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TO THE FIRST EDITION.
Ir may be truly asserted that the rapid progress of the physical sciences during the last three centuries has not been accompanied by a corresponding advance in the theory of reasoning. Physicists speak familiarly of Scientific Method, but they could not readily describe what they mean by that expression. Profoundly engaged in the study of particular classes of natural phenomena, they are usually too much engrossed in the immense and ever-accumulating details of their special sciences to generalise upon the methods of reasoning which they unconsciously employ. Yet few will deny that these methods of reasoning ought to be studied, especially by those who endeavour to introduce scientific order into less successful and methodical branches of knowledge.
The application of Scientific Method cannot be restricted to the sphere of lifeless objects. We must sooner or later have strict sciences of those mental and social phenomena, which, if comparison be possible, are of more interest to us than purely material phenomena. But it is the proper course of reasoning to proceed from the known to the unknown—from the evident to the obscure - from the material and palpable to the subtle and refined. The physical sciences may therefore be properly
made the practice-ground of the reasoning powers, because they furnish us with a great body of precise and successful investigations. In these sciences we meet with happy instances of unquestionable deductive reasoning, of extensive generalisation, of happy prediction, of satisfactory verification, of nice calculation of probabilities. We can note how the slightest analogical clue has been followed up to a glorious discovery, how a rash generalisation has at length been exposed, or a conclusive experimentum crucis has decided the long-continued strife between two rival theories.
In following out my design of detecting the general methods of inductive investigation, I have found that the more elaborate and interesting processes of quantitative induction have their necessary foundation in the simpler science of Formal Logic. The earlier, and probably by far the least attractive part of this work, consists, therefore, in a statement of the so-called Fundamental Laws of Thought, and of the all-important Principle of Substitution, of which, as I think, all reasoning is a development. The whole procedure of inductive inquiry, in its most complex cases, is foreshadowed in the combinational view of Logic, which arises directly from these fundamental principles. Incidentally I have described the mechanical arrangements by which the use of the important form called the Logical Alphabet, and the whole working of the combinational system of Formal Logic, may be rendered evident to the eye, and easy to the mind and hand.
The study both of Formal Logic and of the Theory of Probabilities has led me to adopt the opinion that there is no such thing as a distinct method of induction as contrasted with deduction, but that induction is simply an inverse employment of deduction. Within the last century a reaction has been setting in against the purely empirical procedure of Francis Bacon, and physicists have