First Principles/Preface


This volume is the first of a series described in a prospectus originally distributed in March, 1860. Of that prospectus, the annexed is a reprint.


Mr. Herbert Spencer proposes to issue in periodical parts a connected series of works which he has for several years been preparing. Some conception of the general aim and scope of this series may be gathered from the following Programme.


Part I. The Unknowable. — Carrying a step further the doctrine put into shape by Hamilton and Mansel; pointing out the various directions in which Science leads to the same conclusions; and showing that in this united belief in an Absolute that transcends not only human knowledge but human conception, lies the only possible reconciliation of Science and Religion.

Part II. Laws of the Knowable. — A statement of the ultimate principles discernible throughout all manifestations of the Absolute — those highest generalizations now being disclosed by Science which are severally true not of one class of phenomena but of all classes of phenomena; and which are thus the keys to all classes of phenomena.[1] [In logical order should here come the application of these First Principles to Inorganic Nature. But this great division it is proposed to pass over: partly because, even without it, the scheme is too extensive; an partly because the interpretation of Organic Nature after the proposed method, is of more immediate importance. The second work of the series will therefore be — ]


Vol. I.

Part I. The Data of Biology. — Including those general truths of Physics and Chemistry with which rational Biology must set out.

II. The Inductions of Biology. — A statement of the leading generalizations which Naturalists, Physiologists, and Comparative Anatomists, have established.

III. The Evolution of Life. — Concerning the speculation commonly known as “The Development Hypothesis” — its à priori and à posteriori evidences.

Vol. II.

IV. Morphological Development. — Pointing out the relations that are everywhere traceable between organic forms and the average of the various forces to which they are subject; and seeking in the cumulative effects of such forces a theory of the forms.

V. Physiological Development. — The progressive differentiation of functions similarly traced; and similarly interpreted as consequent upon the exposure of different parts of organisms to different sets of conditions.

VI. The Laws of Multiplication. — Generalizations respecting the rates of reproduction of the vai'ious classes of plants and animals; followed by an attempt to show the dependence of these variations upon certain necessary causes.[2] Page:First Principles (1862).djvu/12 Page:First Principles (1862).djvu/13 Page:First Principles (1862).djvu/14 Page:First Principles (1862).djvu/15


  1. One of these generalizations is that currently known as “the Conservation of Force;” a second may he gathered from a published essay on “Progress: its Law and Cause;” a third is indicated in a paper on “Transcendental Physiology;” and there are several others.
  2. The ideas to be developed in the second volume of the Principles of Biology the writer has already briefly expressed in sundry Review-Articles. Part IV. will work out a doctrine suggested in a paper on “The Laws of Organic Form,” published in the Medico-Chirurgical Review for January, 1859. The germ of Part V. is contained in the essay on “Transcendental Physiology:” See Essays, pp. 280-90. And in Part VI. will be unfolded certain views crudely expressed in a “Theory of Population,” published In the Westminster Review for April 1852.