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notions with which men are conversant in the common course of practical life, which give meaning to their familiar language, and employment to their hourly thoughts, are compared with the Ideas on which exact science is founded, we find that the two classes of intellectual operations have much that is common and much that is different. Without here attempting fully to explain this relation (which, indeed, is one of the hardest problems of our philosophy), we may observe that they have this in common, that both are acquired by acts of the mind exercised in connecting external impressions, and may be employed in conducting a train of reasoning; or, speaking loosely (for we cannot here pursue the subject so as to arrive at philosophical exactness), we may say, that all notions and ideas are obtained by an inductive, and may be used in a deductive process. But scientific Ideas and common Notions differ in this, that the former are precise and stable, the latter vague and variable; the former are possessed with clear insight, and employed in a sense rigorously limited, and always identically the same; the latter have grown up in the mind from a thousand dim and diverse suggestions, and the obscurity and incongruity which belong to their origin hang about all their applications. Scientific Ideas can often be adequately exhibited for all the purposes of reasoning, by means of Definitions and Axioms; all attempts to reason by means of Definitions from common Notions, lead to empty forms or entire confusion.
Such common Notions are sufficient for the common practical con. duct of human life: but man is not a practical creature merely; he has within him a speculative tendency, a pleasure in the contemplation of ideal relations, a love of knowledge as knowledge. It is this speculative tendency which brings to light the difference of common Notions and scientific Ideas, of which we have spoken. The mind analyzes such Notions, reasons upon them, combines and connects them; for it feels assured that intellectual things ought to be able to bear such handling. Even practical knowledge, we see clearly, is not possible without the use of the reason; and the speculative reason is only the reason satisfying itself of its own consistency. The speculative faculty cannot be controlled from acting. The mind cannot but claim a right to speculate concerning all its own acts and creations ; yet, when it exercises this right upon its common practical notions, we find that it runs into barren abstractions and ever-recurring cycles of subtlety. Such Notions are like waters naturally stagnant; however much we urge and agitate them, they only revolve in stationary
whirlpools. But the mind is capable of acquiring scientific Ideas, which are better fitted to undergo discussion and impulsion. When our speculations are duly fed from the springheads of Observation, and frequently drawn off into the region of Applied Science, we may have a living stream of consistent and progressive knowledge. That science may be both real as to its import, and logical as to its form, the examples of many existing sciences sufficiently prove.
School Philosophy.--So long, however, as attempts are made to form sciences, without such a verification and realization of their fundamental ideas, there is, in the natural series of speculation, no self-correcting principle. A philosophy constructed on notions obscure, vague, and unsubstantial, and held in spite of the want of correspondence between its doctrines and the actual train of physical events, may long subsist, and occupy men's minds. Such a philosophy must depend for its permanence upon the pleasure which men feel in tracing the operations of their own and other men's minds, and in reducing them to logical consistency and systematical arrangement.
In these cases the main subjects of attention are not external objects, but speculations previously delivered; the object is not to interpret nature, but man's mind. The opinions of the Masters are the facts which the Disciples endeavor to reduce to unity, or to follow into consequences. A series of speculators who pursue such a course, may properly be termed a School, and their philosophy a School Philosophy; whether their agreement in such a mode of seeking knowledge arise from personal communication and tradition, or be merely the result of a community of intellectual character and propensity. The two great periods of School Philosophy (it will be recollected that we are here directing our attention mainly to physical science) were that of the Greeks and that of the Middle Ages ;—the period of the first waking of science, and that of its midday slumber.
What has been said thus briefly and imperfectly, would require great detail and much explanation, to give it its full significance and authority. But it seemed proper to state so much in this place, in order to render more intelligible and more instructive, at the first aspect, the view of the attempted or effected progress of science.
It is, perhaps, a disadvantage inevitably attending an undertaking like the present, that it must set out with statements so abstract; and must present them without their adequate development and proof. Such an Introduction, both in its character and its scale of execution, may be compared to the geographical sketch of a country, with which the historian of its fortunes often begins his narration. So much of Metaphysics is as necessary to us as such a portion of Geography is to the Historian of an Empire; and what has hitherto been said, is intended as a slight outline of the Geography of that Intellectual World, of which we have here to study the History.
The name which we have given to this History—A HISTORY OF THE INDUCTIVE SCIENCES—has the fault of seeming to exclude from the rank of Inductive Sciences those which are not included in the History; as Ethnology and Glossology, Political Economy, Psychology. This exclusion I by no means wish to imply; but I could find no other way of compendiously describing my subject, which was intended to comprehend those Sciences in which, by the observation of facts and the use of reason, systems of doctrine have been established which are universally received as truths among thoughtful men; and which may therefore be studied as examples of the manner in which truth is to be discovered. Perhaps a more exact description of the work would have been, A History of the principal Sciences hitherto established by Induction. I may add that I do not include in the phrase “Inductive Sciences," the branches of Pure Mathematics (Geometry, Arithmetic, Algebra, and the like), because, as I have elsewhere stated (Phil. Ind. Sc., book ii. c. 1), these are not Inductive but Deductive Sciences. They do not infer true theories from observed facts, and more general from more limited laws : but they trace the conditions of all theory, the properties of space and number; and deduce results from ideas without the aid of experience. The History of these Sciences is briefly given in Chapters 13 and 14 of the Second Book of the Philosophy just referred to.
I may further add that the other work to which I refer, the Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, is in a great measure historical, no less than the present History. That work contains the history of the Sciences so far as it depends on Ideas ; the present work contains the history so far as it depends upon Observation. The two works resulted simultaneously from the same examination of the principal writers on science in all ages, and may serve to supplement each other.