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[Robert Dale Owen's Address to the Reader forms the Introductior to the Second Volume of this Discussion.]


Every individual should be a friend to free inquiry. If he holds the truth, he should urge inquiry, because that pro. motes truth; if he holdserrour,he should still court enquiry, because that tends to expose errour; and surely 'tis desirable to be reclaimed fromerrour, inasmuch as a belief in that, however agreeable, will not make it truth. But free inquiry consists not merely in the perusal of works favourable to our own views, thereby confirming ourselves in our preconceived opinions. It consists in the full examination of both sides of a question. No subject is thoroughly investigated, and settled on an immoveable basis, till it has been assailed at every point, and has met and repelled its assailant in his full strength; till on it the belligerents have met, and measured swords, and done their mightiest: for,'tis expecting quite too much of one of the parties, to suppose that he will do the other's fighting as bloodily as he would himself. It is therefore not in the nature of the case, that the controvertist who treats on a subject alone, how fairly soever he may represent the side which he opposes, will have so warm a battle, as if that side were in the field. He will indeed answer opposing arguments, but he will not answer himself.

He cannot feel as an opponent would, and therefore his wits will not be sharpened and his invention strained, as would the other's, to create objections and obstacles, and to throw the last possible missile. Indeed, it were desirable that the champion of truth have always an opponent, to produce all manner of difficulties for him to obviate, instead of having them afterwards advanced unanswered, to the annoyance and perhaps the discomfiture of others less prepared for the encounter. Errourdefeated in her full strength, is effectually defeated. Crippled and disabled, she lies supine, and o'er her prostrate form the veriest invalid, who never dared the mighty conflict, can safely peal the notes of victory. But let her off with a passing defeat; suffer her to escape with her legions armed, broken and scattered though they be, and she will rally again her strength, and fall on the defenceless when their champion is withdrawn from the scene of action.

No man who merely reads a controversial work written by one of the parties, reads thoroughly on the subject; nor is he fully qualified by that course of reading to defend a cause. Were he to grapple with an antagonist, he would find, with all his controversial lore, new objections to meet, and new arguments to answer ;--for which, unless he were himself a master, he would find he were inadequate. But the principal advantage in sending into the world both sides of a controversy in connexion, lies in this: that those on the erroneous side will thereby be induced to read what truth has to say in her own behalf, and that too in her own words. This is a desideratum, and one too which this measure alone can secure. Every reasonable man must certainly prefer the full investigation of a question to a partial one; and surely the investigation is more thorough where both sides speak for themselves, than where one of the parties speaks for both. Here then we find at last the means of obviating that great difficulty so generally the subject of complaint, viz. that errourists will not examine the evidences in favour of truth. In this way they will examine them Certainly they cannot object to reading their own arguments in their own words. And the circumstance, that the arguments of the opposite side are attached to them, ought to be no objection; for every one should be willing to give a subject a fair examination, by hearing both sides. And as far as the cause of truth is concerned, the sending out of both sides in connexion, so far from being an objection, is so much the better; for, in this way, direct replies are furnished to those arguments; so that, although the reader sees the arguments in favour of errour, he likewise sees their counteraction at the same time. The abettors of errour will scatter abroad their arguments at any rate; and surely it is better, seeing they will thus scatter them, to have them go out in connexion with their antidote, than to go alone. Nor need the friends of truth be afraid to have their arguments and evidences sent into the world in such a connexion; for, "though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple. Who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter ?''

Some there are who, in view of all these things, are ready to exclaim, What good does all this do? They might as well ask what good it does to give the reasons and evidences of a thing. They must be very unreasonable who object to reasoning. Yea, so impracticable is their theory on this point, that, ere they are aware, they find themselves warmly engaged in controversy against controversy, and striving to give reasons why men should not reason! But whom do we convince? ask they. Let them apply their rule throughout, and ask whom lawyers and witnesses convince; whom the speakers in the Legislature and in Congress convince. And then let them tell us whom they themselves convince without argument and evidence. And, after having done this, let them, in order to be consistent, give not one reason why we should not reason, but permit us to take our own course without interruption.

Others are ready to ask, “Of what consequence is it whether these things are so or not? Of very great consequence indeed. And so judge others, as appears by the voluminous writings both of Christians and Sceptics. Religion is the all-important thing, or else 'tis a gross imposition on mankind. In either case, 'tis not an indifferent concern. It it is true, it ought to be maintained ; if false, overthrown. Hence, both Christians and Sceptics act a more rational part in the interest which they manifest in relation to the subject, than do your Gallios, who care for none of these things."

The discussion which appears in this volume, was originally carried on in the columns of the New-York Free Enquirer. It is now re-published, with emendations and an appendix and Table of Contents, and sent out into the world to take its own course, and meet such a reception as mankind shall see fit to give it.


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