Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

justified in calling that a History of the Inductive Sciences, which contains an account of the progress of the physical sciences only. But it would have conveyed a false impression of my purpose, had I described my history in any manner which implied that the sciences which it embraces are partially selected or arbitrarily limited. Those of which the progress is exhibited in the present volumes, appear to me to form a connected and systematic body of knowledge. And if there be branches of knowledge which regard Morals, or Politics, or the Fine Arts, and which may properly be called Inductive (an opinion which I by no means gainsay); still it must be allowed, I think, that the processes of collecting general 'truths from assemblages of special facts, and of ascending from propositions of a limited to those of a larger generality, which the term Induction peculiarly implies, have hitherto been far more clearly exhibited in the physical sciences which form the subject of the present work, than in those hyperphysical sciences to which I have not extended my history. I will further add, that if I should be enabled hereafter to lay before the world a view of the Philosophy of Inductive Science in its general bearings, it will be requisite, in order to exhibit, in its due light the state of the philosophy of morals, or art, or any similar subject, to give a view of the steps by which it has reached its present position ; and thus such a work will supply that which some may judge wanting to fill up the outline of this historical undertaking:

As will easily be supposed, I have borrowed largely from other writers, both of the histories of special sciences and of philosophy in general *. I have done this without scruple, since the novelty of my work was intended to consist, not in its superiority as a collection of facts, but in the point of view in which the facts were placed I have, however, in all cases, given references to my authorities, and there are very few instances in which I have not verified the references of previous historians, and studied the original authors. According to the plan which I have pursued, the history of each science forms a whole in itself, divided into distinct but connected members, by the Epochs of its successive advances. If I have satisfied the competent judges in each science by my selection of such epochs, the scheme of the work must be of permanent value, however imperfect may be the execution of any of its portions.

With all these grounds of hope, it is still impossible not to see that such an undertaking is, in no small degree, arduous, and its event obscure. But all who venture upon such tasks must gather trust and encouragement from reflections like those by which their great forerunner prepared himself for his endeavours ;-by recollecting that they are aiming to advance the best interests and privileges of man; and that they may expect all the best and wisest of men to join them in their aspirations and to aid them in their labours.

1 Among these, I may mention as works to which I have peculiar bligations, Tennemann's Geschichte der Philosophie, Degerando's Histoire Comparée des Systèmes de Philosophie, Montucla’s Histoire des Mathématiques, with Delalande's continuation of it, Delambre's Astronomie Ancienne, Astronomie du Moyen Age, Astronomie Moderne, and Astronomie du Dixhuitième Siécle ; Bailly's Histoire d'Astronomie Ancienne, and Histoire d'Astronomie Moderne, Voiron's Histoire d'Astronomie (published as a continuation of Bailly), Fischer's Geschichte der Physik, Gmelin's Geschichte der Chemie, Thomson's History of Chemistry, Sprengel's History of Medicine, his History of Botany, and in all branches of Natural History and Physiology, Cuvier's works, in their historical, as in all other portions, most admirable and instructive.

“ Concerning ourselves we speak not; but as touching the matter which we have in hand, this we ask ;—that men deem it not to be the setting up of an Opinion, but the performing of a Work ; and that they receive this as a certainty ; that we are not laying the foundations of any sect or doctrine, but of the profit and dignity of mankind :-Furthermore, that being well disposed to what shall advantage themselves, and putting off factions and prejudices, they take common counsel with us, to the end that being by these our aids and appliances freed and defended from wanderings and impediments, they may lend their hands also to the labours which remain to be performed :-And yet, further, that they be of good hope; neither feign and imagine to themselves this our Reform as something of infinite dimension and beyond the grasp of mortal man, when, in truth, it is, of infinite errour, the end and true limit; and is by no means unmindful of the condition of mortality and humanity, not confiding that such a thing can be carried to its perfect close in the space of one single age, but assigning it as a task to a succession of generations.”

Instaur. Mag. Præf. ad fin.

« ForrigeFortsæt »