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JOHN MASON GOOD, M.D. F.R.S. F.R.S.L.
MEM. AM. PHIL. SOC. AND F.L.S. OF PHILADELPHIA.
LONGMAN, REES, ORME, BROWN, GREEN, & LONGMAN,
BOOK OF NATURE.
ON MATERIALISM AND IMMATERIALISM.
It is one part of science, and not the least important, though the lowest and most elementary, to become duly acquainted with the nature and extent of our ignorance upon whatever subject we propose to investigate*; and it is probably for want of a proper attention to this branch of study that we
*“ Our knowledge being so narrow, it will perhaps give us some light into the present state of our minds if we look a little into the dark side, and take a view of our ignorance, which, being infinitely greater than our knowledge, may serve much to the quieting of disputes and improvement of useful knowledge; if, discovering how far we have clear and distinct ideas, we confine our thoughts within the contemplation of those things that are within the reach of our understanding ; and launch not out into that abyss of darkness where we have not eyes to see, nor faculties to perceive any thing; out of a presumption that nothing is beyond our comprehension. But to be satisfied of the folly of such a coneeit we need not go far.” Locke, Hum. Underst. IV. ii. $ 22.
meet with so many crude and confident theories upon questions that the utmost wit or wisdom of man is utterly incapable of elucidating. The halfinstructed, or ignorant pretender, believes that he understands every thing before bim; the experienced philosopher knows that he understands nothing. It was so formerly in Greece, and will be so in every age and country: while the sophists of Athens asserted their pretensions to universal knowledge, Socrates, in opposition to them, was daily affirming that the only thing he knew to a certainty was his own ignorance. The shallow Indian sage, as soon as he had made the important discovery that the world was supported by an elephant, and the elephant by a tortoise, felt the most perfect complacency in the solution he was now prepared to give to the question, by what means is the world supported in empty space ? And it is justly observed by Mr. Barrow, that the chief reason why the Chinese are so far behind Europeans in the fine arts and higher branches of science, as painting, for example, and geometry, is their consummate vanity, which induces them to look with contempt upon the real knowledge of every other nation.
The subjects we have thus far chiefly discussed, though others branching out from them have been glanced at as we proceeded, have related to the principle and properties of matter, both under an unorganized and under an organic modification : and although I have endeavoured to do
my utmost to put you in possession of the clearest and most valuable facts which are known upon these subjects, I am much afraid it is to little more than to this first and initial branch of science that any instructions I have given have been able to conduct you; for I feel, and have felt deeply as we have proceeded, that they have rather had a tendency to teach us how ignorant we are than how wise ; how little is really known than how much has been actually discovered. And if this be the case with respect to our course of study thus far pursued, I much suspect that what is to follow has but little chance of giving a higher character to our attainments; for the subject it proposes to touch upon, the doctrine of psychology, or the nature and properties of the mind, is the most abstruse and intractable of all subjects that relate to human entity, or the great theatre on which human entity plays its important part; and, perhaps, so far as relates to the mere discoveries of man himself, remains, excepting in a few points, much the same in the present day as it did two or three thousand years ago.
This subject forms a prominent section of that extensive branch of science which is generally known by the name of METAPHYSICS, and which, in modern times, has been unjustifiably separated by many philosophers from the division of Physics, or natural philosophy; and made a distinct division in itself. As a part of physics, or natural philosophy, it was uniformly arranged by the Greeks; as such it occurs in the works of Aristotle, as such it was regarded by Lord Bacon, as such we meet with it in Mr. Locke's correct and comprehensive classification of science, and as such it has been generally treated of by the Scottish professors of our own day. And I may add that it is very much in consequence of so unnatural a divorce, that the