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now saying may rather annoy than gratify the feelings of my preceptor. What I have stated, however, is a tribute due from me to him; and I pay it on the present occasion, in hopes that the same precepts and motives may have the same effect on the minds of the junior part of my audience, as they were accustomed in general to have upon the pupils of Sir William Blizard.
That which most dignifies man, is the cultivation of those intellectual faculties which distinguish him from the brute creation. We should indeed seek truth; feel its importance; and act as the dictates of reason direct. By exercising the powers of our minds in the attainment of medical knowledge we learn and may improve a science of the greatest public utility. We have need of enthusiasm, or of some strong incentive, to induce
us to spend our nights in study, and our days in the disgusting and healthdestroying avocations of the dissecting room; or in that careful and distressing observation of human diseases and infirmities, which alone can enable us to understand, alleviate, or remove them: for upon no other terms can we be considered as real students of our profession. We have need of some powerful inducement, exclusively of the expectation of fame or emolument: for unfortunately a man may attain a considerable share of public reputation and practice without undertaking the labours I have mentioned, without being a real student of his profession. I place before you the most animating incentive I know of to labour truly to acquire professional knowledge. You will by such conduct possess yourselves of the enviable power of being extensively useful to your fellow-crea
tures, in a way the most necessary to their wants, and most interesting to their feelings. You will be enabled to confer that which sick kings would fondly purchase with their diadems; that which wealth cannot command, nor state nor rank bestow. You will be able to alleviate or remove disease, the most insupportable of human afflictions, and thereby give health, the most invaluable of human blessings.
I shall not, however, gentlemen, waste your time in expatiating on this topic, because you will feel much more than I can utter, and because all that can be said or thought of it, seems concentrated in one brief but enthusiastic sentence of Cicero, which therefore I quote.
In nulla re, propiùs ad deos homines accedunt, quam salutem hominibus dando.
In occupying the situation of the last gentleman who taught in this place, Sir Everard Home, who has pursued the path of science which Mr. Hunter pointed out, with a considerable talent for observation, and with a degree of zeal and industry, scarcely to be expected from one whose time and attention have been otherwise so much engaged; I also, equally with him, feel interested in impressing on the minds of my audience, the advantages we have de. rived from the labours of Mr. Hunter, and from pursuing that mode of study and enquiry which he adopted, and inculcated: and I am desirous on the present occasion, to engage your attention in the consideration of the probability and rationality of his theory of life.
The term theory, in philosophical language, like hypothesis, denotes the most plausible and rational mode of accounting
for certain phænomena, the causes of which have not been fully developed. In applying these terms to medical and physiological subjects, I may be allowed to define what I think they designate, and what I intend to convey by them. By the word theory I mean
a rational explanation of the cause or connexion of an apparently full or sufficient series of facts : by hypothesis, a rational conjecture concerning subjects in which the series of facts is obviously incomplete.
The formation of an hypothesis excites us to enquiries, which may either confirm or confute our conjectures ; and which may, by enabling us to discover the deficient facts, convert our hypothesis into a theory. Believing the facts collected by the ingenuity and industry of Mr. Hunter, to be sufficient to establish his opinions respecting life, I have therefore called them, a theory.