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by the strength of their cables and the weight of their anchors, they enable him to measure the rapidity of the current by which the rest of the world are borne along.
This, too, is remarkable in the history of our prejudices; that, as soon as the film falls from the intellectual eye, we are apt to lose all recollection of our former blindness. Like the fantastic and giant shapes which, in a thick fog, the imagination lends to a block of stone, or to the stump of a tree, they produce, while the illusion lasts, the same effect with truths and realities; but the moment the eye has caught the exact form and dimensions of its object, the spell is broken for ever; nor can any effort of thought again conjure up the spectres which have vanished.
As to the subdivisions of which the sciences of Matter and of Mind are susceptible, I have already said, that this is not the proper place for entering into any discussion concerning them. The passages above quoted from D'Alembert, from Locke, and from Smith, are sufficient to show how little probability there is, in the actual state of Logical Science, of uniting the opinions of the learned, in favor of any one scheme of partition. To prefix, therefore, such a scheme to a work which is professedly to be carried on by a set of unconnected writers, would be equally presumptuous and useless; and, on the most favorable supposition, could tend only to fetter, by means of dubious definitions, the subsequent freedom of thought and of expression. The example of the French Encyclopédie cannot be here justly alleged as a precedent. The preliminary pages by which it is introduced were written by the two persons who projected the whole plan, and who considered themselves as responsible, not only for their own admirable articles, but for the general conduct of the execution; whereas, on the present occasion, a porch was to be adapted to an irregular edifice, reared, at different periods, by different architects. It seemed, accordingly, most advisable, to avoid, as much as possible, in these introductory Essays, all innovations in language, and, in describing the different arts and sciences, to follow scrupulously the prevailing and most intelligible phraseology. The task of defining them, with a greater degree of
precision, properly devolves upon those to whose province it belongs, in the progress of the work, to unfold in detail their elementary principles.
The sciences to which I mean to confine my observations are Metaphysics, Ethics, and Political Philosophy; understanding, by Metaphysics, not the Ontology and Pneumatology of the schools, but the inductive Philosophy of the Human Mind; and limiting the phrase, Political Philosophy, almost exclusively to the modern science of Political Economy; or, (to express myself in terms at once more comprehensive and more precise) to that branch of the theory of legislation which, according to Bacon's definition, aims to ascertain those "Leges legum, ex quibus informatio peti potest quid in singulis legibus bene aut perperam positum aut constitutum sit." The close affinity between these three departments of knowledge, and the easy transitions by which the curiosity is invited from the study of any one of them to that of the other two, will sufficiently appear from the following Historical Review.
In the following Historical and Critical Sketches, it has been judged proper by the different writers, to confine their views entirely to the period which has elapsed since the revival of letters. To have extended their retrospects to the ancient world would have crowded too great a multiplicity of objects into the limited canvass on which they had to work. For my own part, I might, perhaps, with still greater propriety, have confined myself exclusively to the two last centuries; as the Sciences, of which I am to treat, present but little matter for useful remark, prior to the time of Lord Bacon. I shall make no apology, however for devoting, in the first place, a few pages to some observations of a more general nature; and to some scanty gleanings of literary detail, bearing more or less directly on my principal design.
On this occasion, as well as in the sequel of my Discourse, I shall avoid, as far as is consistent with distinctness and perspicuity, the minuteness of the mere bibliographer; and, instead of attempting to amuse my readers with a series of critical epigrams, or to dazzle them with a rapid succession of evanescent portraits, shall study to fix their attention on those great lights of the world by whom the torch of science has been successively seized and transmitted.*
It is in fact such leading characters alone which
I have ventured here to combine a scriptural expression with an allusion of Plato's to a Grecian game; an allusion which, in his writings, is finely and pathetically applied to the rapid succession of generations, through which the continuity of human life is maintained from age to age; and which are perpetually transferring from hand to hand the concerns and duties of this fleeting scene. Γεννῶντες καὶ ἐκτρέφοντες παῖδας, καθάπες λαμπάδα τὸν βίον παραδιδόντες ἄλλοις ἐξ ἄλλων. (Plato, Leg. lib. vi.)
"Et, quasi cursores, vitaï lampada tradunt."-Lucret.
furnish matter for philosophical history. To enumerate the names and the labors of obscure or even secondary authors (whatever amusement it might afford to men of curious erudition), would contribute but little to illustrate the origin and filiation of consecutive systems, or the gradual developement and progress of the human mind.
FROM THE REVIVAL OF LETTERS TO THE PUBLICATION OF BACON'S PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS.
THE long interval, commonly known by the name of the middle ages, which immediately preceded the revival of letters in the western part of Europe, forms the most melancholy blank which occurs, from the first dawn of recorded civilization, in the intellectual and moral history of the human race. In one point of view alone, the recollection of it is not altogether unpleasing, in as much as, by the proof it exhibits of the inseparable connexion between ignorance and prejudice on the one hand, and vice, misery, and slavery, on the other, it affords, in conjunction with other causes, which will afterwards fall under our review, some security against any future recurrence of a similar calamity.
It would furnish a very interesting and instructive subject of speculation, to record and to illustrate (with the spirit, however, rather of a philosopher than of an antiquary) the various abortive efforts, which, during this protracted and seemingly hopeless period of a thousand years, were made by enlightened individuals, to impart to their contemporaries the fruits of their own acquirements. For in no one age from its commencement to its close, does the continuity of knowledge (if I may borrow an expression of Mr. Harris) seem to have been entirely interrupted: "There was always a faint twilight, like that auspicious gleam which, in a summer's night, fills up the interval between the setting and the rising sun." * On the present occasion, I shall content myself with remarking the important effects produced by the numerous monastic establishments all over the Christian world, in preserving, amidst the general wreck, the inestimable remains of Greek and Roman refinement; and in keeping
• Philological Inquiries, Part III. chap. i.