Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

PREFACE.

It is not an unfrequent remark, that the study of metaphysics has been declining in this country for some years past, and that to devote our attention to a subject so remote from the concerns of active life, is little better than a misapplication of time. Were it meant by that term to designate the ontology of the scholastic ages, or the chimerical systems which, at a much later period, were framed by the followers of Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras, to say nothing of the more recent speculations of German origin, the truth of

the assertion might be readily admitted. But if, on the contrary, a dispassionate investigation of the

powers

and operations of the human mind constitutes, as it now more usually does, and as it always ought to do, the legitimate object of that science, the neglect into which it is said to have fallen would afford ample cause for the expression of regret. But the truth is, that if we advert to the various publications that have appeared in our own language within no great length of time on the important topics which it embraces, we shall find that this department of knowledge has not been so much disregarded, as many have allowed themselves to suppose. No writer of eminence, perhaps, has contributed more than Mr. Dugald Stewart, by the peculiar attractions of his style, and the almost uniform correctness of his taste, to revive the attention of the thinking part of the pub

lic to rational inquiries relative to the mental faculties, and to the practicable means by which they may be more successfully cultivated. But there is another circumstance, which, though not so prominent as to have obtained general notice, must yet be allowed to possess no small share of influence with regard to the point in question. As long as Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding" shall continue to be made use of as a text-book in the public examinations at Cambridge for a bachelor's degree, (and what other work has yet appeared which, taken as a whole, is entitled to occupy its place ?) we have no trifling security that the study of intellectual philosophy can never become entirely obsolete in this country.

That it should not be so much encouraged in the recent plans for affording instruction to the uneducated orders of the

nor censure.

[ocr errors]

community, can occasion neither surprise

The different branches of natural science, especially those connected with the mechanical arts, together with the biographical sketches of men whose merit has raised them to distinction, are not only better suited to their comprehension, but are more likely to be advantageous to them in the laborious occupations which they are destined to pursue. But since this is not the case with those whose station in society affords them leisure and

opportunity for making more extensive attainments, the philosophy of the human mind ought to hold a prominent station in that liberal course of studies which no man in polished society can now entirely neglect without incurring disgrace. Besides the other numerous arguments in favour of this pursuit, there is one which the purpose of the present publication leads me more par

« AnteriorContinuar »