Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/345

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SCIENCE AND MORALS.

Science presents itself to us under a double aspect: as primitive science, which is the solid basis of every application, in the material as well as in the moral domain; and ideal science, which comprehends our near hopes, our imaginings, and our remote probabilities. The common bond between these two aspects is method. Our method consists in first observing facts. I mean internal facts, revealed by consciousness or inner sensation, as well as external facts, made manifest by outer sensation; and in provoking the development of both by experiment, the principal source of our discoveries. This method is the same for social and political, for material and industrial facts. The study of facts thus constitutes the point of departure for all knowledge. When facts are once established, human intelligence brings them together and seeks to determine general relations between them. Hence, what we call scientific laws; and upon these laws rests all application of science, to individuals as well as to societies.

But this pure determination of facts and their laws does not satisfy the human mind. Drawn by an invincible tendency, it supports itself upon the facts and rises above them to construct representatives or symbols, by the aid of which it collects its knowledge into a co-ordinated system of hypotheses. Such a system is even indispensable if we would go further and make discoveries; for, in order to find new facts and new relations, it is necessary first to imagine them; then we seek for the realization of them. Each one develops as he will, following his individual inspiration according to his feelings and creative faculties, the consequences of the conceptions and symbols by the aid of which he has figured facts and laws to himself. But the student also should always be ready to abandon his hypothetical beliefs as soon as the facts have demonstrated the vanity of them. In any case, every one finally builds up thus his system of the world—a scaffolding, resting at the bottom on facts, but the solidity of which—I mean the certainty, or rather the probability—diminishes as one goes higher.

Thus facts and laws, through symbols and hypotheses invented to co-ordinate them, constitute the fundamental basis and even the sole substratum of every system. Such are to-day the general views, such the manner of proceeding, of those who seek to raise the scientific ideal above empiricism.

The diversity, the profound contrast existing between the scientific and the theological methods employed in the seeking for truth are manifested to a very striking degree in the application of these methods to the government of individuals and of states. While theologians erect their systems regarding the beginnings and the ends of things into absolute and invariable principles revealed by