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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the web, and lowering himself quickly to the earth by his silken ladder.

We here reach the perplexing question of "female rights," but decline to pursue it. "The Poet at the Breakfast-Table" has just bravely taken it up from this point of view, recommending the reformatory ladies to organize "Arachnoid Associations," with "Spinsters and Spiders" for a motto, and we leave the subject trustingly in his hands.

 

MAN AS THE INTERPRETER OF NATURE.[1]
By WILLIAM B. CARPENTER, LL. D., F. R. S.

IT has been customary with successive occupants of this chair to open the proceedings of the meetings over which they respectively presided with a discourse on some aspect of Nature in her relation to man. But I am not aware that any one of them has taken up the other side of the inquiry—that which concerns man as the "Interpreter of Nature;" and I have therefore thought it not inappropriate to lead you to the consideration of the mental processes by which are formed those fundamental conceptions of matter and force, of cause and effect, of law and order, which furnish the basis of all scientific reasoning, and constitute the Philosophia prima of Bacon. There is a great deal of what I cannot but regard as fallacious and misleading philosophy—"oppositions of science, falsely so called"—abroad in the world at the present time. And I hope to satisfy you that those who set up their own conceptions of the orderly sequence which they discern in the phenomena of Nature as fixed and determinate laws, by which those phenomena not only are, but always have been, and always must be, invariably governed, are really guilty of the intellectual arrogance they condemn in the systems of the ancients, and place themselves in antagonism to those real philosophers by whose grasp and insight that order has been so far disclosed. For what love of the truth, as it is in Nature, was ever more conspicuous than that which Kepler displayed in his abandonment of each of the conceptions of the planetary system which his imagination had successively devised, so soon as it proved to be inconsistent with the facts disclosed by observation? In that almost admiring description of the way in which his enemy Mars, "whom he had left at home a despised captive," had "burst all the chains of the equations, and broke forth from the prisons of the tables," who does not recognize the justice of Schiller's

  1. Inaugural Address of Dr. Carpenter before the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at Brighton, England, August 14, 1872, upon assuming the chair as president of that body.