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pressure of a column of mercury twenty-eight inches high. Hence we obtain an algebraical equation, which affords an easy solution of the problem. It is further evident, that my knowledge of the physical laws which are here combined, puts it in my power to foretell the result, not only in this case, but in all the cases of a similar nature which can be supposed. The problem, in any particular instance, might be solved by making the experiment, but the result would be of no use to me, if the slightest alteration were made on the data.

It is in this manner that philosophy, by putting us in possession of a few general facts, enables us to determine, by reasoning, what will be the result of any supposed combination of them, and thus to comprehend an infinite variety of particulars, which no memory, however vigorous, would have been able to retain. In consequence of the knowledge of such general facts the philosopher is relieved from the necessity of treasuring up in his mind, all those truths which are involved in his principles, and which may be deduced from them by reasoning; and he can often prosecute his discoveries synthetically, in those parts of the universe which he has no access to examine by immediate observation. There is, therefore, this important difference between the hypothetical theory, and a theory obtained by induction: that the latter not only enables us to remember the facts we already know, but to ascertain by reasoning, many facts which we have never had an opportunity of examining; whereas, when we reason from a hypothesis a priori, we are almost certain of running into error; and, consequently, whatever may be its use to the memory, it can never be trusted to, in judging of cases which have not previously fallen within our experience.

There are some sciences in which hypothetical theories are more useful than in others: those sciences, to wit, in which we have occasion for an extensive knowledge and a ready recollection of facts, and which, at the same time, are yet in too imperfect a state to allow us to obtain just theories by the method of induction. This is particularly the case in the science of medicine, in which we are under a necessity to apply our

knowledge, such as it is, to practice. It is also, in some degree, the case in agriculture. In the merely speculative parts of physics and chemistry, we may go on patiently accumulating facts, without forming any one conclusion, farther than our facts authorize us, and leave to posterity the credit of establishing the theory to which our labours are subservient. But in medicine, in which it is of consequence to have our knowledge at command, it seems reasonable to think that hypothetical theories may be used with advantage, provided always that they are considered merely in the light of artificial memories, and that the student is prepared to lay them aside, or to correct them, in proportion as his knowledge of nature becomes more extensive. I am, indeed, ready to confess, that this is a caution which it is inore easy to give than to follow; for it is painful to change any of our habits of arrangement, and to relinquish those systems in which we have been educated, and which have long flattered us with an idea of our own wisdom. Dr. Gregory mentions? it as a striking and distinguishing circumstance in the character of Sydenham, that, although full of hypothetical reasoning, it did not render him the less attentive to observation ; and that his hypotheses seem to have sat so loosely about him, that either they did not influence his practice at all, or he could easily abandon them, whenever they would not bend to his experience.

SECT. VI.-CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT.

EFFECTS PRODUCED ON THE MEMORY BY COMMITTING TO WRITING

OUR ACQUIRED KNOWLEDGE. Having treated at considerable length of the improvement of memory, it may not be improper, before leaving this part of the subject, to consider what citects are likely to be produced on the mind by the practice of committing to writing our acquired knowledge. That such a practice is unfavourable, in some respects to the faculty of memory, by superseding, to a certain degree, the necessity of its exertions, has been often

1 Lectures on the Duties and Qualifications of a Physician.

remarked, and I believe is true; but the advantages with which it is attended in other respects, are so important as to overbalance greatly this trifling inconvenience.

It is not my intention at present to examine and compare together the different methods which have been proposed of keeping a commonplace book. In this, as in other cases of a similar kind, it may be difficult, perhaps, or impossible, to establish any rules which will apply universally. Individuals must be left to judge for themselves, and to adapt their contrivances to the particular nature of their literary pursuits, and to their own peculiar habits of association and arrangement. The remarks which I am to offer are very general, and are intended merely to illustrate a few of the advantages which the art of writing affords to the philosopher, for recording, in the course of his progress through life, the results of his speculations, and the fruits of his experience.

