« PreviousContinue »
rial fluid, than when he demonstrated that the planets revolve in ellipses, and describe round their common focus areas that are proportional to the time. Dr Clarke was of the same opinion, and has admitted, that a mechanical explanation of gravity would be of great importance in philosophy. Such an attempt is undoubtedly attended with dificulty; and perhaps we are destined to remain for ever ignorant of the cause which produces the phenomena of attraction. There can, however, be no impropriety in endeavouring, while there appear to be two kinds of causes that produce motion, to try to reduce them to one. If this is maintained to be impious, it must be on the same principle that Anaxagoras was charged with irreligion, for affirming that the planets are bodies like the earth. The same mistaken zeal has in every age opposed the same obstacles to the advancement of true philosophy.
We had almost forgot to mention the particular drift of Le Sage in the tract on the gravific atoms, which he calls Lucrece Neutonien. He endeavours to show, that Epicurus, with a little attention to geometry, and the possession of no more physical knowledge than was to be found among some of his contemporaries, might have been led, Ly the atomical system, to the discovery of gravitation, and of the laws of the planetary motions. The tract is very ingenious and interesting.
The subject of Teleology, or the doctrine of final causes, was one which occupied the thoughts of Le Sage, at intervals, during his whole life. Of his speculations on this subject, we are presented with a few fragments, that are in no small degree curious and interesting. The publication is by M. Reverdil, who had assisted in the composition of the work, and to whom Le Sage, in his will, left the charge of this manuscript. About the year 1740, Le Sage formed the plan of a Thecry of the Ends of Nature and of Art. Wolff, who at that time taught the philosophy of Leibnitz in Germany with great reputation, in his treatise on logic, recommended the theory of ENDS to be treated under the name of Teleology; and this term was adopted by Le Sage. M. Reverdil informs us, that Le Sage was confirmed in his design, by finding that some men of great celebrity had about that time conspired to combat the doctrine of final causes; some of them on a principle of universal scepticism; others to give weight to the proofs of the existence of God derived from other sources; and many, struck no doubt with the weak and childish arguments that had been often maintained on this subject. Le Sage wished to oppose all these, and in particular the latter, by showing that the theory of final causes K 4
was not necessarily of the vague and unsatisfactory nature just alluded to.
The greater part of the works,' fays he, that have made their appearance on this fubject, contain principles fo vague and unfupported, obfervations fo puerile and detached, and reflexions fo common-place and declamatory, that it is not wonderful if they produced an effect the direct oppofite of that which was intended. A theory of ENDS, or FINAL CAUSES, might be given, exempt from these great defects; embracing the objects both of nature and art; furnishing, firft, rules of fynthefis for the compofition of a work, when the ends and means were both given; and, next, rules of analyfis for discovering the intention of an artist, from the examination of his works. '
M. Reverdil has given us only a few fragments from the treatise which had been drawn up conformably to this plan. Those that follow will show in what manner Le Sage had endeavoured to avoid the faults which he has reprobated in others.
A wife caule must have refpect to the fmaileft degrees of good, becaufe, if they are not infinitely small, the amount of the whole may be of importance; fo that, if they were neglected, a confiderable quantity of evil might arife.
There is nothing incongruous, therefore, in fuppofing the Divine Wisdom exercised in determining the curvature of the wing of a scarabæus, or in planning the cells of a bee-hive. It may be true, that it imports little to the univerfe, whether a fearabæus fly, with more or lefs ease, or a bee, employ its wax with the greateft poffible frugality. It imports much, however, to the fcarabæus or the bee, and, on that account, is an object not unworthy of the attention of the Creator. If the precifion in the structure of the wings or cells of thefe infects is ufeful for any purpose, however fmall, that utility, multiplied by the number of all the fcarabæi, and all the bees which have been, which are, and which are to be, may become of a confiderable amount.
When the execution of any purpofe gives rife to inconvenience which admits of remedy; of all the remedies that can be applied, that is the best which rifes out of the evil itself, because it is always at hand when wanted, and is fure to poffefs the neceffary ftrength. Such remedics are fometimes to be met with in the arts. It was thus that a hint of Monfieur the Prince of Conti, furnifhed Reaumur with the means of admitting the neceffary quantity of air into his furnaces for hatching chickens, by making the heat of the furnace open the door of a regifter. The girdiron pendulum of Graham, is an inftance of the fame kind.
In nature, the contraction and dilatation of the pupil of the eye, is a moft remarkable inftance of an inconvenience corrected by its own operation.
When all the accidents which happen to a work derange it; and when all thofe that can happen to it have a tendency to do the fame,
fame, that work is the beft poffible. For it is evident, that it either. cannot be improved, or that the improvement of it is highly improbable.
When all the good of a fyftem can eafily be traced to general principles; and when all the evils appear to be exceptions closely connected with fome good, the excefs being evidently, though perhaps but in a fmall degree, on the fide of good, the contriver must be regarded as beneficent.
Hypothetical reafonings (whether concerning final or efficient causes) are fufceptible of the highest degree of evidence when two conditions are fulfilled; when the given hypothefis explains many phenomena, and contradicts none; and when every other hypothefis is inconfiftent with fome of the phenomena.
