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The first and most obvious question concerning a series of lectures, professing to present a philosophical view of any subject, relates to the class of philosophical enquiry, to which it may be reduced. The ordinary conception of philosophy is that it consists in tracing effects to their causes, or rather in classing the changes observed in nature under general laws, according to which the operations of natural powers are perceived to be performed. This however, though a most important part, is certainly not the whole of philosophy ; for surely the enquiry must be equally philosophical, which traces a cause to its effect, as that which traces an effect to its cause, both alike respecting that relation of cause and effect, which is the object of philosophical discovery. It is indeed most obvious to us, surrounded as we are by a multitude of natural operations, to begin with considering how some effect has been produced, rather than with examining how some power, already believed
to exist, is fitted to operate ; the latter enquiry however appears to be as truly philosophical as the former, since it investigates the same connection of cause and effect, though in a contrary direction. It has even frequently happened that the latter has been instrumental and auxiliary to the former. When Franklin, that he might prove the similarity of the electric power to the lightning of the clouds, observed the effects produced by the conductor of his kite, he was proceeding from the cause to its operation, though that he might afterwards argue from effects to causes, by establishing a more general classification, which should range the atmospheric flame with that of electricity. When La Place computed the perturbations, which ought to result in the planetary system from the assumed theory of gravitation, he perfected, by thus arguing from the cause to its effects, that theory of general attraction, which all the sagacity of Newton had been unable to complete,
in proceeding from a consideration of effects to that of the powers by which they were produced. In the modern improvement of philosophy we even find that a distinct branch of philosophical enquiry has been formed, directed exclusively to the object of tracing causes to their effects, for physiology, which professes to treat of the functions of the parts of organized or living bodies, can be referred to no other class.
Some embarrassment had in early times been introduced into philosophy, by confounding the cause which operated in the production of an effect, with the farther object which the author of nature might have proposed to attain by the operation; and both were comprehended under the same appellation of cause, the former' being termed the efficient, the other the final
In propriety of speech the latter should not have been at all denominated a cause, being properly a more remote effect,
and in no other manner concerned in the production of the former, than as it might have been contemplated by the author of nature. Bacon, in his proposal for improving philosophy, has expressed his opinion, that the consideration of final causes should be excluded from it, and referred altogether to theology. He remarks indeed that it is not in any respect repugnant to that investigation of the efficient causes of natural effects, which he conceived to be the sole business of philosophy; but he regarded it as belonging only to the illustration of the divine providence, not to the knowledge of the works of nature, This is plainly too narrow a consideration of philosophy, for it would exclude physiology; though it must always be important to preserve the distinction between efficient and final causes, and not to imagine that the cause of
any effect has been assigned, when only the useful purpose, to which it was subservient, has been indicated. To allege
that the hairs of the eyelid serve to protect the eye is true and satisfactory, and a part of the philosophy of our frame, though very distinct from assigning a reason why hairs are produced in that part of the body.
In these lectures the two different modes of enquiry comprehended in philosophy may be found, but the chief and prevailing consideration is that which traces causes to their effects. The second lecture contains an enumeration and exposition of political causes, as they have been investigated from their operations : the remainder of the work is an examination of the results, which have arisen from the diversified combination of these causes, as they have affected the various nations of the world within the period of their modern history. Of these two parts the former, which corresponds to Bacon's more limited conception of the nature of philosophy, explains perhaps more fully and more distinctly than had before been done, the various agencies which operate on the