« PreviousContinue »
THIRTY-FOUR years have now elapsed since the First Volume of this work was published. At that time, I imagined that a few additional chapters would be sufficient for completing my Review of the Intellectual Powers; but the subject, upon a more narrow examination, has gradually grown so much on my hands, that it has at length swelled to its present magnitude. To this I may add my Volume of Philosophical Essays, the first part of which may be regarded as a comment on some elementary and fundamental questions which have divided the opinions of philosophers in the eighteenth century. If any of my younger readers should do me the honour to follow me through these researches, I should wish them to peruse my Philosophical Works in the order in which they have been published; that is, after reading the First Volume, to proceed, before entering on the study of the Second and Third, to a perusal of the Philosophical Essays. This, indeed, I flatter myself, is not essentially necessary to enable them to comprehend fully the entire Work which I have entitled Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind; but it may tend to obviate some
doubts, and to clear up some difficulties which as I have found from experience, are apt to present themselves to the inquisitive student.
The Second Volume of these Elements, relating entirely to Reason, or the Understanding properly so called the subjects of which it treats are of necessity peculiarly dry and abstruse ; but they nevertheless appear to myself to be peculiarly important; and I, accordingly, many years ago, laboured the whole of the materials which compose it, with all the diligence in my power. An intelligent reader will easily perceive that my great aim in this part of my Work has been, by vindicating the principles of Human Knowledge against the attacks of modern Sceptics, to lay a solid foundation for a rational system of Logic. This object, indeed, I have had in view, in every part of these Elements; and whoever will take the trouble to mark the various passages which bear on it, will find, I trust, that they are neither few nor unimportant. The Fourth Chapter of the same Volume treats more particularly of the method of inquiry pointed out in the Novum Organum of Bacon; directing the attention chiefly to such questions as are connected with the Theory of our Intellectual Faculties, and the primary sources of experimental knowledge in the laws of the Human Frame. In this point of view, Bacon, impatient to hasten, by the force of a prophetic sagacity, to great practical results, left much to be done by his successors'; a logical desideratum which none of them, so far as I know, has till now even attempted to supply. I would willingly indulge the hope, that neither here nor in any other part of my writings is a single speculation to be found which, with due attention, may not be easily mastered; and the habit of patient thought which such studies have a tendency to form is itself an acquisition of the highest value.
If such a measure of health shall be continued to me as shall enable me to devote occasionally a few hours to the revision of my Papers, it is my present intention to begin, in the course of the ensuing winter, to print my
Inquiries into the Active and Moral Powers of Man. They who are aware of my very advanced age, and are acquainted with the infirmities under which I have laboured for a course of years, will not suppose that I look forward with undue confidence to the completion of my design ; but besides that some employment is necessary to beguile the passing hours, it will satisfy my own mind, if, by giving a beginning to the undertaking, I shall render it more easy for others to put into form that part of my task that may be left unfinished.
Nihil agere autem cum animus non posset, in iis studiis ab initio versatus ætatis, existimavi honestissime molestias deponi posse, si me ad Philosophiam retulissem.Cic. de Off
Kinnel-HOUSE, Nov. 24, 1826.