Suggestions for Thought by Florence Nightingale

Suggestions for Thought by Florence Nightingale: Selections and Commentaries

Florence Nightingale
Michael D. Calabria
Janet A. Macrae
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Suggestions for Thought by Florence Nightingale
    Book Description:

    Florence Nightingale is best known as the founder of modern nursing, a reformer in the field of public health, and a pioneer in the use of statistics. It is not generally known, however, that Nightingale was at the forefront of the religious, philosophical, and scientific though of her time. In a three-volume work that was never published, Nightingale presented her radical spiritual views, motivated by the desire to give those who had turned away from conventional religion an alternative to atheism. In this volume Michael D. Calabria and Janet A. Macrae provide the essence of Nightingale's spiritual philosophy by selecting and reorganizing her best-written treatments. The editors have also provided an introduction and commentary to set the work into a biographical, historical, and philosophical context. This volume illuminates a little-known dimension of Nightingale's personality, bringing forth the ideas that served as the guiding principles of her work. It is also an historical document, presenting the religious issues that were fiercely debated in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Suggestions for Thought, one has the opportunity to experience a great practical mind as it grapples with the most profound questions of human existence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0994-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)
    Michael D. Calabria and Janet A. Macrae

    “This book,” Suggestions for Thought to the Searchers after Truth among the Artizans of England, was an 829-page work in three volumes that Florence Nightingale had privately printed in 1860. She affectionately referred to it as her “Stuff.” Her motivation for writing her “Stuff” was to offer the artisans, or working class people of England, an alternative to atheism. Disillusioned with conventional religion and weary of ungrounded metaphysical speculation, many were turning to the positivist philosophy of Auguste Comte,² in which all valid knowledge is based on verifiable propositions. Nightingale was also an empiricist, but, instead of abolishing the concept...

    (pp. 3-4)


    I come to you not to declare the truth; I come to ask you (if subjects of moral truth have an interest with you) to join in seeking it with those capabilities which God has given to us. I offer the result of my own endeavors, and what I am able to gather from the endeavors of others.

    The object of our desire is to be Truth. All should have their faculties exercised and educated, for the purpose of forming a judgment of what is God’s truth.

    It is thought desirable for all to learn what is necessary to...

  6. 1. On the Concept of God
    (pp. 5-34)

    What do we mean by “God?” All we can say is, that we recognize a power superior to our own; that we recognize this power as exercised by a wise and good will.

    Nightingale begins by commenting on the state of religion and, more specifically, the Anglican Church in the mid-nineteenth century. She describes an age of spiritual uncertainty when some, fearing that scientific and historical investigations of the Scriptures would destroy their religion, sought refuge in the authority of the Church. Her comments to this effect are well-grounded in historical reality, and allude to the so-called “Oxford Movement.” Championed...

  7. 2. On Universal Law
    (pp. 35-57)

    A law is nothing else than a thought of God.

    The belief of universal and invariable law has necessarily gained ground gradually, because its foundation is observation and experience. To those who in past ages had not the possibility of recognizing law, it was natural to see superhuman power chiefly in the more interesting and startling events of life, and to seek help through prayer or other means, which human experience represented as likely to please or propitiate. Men could not then believe what now stands on evidence. They naturally imagined a revelation which satisfied their (then) moral and physical...

  8. 3. On God’s Law and Human Will
    (pp. 58-76)

    In accordance with God’s law, human consciousness is tending to become what God’s consciousness is—to become one with the consciousness of God.

    To give man a will, an identity, a freedom of his own—and yet so to arrange that his will shall become freely one with the will of God, is the problem of human existence—for the will of God being the will of perfect love and wisdom, is the only will that can lead to perfect happiness. The will of man, therefore, in order to attain happiness, must be the same as the will of God....

  9. 4. On Sin and Evil
    (pp. 77-96)

    That they should sit down satisfied with saying that “evil is a mystery,” that “God’s ways are inscrutable,” appears no less extraordinary, when we consider that evil is only the essential ignorance of man’s beginning, and that God has constituted us expressly to discover all His thoughts.

    WHAT was God’s purpose in creating us? Some say He created us for His glory, to honour and to serve Him. Others say that this is ascribing a motive, viz. vanity, to God—which we should not dare to assign to a good man—in whom all regard for his own glory is...

  10. 5. On Family Life
    (pp. 97-115)

    We want to give that which the family promises to give and does not. We want to extend the family, not annihilate it.

    From Nightingale’s point of view, society should be in harmony with the essence of religion, which is “the tie, the binding, or connexion between the Perfect and the imperfect, the eternal and the temporal, the infinite and the finite, the universal and the individual.”¹ Society should be organized in a way that would strengthen this tie, to allow the divine nature, inherent in all human beings, to emerge and flower. She was highly critical of conventional British...

  11. 6. On the Spiritual Life
    (pp. 116-144)

    Unless you make a life which shall be the manifestation of your religion, it does not much signify what you believe.

    Our religious creed consists in this—belief in an omnipotent eternal spirit of love, wisdom, righteousness, manifesting itself by calling into existence, by definite laws, beings capable of the happiness of love, wisdom, righteousness,—capable of advancing themselves and each other in divine nature—living in an universe in which, by definite law, the means and inducement are afforded which insure their advance through their own activity to humanity’s blessedness

    Whatever contributes to the advance of man’s nature from...

  12. 7. On Life After Death
    (pp. 145-154)

    There is nothing final in the universe of mind or of matter—all is tendency, growth.

    Nightingale’s philosophy revolved around a Spirit of Right, a Perfect Being possessing a wise and benevolent will. She was therefore compelled, like the great minds throughout the ages, to formulate an eschatology that did not contradict her concept of God. She never seems to have had a morbid attitude toward death, always regarding it as an integral part of the divine plan. As a young woman of twenty-six, she wrote:

    I cannot pretend to speak of death as a misfortune . . . Death...

  13. Appendix 1. Guide to the Text
    (pp. 155-156)
  14. Appendix 2. Chronology
    (pp. 157-164)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 165-172)
  16. Index
    (pp. 173-176)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 177-179)