"I am not expressing my own opinion of either form of culture,"
Sergey Ivanovitch said, holding out his glass with a smile of
condescension, as to a child. "I only say that both sides have
strong arguments to support them," he went on, addressing Alexey
Alexandrovitch. "My sympathies are classical from education, but
in this discussion I am personally unable to arrive at a
conclusion. I see no distinct grounds for classical studies
being given a preeminence over scientific studies."
"The natural sciences have just as great an educational value,"
put in Pestsov. "Take astronomy, take botany, or zoology with
its system of general principles."
"I cannot quite agree with that," responded Alexey Alexandrovitch
"It seems to me that one must admit that the very process of
studying the forms of language has a peculiarly favorable
influence on intellectual development. Moreover, it cannot be
denied that the influence of the classical authors is in the
highest degree moral, while, unfortunately, with the study of the
natural sciences are associated the false and noxious doctrines
which are the curse of our day."
Sergey Ivanovitch would have said something, but Pestsov
interrupted him in his rich bass. He began warmly contesting the
justice of this view. Sergey Ivanovitch waited serenely to
speak, obviously with a convincing reply ready.
"But," said Sergey Ivanovitch, smiling subtly, and addressing
Karenin, "One must allow that to weigh all the advantages and
disadvantages of classical and scientific studies is a difficult
task, and the question which form of education was to be
preferred would not have been so quickly and conclusively decided
if there had not been in favor of classical education, as you
expressed it just now, its moral--disons le mot--anti-nihilist
"If it had not been for the distinctive property of
anti-nihilistic influence on the side of classical studies, we
should have considered the subject more, have weighed the
arguments on both sides," said Sergey Ivanovitch with a subtle
smile, "we should have given elbow-room to both tendencies. But
now we know that these little pills of classical learning possess
the medicinal property of anti-nihilism, and we boldly prescribe
them to our patients.... But what if they had no such medicinal
property?" he wound up humorously.