The utility of writing, in enabling one generation to transmit its discoveries to another, and in thus giving rise to a gradual progress in the species, has been sufficiently illustrated by many authors.* Little attention, however, has been paid to another of its effects, which is no less important,-I mean, to the foundation which it lays for a perpetual progress in the intellectual powers of the individual.

It is to experience, and to our own reflections, that we are indebted for by far the most valuable part of our knowledge: and hence it is, that although in youth the imagination may be more vigorous, and the genius more original than in advanced years; yet, in the case of a man of observation and inquiry, the judgment may be expected, at least as long as his faculties remain in perfection, to become every day sounder and more enlightened. It is, however, only by the constant practice of writing, that the results of our experience, and the progress of our ideas, can be accurately recorded. If they are trusted merely to the memory, they will gradually vanish from it like a dream, or will come in time to be so blended with the suggestions of imagination, that we shall not be able to reason from

* (But see Dissert. P. III.--(supra, vol. i.) -Ed.]

them with any degree of confidence. What improvements in science might we not flatter ourselves with the hopes of accomplishing, had we only activity and industry to treasure up every plausible hint that occurs to us! Hardly a day passes when many such do not occur to ourselves, or are suggested by others: and detached and insulated as they may appear at present, some of them may perhaps afterwards, at the distance of years, furnish the key-stone of an important system.

But it is not only on this point of view that the philosopher derives advantage from the practice of writing. Without its assistance, he could seldom be able to advance beyond those simple elementary truths which are current in the world, and which form, in the various branches of science, the established creed of the age in which he lives. How inconsiderable would have been the progress of mathematicians, in their more abstruse speculations, without the aid of the algebraical notation; and to what sublime discoveries have they been led by this beautiful contrivance, which, by relieving the memory of the effort necessary for recollecting the steps of a long investigation, has enabled them to prosecute an infinite variety of inquiries, to which the unassisted powers of the human mind would have been altogether unequal! In the other sciences, it is true, we have seldom or never occasion to follow out such long chains of consequences as in mathematics; but in these sciences, if the chain of investigation be shorter, it is far more difficult to make the transition from one link to another; and it is only by dwelling long on our ideas, and rendering them perfectly familiar to us, that such transitions can, in most instances, be made with safety. In morals and politics, when we advance a step beyond those elementary truths which are daily presented to us in books or conversation, there is no method of rendering our conclusions familiar to us, but by committing them to writing, and making them frequently the subjects of our meditation. When we have once done SO,

these conclusions become elementary truths with respect to us; and we may advance from them with confidence to others which are more remote, and which are far beyond the reach of vulgar

discovery. By following such a plan, we can hardly fail to have our industry rewarded in due time by some important improvement; and it is only by such a plan that we can reasonably hope to extend considerably the boundaries of human knowledge. I do not say that these habits of study are equally favourable to brilliancy of conversation. On the contrary, I believe that those men who possess this accomplishment in the highest degree, are such as do not advance beyond elementary truths; or rather, perhaps, who advance only a single step beyond them,--that is, who think a little more deeply than the vulgar, but whose conclusions are not so far removed from common opinions as to render it necessary for them, when called upon to defend them, to exhaust the patience of their hearers, by stating a long train of intermediate ideas. They who have pushed their inquiries much farther than the common systems of their times, and have rendered familiar to their own minds the intermediate steps by which they have been led to their conclusions, are too apt to conceive other men to be in the same situation with themselves; and when they mean to instruct, are mortified to find that they are only regarded as paradoxical and visionary. It is but rarely we find a man of very splendid and various conversation to be possessed of a profound judgment, or of great originality of genius.

Nor is it merely to the philosopher, who wishes to distinguish himself by his discoveries, that writing affords a useful instrument of study. Important assistance may be derived from it by all those who wish to impress on their minds the investigations which occur to them in the course of their reading; for although writing may weaken (as I already acknowledged it does) a memory for detached observations or for insulated facts, it will be found the only effectual method of fixing in it permanently those acquisitions which involve long processes of reasoning.

When we are employed in inquiries of our own, the conclusions which we form make a much deeper and more lasting impression on the memory than any knowledge which we imbibe passively from another. This is undoubtedly owing, in

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