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Experimental

philosophy, natural, knowledge, phenomena, human, philosopher and terms

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EXPERIMENTAL Pill LOSUP I Philosophy, from the Greek pkilosophia (10.(molna,) literally signifies "love of wisdom or knowledge," and a philosopher, (Otocroyhoc,) is a lover of wisdom. Py thaguras is said to have been the first person who called himself philosopher, from which appella tion the word philosophy was derived, meaning the love of general knowledge. The terms philosophy, philosophical, philosopher, are often used in our language apparently with uo great precision, though it is not difficult to deduce time the use of these terms the general meaning or notion which is attached to them. We speak of the philosophy or the human mind, as being, of all philosophies, that to which the name philosophy is particularly appropriated ; and so also, by using qualifying terms, we speak of natural philosophy, experimental philosophy, &e.

It' this knowledge or philosophy relate to the manners, the duties, or the conduct of human beings, considered in a rational and social light, it is called moral philosophy ; it' to the phenomena of natural bodies—natural philosophy. Experimental philosophy, as will be shown hereafter, may be defined as the philosophy of proof; in contradistinction to the philosophy of opinion, to the manners, the duties, and the conduct of human beings, considered in a rational and social light, or to the phenomena of natural bodies, so it his been called either moral philosophy or natural phdos ,p/1 The phi ()soldiers of the primitive ages, among the Greeks, Romans, &e., in explanation of the phenomena of nature, such as the !notions of the celestial bodies, the rain, snow, frost, thunder and lightning. the rainbow, the combustion of fuel, the production of animals and vegetables, and so forth, generally offered the inadequate suggestions of their imagi nations, which, though mostly unintelligible, and frequently in the greatest degree absurd, were nevertheless received with deference by their scholars, and were propagated with fidelity and diligence from one generation to another. Their acquiescence rested merely on the authority of the teacher. That these explanations were generally inadequate and absurd, is easily evinced by observing. that different contem

porary philosophers entertained and taught opinions diametri cally opposite to each other, though they related to the very same question ; and that subsequent philosophers have, by actual observations, and unerring denumstrations, shown their fallacy. It may amuse an inquisitive mind to observe, that whilst the exertions of the earl mathematicians. whose productions have obtained the admiration of subsequont gen erations, were strictly rational and correct, the investigations of their contemporary philosophers wore conducted in a nian ner altogether slovenly and superficial. This method of philosophizing prevailed for a very long period. and several centuries elapsed, during %%Ida the knowledge of nature made no progress deserving of notice, excepting a few rare and accidental discoveries.

The 15th century, which was productive of the greatest events and the most consequential discoveries that history can record, seems to have given a new turn to the subject of natural philosophy. The old tenets began to be doubted, and the energies of the human mind began to manifest their unfettered powers. In the next century, the dogmas of the preceding ages were freely combated; the authority of names and sects was disregarded, and, in lieu of opinions, the explanation of natural phenomena was referred to the evidence of actual experiments. Then was introduced the appellation of experimental philosophy, by ss Mich is meant, the knowledge of natural powers and natural effects acquired by means of experiments or trials. The least reflection readily showed the superiority of this new method of philosophizing; but, independent of any other consideration, its establishment is principally due to the success with which it was attended, and which exceeded even the most sanguine expectations of its first promoters. No sooner was it adopted, than discoveries of importance were niade, old established errors were detected, and the subject of philosophy assumed an entirely new aspect.

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