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describe almost nothing else but the synthetic and analytic methods of geometricians and algebraists, whereby they have too much narrowed the nature and rules of method, as though every thing were to be treated in mathematical forms.
Upon the whole I conclude, that neither of these two methods should be too fcrupulously and fuperftitiously pursued, either in the invention or in the communication of knowledge. It is enough if the order of nature be but observed in making the knowledge of things following depend on the knowledge of the things which go before. Oftentimes a mixed method will be found most effectual for these purposes; and, indeed a wise and judicious prospect of our main end and design must regulate all method whatsoever.
Here the rules of natural method ought to be proposed, (whether it be analytic, or syrithetic, or mixt:). but it is proper first to give sonre account of arbitrary inethod, left it be thrust at too great a distance from the first mention of it.
Arbitrary method leaves the order of nature, and accơmmodates itself to many purposes; such as, to treafure up things, and retain them in memory; to harangue and persuade mankind to any practice in the religious or civil life; or to delight, amuse, or entertain the mind..
As for the assistance of the memory, in most things, a natural order has an happy influence ; for reason itself deducing one thing from another, greatly alliits the memory, by the natural connection and mutual de. pendence of things. But there are various other nicthods which mankind have made use of for this pur. pore, and indeed there are some subjects that can hardly be deduced to analysis or synthesis.
In reading or writing history, some follow the order of the governors of a nation, and dispose every transaction under their particular reigns : so the sacred books of Kings and Chronicles are written. Some write in annals or journals, and make a new chapter of every year. Some put all those transactions together which relate to .one subject : that is, all the affairs of one war, one league, one confederacy, one council, &c. though, it last many years, and under many rulers.
So in writing the lives of men, which is called Bicgraphy, some authors follow the tract of their years, and place every thing in the precise order of time when it occurred : others throw the temper and characters of the persons, their private life, their public stations, their perfonal occurrences, their dornestic conduct, their speeches, their books or writings, their fickness and death, into so many distinct chapters.
In chrynology, some writers makes their epochas to begin all with one letter : so in the book called Ductor Historicus, the periods all' begin with C; as, Creation, Cataclysm or deluge, Chaldean empiro, Cyrus, Christ', Constantine, Eric. Some divide their accounts of time according to the four great monarchies, Assyrian, Pera fian, Grecian and Roman. Others think it serves the memory best to divide all their subjects into the remarkable number of sevens; so Prideaux has written an Introduction to History: And there is a book of divinity called Fasciculus Controversiarum; by an author of the same name, written in the same method, wherein every controversy has seven questions belonging to it; though the order of nature seems to be too much ne: glected by a confinement to this septenary number.
Those writers and speakers, whose chief buliness is to amuse and delight, or allure, terrify; or perfuade .mankind, do not confine themselves to any natural or der, but in a cryptical or hidden method adapt every thing to their designed ends. Sometimes they omit those things which mighr injure their design, or grow tedious to their hearers though they seem to have a nes cessary relation to the point in hand : sometimes they add those things which have no great reference to the subject, but are suited to allure or refresh the mind and the ear. They dilate sometimes, and flourish long upon little incidents, and they skip over, and but light ly touch the drier part of their theme. They place the first things last, and the last things firít, with won. drous art, and yet so manage it as to conceal their artifice, and lead the senses and passions of their hearers into a pleasing and powerful captivity.
It is chiefly poesy and oratory that requires the praco tice of this kind of arbitrary method: they omit things effential which are not beautiful, they insert little neede less circumstances, and beautiful digressions, they invert time and actions, in order to place every thing in the most affecting light, and for this end in their practice they neglect all logical forms; yet a good acquaintance with the forms of Logic and natural method, is of admirable use to those who would attain these arts in perfection. Hereby they will be able to range their own thoughts in such a method and scheme, as to make a more large and comprehensive survey of their subject and design in all the parts of it; and by this means they will better judge what to chuse and what to refule ; and how to dress and manage the whole scene before them, so as to attain their own ends with greater glory and success.