As it is very rare that one is able to reckon up all the hypothefes imaginable, in order to fhew that only one of them can be received, the best philofophers, and the moft fcrupulous, have contented themfelves with lefs, and have thought it fufficient if the hypothefis which they adopt explains many phenomena with precifion. The more numerous the phenomena, and the greater the degree of precifion, with the more confidence do they conclude, that no other fuppofition will account for the appearances. It is on fuch a foundation as this, that the theory of gravitation is eftablifhed. '
On the whole, we conceive that this treatise on Teleology is written on more philosophical principles than most of those that have appeared; and we cannot but regret that it has not been given to the public entire, or with such alterations as the changes in the state of science might seem to require. The date of the MS. is 1756, and, since that time, the discoveries in philosophy must have, no doubt, added considerably to the examples that might be brought to illustrate the doctrine of final causes; a doctrine which we cannot help thinking might be so treated, as to form one of the most beautiful and interesting branches of human knowledge. Indeed, we should be glad to think that more of the works of our learned and ingenious author were destined to see the light. M. Prevost, who, in the biographical sketch before us, has so judiciously consulted the reputation of his friend, and the information of the public, has it still in his power to render an important service to both,
ART. XI. Modern Geography. A Description of the Empires, Kingdoms, States and Colonies, with the Oceans, Seas and Isles, in all parts of the World, including the most recent Discoveries and Political Alterations, digested on a New Plan. Pinkerton. The Astronomical Introduction by the Reverend S. Vince, A. M. F. R. S. &c. &c. with numerous Maps revised by the Author. To the whole are added a Catalogue of the best Maps and Books of Travels and Voyages in all Languages, and an ample Index. A new Edition, greatly enlarged. 3 vol. 4to. pp. 2800. London, Cadell & Co., Longman & Co.
IN N a former Number of this Journal *, we bestowed considerable attention upon the first edition of Mr Pinkerton's work. We commended him for several beneficial changes which he had introduced into the manner of treating the subject; and we gave him credit for a great degree of labour in the collection of his materials. As the new edition which lies before us has been increased more than one half in bulk, and is presented rather as a new work, than a republication, we are called upon to consider in what manner the alteration has been effected,-how far the purchasers of the first work have been fairly treated,-and whether the favourable judgment pronounced on that edition may be extended to the one now offered to the public.
The first edition was given as a finished work. No allusion was made to a continuation. It pretended to be such a system of geography as the existing state of the science enabled the author to compile. We were told that it had been the favourite object of his study, from his earliest years, and that it was accomplished at the period of all others the most appropriate for giving such a present to the world. No period of time' (said Mr Pinkerton in his preface, 1st edition) could be more favourable to the appearance of a new system of geography, than the beginning of a new century, after the elapse of the eighteenth, which will be memorable in all ages from the gigantic progress of every science, and in particular of geographical information; nor less from the surprising changes which have taken place in most countries of Europe, and which, of themselves, render a new description indispensable. Whole kingdoms have been annihilated; grand provinces transferred; and such a general alteration has taken place in states and boundaries, that a geographical work, published five years ago, may be pronounced to be already antiquat
No. V. Art. VI.
ed. After a general war,' he continues, of the most eventful description; after revolutions of the most astonishing nature; Europe, at length, reposes in universal peace. The new divisions and boundaries no longer fluctuate with every campaign, but are established by solemn treaties which promise to be durable, as at no former period has war appeared more sanguinary or destructive, and at the same time more fruitless, even to the victors.
It soon appeared, however, that all these reasons for publis hing geography in 1801, were susceptible of an extended applic ation,-nay, that the attempt was then premature, the first edition incomplete, and the true epoch for unfolding the system,-not during the permanent repose' secured by the universal peace ›› of Amiens, but the profound tranquillity of the present day,-when several states have been destroyed and others created, during the printing of our author's volumes! Accordingly, the prefatory advertisement to this new edition begins with an unmerciful abuse of the former one, in which, it seems, a great portion of Asia, and the whole of America and Africa, had been treated with such brevity, that there was no space even for the most im.portant and interesting geographical information. The strik ing brevity and deficiency of half the second volume, we are told, had been perceived at home and abroad.' In a general system of geography,' Mr Pinkerton observes, it is indispens.. able that there be a harmony of the parts; and the author must be an impartial cosmopolite, without predilection for particular portions. Moreover, after long reflection and experience, the author has discovered, that an exact system of geography, of whatever size, ought to be divided into three parts;' one for Europe, another for Asia, because it teems with civilized empires and states, not to mention its vast extent;' and he has further discovered, that of the remaining third part, two thirds must ever be allotted to America,' and one to Africa, on account of the harmony of proportions, importance, and materials. For all which reasons, and because Mr Pinkerton had procured some Spanish books, and because a few new volumes of tracts have been published, the two volumes of the first edition are now worked up into three, by such means as we shall presently describe. The additions which are made, in order to supply the acknowledged defects of the first edition, are so incorporated with the present, that they cannot be procured separately; and the unlucky purchasers of that complete system have now the satisfaction of hearing its manifold imperfections proclaimed by the author himself, who will furnish no remedy but the purchase of this new work.' He adds, however, in case of fur