Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]






THE Course intended to be pursued in conducting the present volume of the Journal, was briefly mentioned in the advertisement attached to Vol. III. But as that notice may not come into the hands of new subscribers, a concise statement of our arrangements for this year may not be unacceptable, as a cursory introduction to the articles which shall be presented in this and subsequent numbers.

Our work has hitherto been perhaps too strictly confined to topics of education; yet the patronage extended to it, under these circumstances, has been such as to continue its existence. A more extensive field of usefulness, however, it is thought, as well as a wider circulation would be secured, by enlarging the scope of contributions, so as to embrace those things which form the subjects of education, and consequently become matters of general interest to a reading community.

The dissemination of useful knowledge, and the application of science to the practical pursuits of life, will accordingly be objects of attention in our future numbers. Arrangements to this effect have been made with individuals who take an active interest in the general diffusion of science and intellectual improvement. In connexion with these objects, a space will be regularly appropriated to articles designed to advance the in

[blocks in formation]

terests of the Lyceum,-an institution already well known, we presume, to most of our readers, as one very successfully adapted to the circumstances of society in this country. By a happy combination in its character, it embraces the benefits imparted by the mechanics' institutes, along with advantages appropriate to the agricultural life and its various occupations. A particular attention is also given by its members to the subject of popular education, with a view to the immediate improvement of schools, and the better qualification of teachers for their professional employments. The numerous branches of this popular institution require a common channel of intelligence, and, (if possible,) a peculiar source from which to derive materials and suggestions for reading, conversation, and other exercises suited to the mutual improvement of their members. The Journal of Education is designed, in its present form, to suit this purpose, by communicating information of the progress of the Lyceum, and furnishing short and familiar treatises on various subjects of general knowledge and practical science.

In accordance with its original design, the Journal will still embrace whatever may seem conducive to the diffusion of enlightened, extensive, and elevated views of the whole subject of education. Occasional notice will also be taken of the various branches of instruction already introduced in schools and other seminaries, as well as of those which the general dissemination of science at this day seems to authorize or to require.

With a view to the farther improvement of the work by original contributions on important subjects, it is proposed to enlarge the size of the numbers, so as to admit of their being issued, henceforward, once in two months; the interval elapsing hitherto between the dates of publication, having been found less favourable for such an arrangement.

ART. I.-The Philosophy of Bacon, considered in Reference to its Influence upon the Human Mind.

THE writings of many of the ancients which have come down to us, afford conclusive evidence, not merely that their natural powers of mind were of the first order, but that they had been disciplined with great care. It is not pretended that the poetry of Homer, or the eloquence of Demosthenes and Cicero, has been surpassed in excellence, by the productions of more recent times. In architecture and statuary, we have done little more than to imitate the models of ancient Greece and Rome. Indeed, the same remark might be extended to many other departments of the arts and of literature, which properly depend upon the decisions of taste and judgment. But in natural philosophy, the ancients were extremely deficient. The fact seems to be, that they had not discovered the true mode of advancing in it. Here, too, they permitted themselves to be influenced by mere matters of feeling and opinion. They formed theories in their own minds, and persuaded themselves that these were true in fact. It is plain that they were in no condition to learn, for they aspired to make, the laws of nature. In addition to this, their different opinions soon began to conflict with each other. Thus the evil of sectarian disputes among themselves, was superadded to those general errors which naturally resulted from their common ignorance of the true mode of philosophizing. When this state of things is borne in mind, their meagre attainments in this department of human learning are no longer surprising. Their mistake was made at the very outset ; and every new step served but to make their theories the more palpably absurd. This mistake consisted in supposing that the natural powers of the human mind were adequate to declare the laws of nature, without having first learned them by actual observations and experiments.

Here was the point where Bacon interfered, and earned a fame as lasting as the laws of science themselves. His object was not so much to give the world information, as to show the way to it. He attempted to point out and define the rich fields to be cultivated, rather than the fruits to be produced. Science is the knowledge of things as they exist. And he taught that it is the part of true philosophy, to found itself on facts and actual existences. To a disciple of Bacon, a theory is not a system which he has pledged himself to support; but merely a classifi

cation of facts and observations, which he is ready to alter and amend, as new discoveries may require. He takes his facts from the operations of nature, whose disciple he avows himself to be. This is the inductive philosophy which has been so long working a revolution in the whole circle of the arts and sciences; and at no period more successfully than at the present moment. Here is a foundation laid, which is broad enough for all to build upon; for it is coextensive with the works of creation. It often seems as if truth had been sparingly and tardily disclosed. But all history proves that, slowly as it has risen, it has shone, in its dawning, upon many eyes that were unwilling to acknowledge it. The principles of Bacon did not escape the common fate of new discoveries, and were met by a most violent and bitter opposition. The powers of church and state conspired to effect their overthrow. And well might they unite for this purpose. For these principles contained the germ of a philosophy which was soon to elevate the human mind into a state of freedom and independence, which it had never before attained. And the powers of church and state, as then established and administered, anticipated the struggle they must soon endure, and trembled from a consciousness of their own radical unsoundness.

There were not wanting those, however, who were ready to pursue their inquiries after natural science, according to the inductive method which Bacon had pointed out. And it is not now necessary to recount the history of their unparalleled success. Much more has been effected than the most sanguine of Bacon's immediate followers ever ventured to anticipate. The precise things have not been discovered, which seemed to them probable; but things quite as much in advance of the state of science which then existed, and things of incalculable value in their application to the various uses of life. These external effects of which we are now speaking, are visible alike to all. And it has now become as fashionable to eulogize the principles of Bacon, as it ever could have been to condemn them. He who has learned little else, has yet learned to bestow a passing tribute here. But it is much easier to be loud in their praise, than to be trained in their practice. We have already spoken of the mode of philosophizing, before the time of Bacon, and of the change which his system introduced. It is our design to apply these remarks particularly to the effect of the true mode of philosophizing upon the state of the human mind. In order to make this plain it may be necessary to examine the nature of the change which Bacon introduced. It is one of the infirmities of the human mind, not

« PreviousContinue »