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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37

The Philosophy of Science

The Philosophy of Science.

In that singular compound of pompous pedantry, whimsical and erratic speculation, and genuine philosophical genius, the "Primary Synopsis of Universology" by Stephen Pearl Andrews, which claims to have discovered the universal philosophy of science, Prof. Agassiz is quoted as using the following language:—

"I believe in the existence, in the nature of things, of just such a science as you claim to have discovered: and in this I differ from most scientific men who seem as yet to have no conception of Unity of Law, and who would therefore regard your whole pretension as Utopian. Farther than this, I believe that we are, just in this age on the verge of making the discovery; and that somebody will make it. Whether you have it or not, I am of course unable to say. The presumption is strongly against any individual claimant . . . . . Indeed, I doubt whether, if you have all you claim, the scientific men, so-called, will be" the first to appreciate it. We arc, he added, all intense specialists and when the Unitary Science comes in the world, it will be something so entirely aside from our fixed habits of thought, that I think it will find its first appreciators, pro- page 4 bably, among men of enlarged and general culture, rather than among specialists in science."

There is, I believe, in these words of Prof. Agassiz, the true spirit of prophecy. Out of science itself must be developed the philosophy of the future; and not only do I agree with him in thinking that its first appreciators will be found outside of the circle of scientific specialists, but I further think that its authors will be also found outside that circle. No thorough specialist fits himself for taking comprehensive and genuinely philosophical views of science. But the world for half a century has been groping blindly to find this greatly needed Philosophy of Science. Auguste Comte believed that he had found it. Herbert Spencer believes that he has found it. Stephen Pearl Andrews (last and least) believes that he has found it. All are mistaken. That philosophy has not yet come. But when it comes, as come it must and will, it will embrace the totality of all "known facts in the unity of an intelligible system, doing exact justice to each and ignoring none, organizing the sciences as one harmonious whole, and including under a single yet complex method all departments of human thought. When it comes, it will create sooner or later throughout the civilized world a unity of intellectual convictions which has never yet been paralleled, even in the boasted "Ages of Faith,"—not, of course, a unity of all opinions, but a unity of fundamental principles and methods of thinking. And when it comes,—a Philosophy of Science whose basis shall be solid truth and whose law shall be unfettered reason,—then, I most profoundly believe, will the enlightened idea of God be so firmly fixed in the human mind that Christianity and atheism shall become alike mere traditions of the past. By this I mean that, if I misread not the signs of the times, and above all the signs of science itself, the Christian religion, all other special historic religions, and the various forms of atheism which these have polarized into existence, will be all educated by ever advancing and enlarging science into an interpretation of Nature which shall do it equal justice both in its spiritual and its physical aspects.