice of the physical sciences, and sees how it was reared; what thousands of disinterested moral lives of men lie buried in its mere foundations; what patience and postponement, what choking down of preference, what submission to the icy laws of outer fact are wrought into its very stones and mortar; how absolutely impersonal it stands in its vast augustness, -- then how besotted and contemptible seems every little sentimentalist who comes blowing his voluntary smoke-wreaths, and pretending to decide things from out of his private dream!"
In the context of the essay, this is not praise of science, but a complaint about scientific narrow-mindedness. The essay is about the quest for "The Truth", that is, God. When truth becomes a destination rather than a direction, then that destination must become an invisible deity. Destinations are where directions cease to have meaning - what is north of the north pole? - what is smaller than a point? - so the quest for the ultimate and the finitude of individual human existence necessitates the "discovery" of the Ultimate, as opposed to the improvement of perpetual questing.
Destinations are places where the previous journey is over. You can either give up, or pick another destination. You can still have great journeys without having destinations, though that is difficult to explain to a travel agent.