The Rules of Method, General and Special,
THE general requiậtes of true method in the pur
I suit, or communication of knowledge, may be all comprised under the following heads. It must be. (1.) Safe. (2.) Plain and easy. (3.) Ditinct. (4.) Full, or without defect. (5:) Short or without superfluiry. (6.) Proper to the subject and the design. (7.) Cone nected. CI. Rule. Among all the qualifications of a good meihod, there is none more necessary and important than that it should be safe and secure from error; and to this end these four particular, or special directions Thould be observed.
1. Use great care and circumspection in laying the foundations of your discourse, or your scheme of thoughts upon any subject. These propositions which are to fand as frit principles, and on which the whole argument depends, must be viewed on all fides with the utmost accuracy, left an error, being admitted there, thould diffuse itself through the whole lubject. See therefore that your general definitions or descriptions are as accurate as the nature of the thing will bear: See that your general divisions and distributions be just and
exact, according to the rules given in the first part of Logic: See that your axioms be sufficiently evident, fo as to demand the affent of those that examine them with due attention. See that your first and more immediate confequences from thefe principles be well drawn; and take the same care of all other propofitions: that have a powerful and spreading influence through the several parts of your discourse.
For want of this care sometimes a large treatise has: been written by a long deduction of consequences from one or two doubtful principles, which principles i have been effeétually refuted in a few lines, and thus. the whole treatise has been destroyed at once; so the largest and fairelt buildings sink and tumble to the ground, if the foundations and corner-stones of it are : feeble and insufficient: .
2. It is a very adviseable thing that your primary." and fundamental propofitions be not only evident and true, but they should be made a little familiar to the mind, by dwelling upon them before you proceed far-ther. By this means you will gain so full an acquainta. ance with them, that you may draw consequences from . them with much more freedom, with greater variety, , brighter evidence, and with a firmer certainty, than: if you have but a flight and fudden view of them. .
3. As you proceed in the connection of your argu-ments, see that your ground be made firm in everyftep. See that every link of your chain of reasoning. be strong and good : for if but one link be feeble and doubtful, the whole chain of arguments feels weakness of it, and lies exposed to every objector, and the origi-nal question remains undetermined. ..
4. Draw.up all your propositions and arguments with so much caution, and express your ideas with such a juftlie . mitations as may preclude or anticipate any objections. Yet: remember this is only to be done as far as it is possio. ble, without too much entangling the question, or inetroducing complicated ideas, and obscuring the sense. . But if such a cautious and limited dress of the question : fhould render the ideas too much complicated, or the sense obscure, then it is - better to keep the argument: more simple, clear and easy to be understood, and afe
B. b. 3.
terwards mention the objections distinctly in their full frength, and give a distinct answer to them.
II. Rule. Let your method be plain and easy, so that your hearers, or readers, as well as yourself, may run thro' it without embarrassment, and may take a clear and comprehensive view of the whole scheme. To this end the following particular directions will be ufeful.
1. Begin always with those things which are best known, and most abvious, whereby the mind may have no diffeulty ar fatigue, and proceed by regular and easy fleps to things that are more difficult. And as far as possible let not the understanding, or the proof of any of your pofi-tions depend on the positions that follow but always-on those which go before. It is a matter of wonder that in fo knowing an age as this, there should be so many persons offering violenee daily to this rule, by teaching the Latin language by a grammar written in Latin, which method feems to require a perfect knowledge of an, unknown tongue, in order to learn the first rudi'ments of it.
2. Do not effect. excesive hajte in learning or teaching a12yfciense, or hurry at once into the midft of it, leit you be too soon involved in several new and Itrange ideas and propofitions, which cannnot be well unde: stood without a longer and closer attention to those which go before. Such sort of speech is but a waste of time, and will constrain you to take many steps backward again, if you would arrive at a regular and complete knowledge of the subject..
3. Be not fond of crowding too many thoughts and reaJonings into one sentence ar paragraph, beyond the apprehen. Jion or capacity of your readers or bearers. There are fome persons of good genius, and a capacious mind, who write and speak very, obscurely upon'this account ; they effect a long, train of dependencies, before they come to a period; they imagine that they can never fill their page with too much fense; but they little think how they bury their own beit ideas in the crowd, and render them in a manner, invisible and useless to the greatest part of mankind. Such men may be great fcholars, yet they are but poor teachers.
4. For the same reason, avrid tog many subdivi hans. Contrive your scheme of thoughts in such manner as