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THE plan and outlines of the following work were sketched, and a considerable portion of it composed, about eighteen years ago. It was advertised, as preparing for the press, in 1823, when the author published the first edition of “The Christian Philosopher;” but various other engagements prevented its appearance at that period. The Introduction and the first two sections were published in a respectable quarterly journal in the year 1816; but they are now considerably modified, and enlarged. This circumstance will account for the date of some of the illustrative facts to which reference is made in the first part of the volume, and in several portions of the Appendix.
Had the present work been published at any of the periods now referred to, the subject it discusses, and some of the illustrations, would have presented a more novel aspect than they can lay claim to at the present time, when the diffusion of knowledge has become an object of general attention. The author, however, is not aware that any work embracing so full an illustration of the same topics has yet made its appearance; and is, therefore, disposed to indulge the hope, that, in conjunction with the present movements of society, it may, in some degree, tend to stimulate those exertions which are now making for the tnelioration and mental improvement of mankind. Independently of the general bearing of the facts and illustrations on the several topics they are intended to elucidate, the author trusts that not a few fragments of useful knowledge will be sound incorporated in the following pages, calculated to entertain and instruct the general reader.
In the numerous illustrations brought forward in this volume, it was sound impossible altogether to avoid a recurrence to certain facts which the author had partially adverted to in some of his former publications, without interrupting the train of thought, and rendering his illustrations partial and incomplete. But, where the same facts are introduced, they are generally brought forward to elucidate a different topic. Any statements or descriptions of this kind, however, which may have the appearance of repetition, could all be comprised within the compass of three or }. pages..
The general subject of the present work will be prosecuted in another volume, to be entitled “The Mental Illumination of Mankind, or an inquiry into the means by which a general diffusion of knowledge may be promoted.” This work will embrace—along with a great variety of other topics—an examination of the present system of education, showing its futility and inefficiency, and illustrating the principles and details of an efficient intellectual system, capable of universal application; together with a variety of suggestions in relation to the physical, moral, and intellectual improvement of society.
To his numerous correspondents who have been inquiring after the work, “The Scenery of the Heavens Displayed, with the view of illustrating the doctrine of a Plurality of Worlds,” which was announced at page 88 of the “Philosophy of a Future State,”—the author begs respectfully to state, that, if health permit, he intends to proceed, without delay, to the completion of that work, as soon as the volume announced above is ready for the press. It will form a volume of considerable size, and will be illustrated with a great number of engravings, many of which will be original.
Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, 18th April, 1833.
Israoduction—Retrospective view of the state of mankind—ignorance of the dark ages– revival of learning at the Reformation. Present intellectual state of the human race. Causes which have retarded the progress of the human mind. A more general diffusion of knowledge desirable. Preludes which indicate the approach of the era of intelligence
INFLUENCE OF KNOWLEDGE IN DISSIPATING SUPERSTITIOUS NOTIONS AND WAIN fears.
Objects and circumstances which ignorance has arrayed with imaginary terrors—eclipses, comets, aurora borealis, &c, Absurdity of astrology. Belies attached to its doctrines. Various prevalent superstitious opinions—omens—witches—spectres, &c. Proof of such notions still prevailing. Superstitions indulged by men of rank and learning. Baneful tendency of superstition—leads to deeds of cruelty and injustice. How knowledge would undermine superstition and its usual accompaniments—illustrated at large. Animadversion on Dr. S. Johnson, &c. - - - - - - - - - - -
on the Utility of KNOWLEDGE IN PREVENTiNG DiSEASES AND FATAL Acciden Ts.
Accidents which have happened from ignorance of the properties of the different gases, and the means of preventing them. Disasters which have happened in coal mines. Figure of Davy's Safety Lamp, with description and remarks. Accidents caused by the stroke of lightning. Precautions requisite to be attended to during thunder-storms. Accidents from ignorance of the principles of mechanics. Reasons of such accidents explained by a figure. Fatal accidents caused from ignorance of the effects produced by the refraction of light—illustrated by figures and experiments. Accidents from the clothes of females catching fire, and the means of prevention. Various diseases propagated from ignorance of their nature. Pernicious effects of contaminated air. Improper mode of treating children during infancy, and its fatal effects. Importance of temperance. General remarks - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ox the INFLUENCE WHICH A DiFFUSION of KNOWLEDGE WOULD HAVE ON THE PROGRESS of Scien CE.
Science founded on facts. Every person is endowed with faculties for observing facts. Anecdote of Sir I. Newton. Extraordinary powers of intellect not necessary for making discoveries in science. Ample field of investigation still remains. Discoveries would
oN THE PRActicAL INFLUENCE of scientific kNowledge, AND its TENDENcy
II. Scientific knowledge would pave the way for future inventions and improvements in the arts.