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longer task, than the servile transcription of the periods of others; but he conceives, that, although it might have conduced to his own reputation, it would have impaired the value and utility of his book. On the plan pursued, not only will it answer the same purpose of information as if it had been one homogeneous composition, but it will also serve to introduce the young reader to an acquaintance with the different styles and modes of thinking of some of the first philosophical writers in the English language.
The extracts from Locke, Shaftesbury, Hume, Dr. Johnson, Adam Smith, Paley, Dugald Stewart, Professor Playfair, Dr. Brown, Malthus, Mill, Ricardo, and others, are many of them remarkable for the graces of their style, the energy of their sentiments, or the acuteness and ingenuity of their reasoning; and it is surely better to have the ipsissima
verba of writers of this character, than the same matter shaped into the uniformity of one style.
At the outset, it was the intention of the author to state the opinions of others without offering any of his own; but partly seduced by the interest of the questions, which came before him, and partly led on by the impression, that the book would not be less attractive if the tone of the judge were occasionally dropped for that of the advocate, he has often mingled in the debate, and taken the liberty, sometimes of suggesting arguments for the consideration of the inquirer, and sometimes of introducing an explicit declaration of his own sentiments. What he has done in this way is sufficient, he hopes, to redeem the work from the character of a mere compilation.
It is perhaps unnecessary to guard his readers against the supposition, that he intended
to furnish a complete account of whatever has been written on the several questions laid before them. He has aimed only at presenting them with some information, more or less copious, under each inquiry, referring them in most instances to more extensive mines of knowledge, and endeavouring, in all cases of importance, to bring his explanations down to the present time, and the existing state of the controversy under review.
The author intended at one time to introduce a class of questions in the physical sciences, for which he had collected some materials; but, on reconsideration, he abandoned that part of his design, principally on the ground, that those points in physical science, on which any controversy can be raised, require such an acquaintance with the subject as can be expected only from the first men of the times. Our knowledge of the material universe ad
vances with a sure and steady step, and it is in general only at the farthest point of the progress, reached perhaps by none but the most eminent philosophers, that there is room for doubt and hesitation. It is therefore not easy to find questions, in these sciences, admitting of more than one solution, except such as lie far beyond the range of ordinary minds, and are on that account scarcely suitable for general discussion. It is different with moral and political inquiries, for which the requisite preliminary knowledge is more universally possessed, and where many difficulties arise simply from the vagueness and ambiguity of terms, in the accurate analysis and more correct use of which no man of sound understanding needs despair of some degree of success.
In selecting his questions, the author has endeavoured to avoid all that are trifling and unmeaning. What he has admitted vary of