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METHODIST QUARTERLY REVIEW.
EDITED BY GEORGE PECK, D.D.
Art. I.-A System of Logic, ratiocinative and inductive; being
a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence, and the Method of Scientific Investigation. By John. Stuart Mill. First American, from the London Edition. New-York: Harper & Brothers, 82 Cliff-street.
All science, all knowledge is directly relative to, and deeply rooted in, the human understanding. The celebrated inscription of the Delphic temple, Tvádl OEAUTÓV, (Know thyself,) was worthy of a god, not only as a precept of moral conduct, but also as a principle of philosophical inquiry. In reference to the former of these grand objects, however, the maxim has always been but too little practiced. Its applicability to the other is scarcely yet recognized. Of the various sciences and arts of our day, there is not one that has been based directly, or distinctly, upon that which is the centre and soul of them all—the human mind. The science of number does not tell us what number is, how our idea of it is formed, or how we came by this and the other abstract notions. The science of extension leaves us equally in the dark concerning our knowledge—its nature and origin-of this property of bodies, upon which the science is built. The sciences conversant about the action and operations of these bodies and their several modes of existence, do not begin with explaining what these laws of material objects consist in with relation to our means of apprehending them, nor how far, or if at all, we may be assured of the reality of their existence. But that description of our knowledge which has more immediately for its subject the moral and political “sciences," (as we call them,) is still more defective in this particular, still more distant from the source of light, than even the mathematical, or the physical departments. Instead of having been grounded upon an analysis of the mental operations in the acquisition of knowledge, these sciences all begin with a set of assumptions-whether, as in some subjects, axioms and definitions, which are termed self-evident, or, as in others, loose traditional prejudices and popular impressions, which are dignified into “laws of belief," or "principles of common sense.
But, verily, this is no better, logically viewed, than the Indian cosmography; which, setting the elephant that props the earth on the back of a tortoise, leaves the latter unhappy wight to find footing as it may. The questions, of course, recur :—What is our evidence for these laws of belief?—How came we to know the attributes denoted by the definitions ?–Might there not be some illusion in our assurance of the axioms ? For to silence all such inquiries by the word “self-evident,” is both improper and unphilosophical : improper, for, in strictness, the term evident applies but to what is made known through a medium subjective or objective; whereas, the pretension here is, that these “truths" are apprehended intuitively: it is unphilosophical, because nothing of a general nature is, in fact, ever so apprehended. All our perceptions, whether of facts or objects, are necessarily particular: all generalities, that have any real foundation, are the results of induction, and, as such, susceptible of, and subject to, analysis and evidence.
No doubt, those sciences—even the most crude of them-have always contained truths of great positive value. But they were debarred, by the notions described, from all systematic progress. They had accordingly remained for ages in a state of stagnancy. They had been under the doom of barrenness, like the vestal virgins, (to borrow a favorite simile of Lord Bacon) for want of the proper instrument and method of cultivation. This want was to be supplied by first discrediting the mysterious efficacy ascribed to fundamental principles, decomposing them into their elements, tracing them back to their sources in the human mind, and by then observing the synthetic processes of nature in their formation and deduction. Such was the grand idea of the celebrated inductive logic or method of philosophizing, the promulgation of which, opportunely, (for really he has contributed little more than the direction,) has insured the proudest, perhaps, of earthly immortalities to the philosopher just named. That this logical reform was, in fact, the essential condition and clew to any advancement of the sciences, is strikingly visible in the immediate and rapid progress of such of them as have already been brought under its rule. We have a negative example, also, in the state of political and moral
a doctrine, which-partly, indeed, from the greater difficulty of the