During the past three hundred years we have more and more lost sight of the exact and direct meaning of things. Subject to the constraints of a conservative, complex, and extended educational system we study
* the symbols of objects rather than on the objects themselves;
* instead of the ground itself, a map of it;
* instead of animals struggling for existence, nomenclatures and classifications, or, at best, stuffed specimens displayed in a museum;
* instead of persons who feel and act, statistics, codes, histories, literatures, and philosophies; in short, printed words. Even worse, abstract terms, which from century to century have become more abstract and therefore further removed from experience, more difficult to understand, less adaptable and more deceptive, especially in all that relates to human life and society.
Here, due to the growth of government, to the multiplication of services, to the entanglement of interests, the object, indefinitely enlarged and complex, now eludes our grasp. Our vague, incomplete, incorrect idea of it badly corresponds with it, or does not correspond at all.
Hippolyte Taine - The Modern Regime (1893)