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in order to obtain a sufficient knowledge of them, little more seems required than a strong inclination to learn them, yet the supposed number and intricacy of the Chinese characters have deterred our most diligent students from attempting to find their way through so vast a labyrinth : it is certain, however, that the difficulty has been magnified beyond the truth; for the perspicuous grammar by M. FourMONT, together with a copious dictionary, which I pofsess, in Chinese and Latin, would enable any man, who pleased, to compare the original works of Confucius, which are easily procured, with the literal translation of them by COUPLET; and, having made that first step with attention, he would probably find, that he had traversed at least half of his career. But I should be led beyond the limits assigned to me on this occasion, if I were to expatiate farther on the historical division of the knowledge comprised in the literature of Asia; and I must postpone till next year my remarks on Asiatick philosophy and on those arts, which depend on imagination ; promising you with confidence, that, in the course of the present year, your inquiries into the civil and natural history of this eastern world will be greatly promoted by the learned labours of many among our associates and correspondents,

1

DISCOURSE THE ELEVENTH.

ON

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE ASIATICKS.

DELIVERED 20 FEBRUARY, 1794.

BY

THE PRESIDENT.

HAD it been of any importance, gentlemen, to arrange these anniversary differtations according to the ordinary progress of the human mind, in the gradual expansion of its three most considerable powers, memory, imagination, and reafon, I should certainly have presented you with an essay on the liberal arts of the five Asiatick nations, before I produced my remarks on their abstract sciences; because, from my own observation at least, it seems evident, that fancy, or the faculty of combining our ideas agreeably by various modes of imitation and substitution, is in general earlier exercised, and sooner attains maturity, than the power of separating and comparing those ideas by the laborious exertions of intellect; and hence, I believe, it has happened, that all nations in the world had poets before they had mere philosophers: but, as M. D'ALEM, BERT has deliberately placed science before art, as the question of precedence is, on this occasion, of no moment whatever, and as many new facts on the subject of Asiatick philosophy are fresh in my remembrance, I propose to address you now on the sciences of Asia, reserving for our next annual meeting a difquisition concern, ing those fine arts, which have immemorially been cultivated, with different success and in very different modes, within the circle of our common inquiries.

By science I mean an assemblage of trans scendental propositions discoverable by human reason, and reducible to first principles, axioms, or maxims, from which they may all be derived in a regular fuccesfion; and there are consequently as many sciences as there are general objects of our intelle&ual powers : when man first exerts those powers, his objects are himself and the rest of nature ; himself he perceives to be composed of body and mind, and in his individual capacity, he reasons on the uses of his animal frame and of its parts both exteriour and internal, on the disorders impeding the regular functions of those parts, and on the most probable methods of preventing those disorders or of removing them; he soon feels the close connexion between his corporeal and mental faculties, and when his mind is reflected on itself, he discourses on its essence and its operations; in his social character, he analyzes his various duties and rights both private and publick; and in the leisure, which the fullest discharge of those duties always admits, his intellect is directed to nature at large, to the substance of natural bodies, to their several properties, and to their quantity both separate and united, finite and infinite; from all which objects he deduces notions, either purely abstract and universal, or mixed with undoubted facts, he argues from phenomena to theorems, from those theorems to other phenomena, from causes to effects, from effects to causes, and thus arrives at the demonstration of a first intelligent cause; whence his collected wisdom, being arranged in the form of science, chiefly consists of physiology and medicine, metaphyficks and logick, ethicks and jurisprudence, natural philosophy and matbematicks; from which the religion of nature (since revealed religion must be referred to history, as alone affording evidence of it) has in all ages and in all nations been the sublime and confoling result. Without professing to have given a logical definition of science, or to have exhibited a perfect enumeration of its objects, I shall confine myself to those five divisions of Asiatick philosophy, enlarging for the most part on the progress which the Hindus have made in them, and occafionally introducing the sciences of the Arabs and Persians, the Tartars, and the Chinese; but, how extensive soever may be the range which I have chosen, I shall beware of exhausting your patience with tedious discussions, and of exceeding those limits, which the occafion of our present meeting has necessarily prefcribed.

I. The first article affords little scope ; since I have no evidence, that, in any language of Asia, there exists one original treatise on medicine considered as a science : physick, indeed, appears in these regions to have been from time immemorial, as we see it practised at this day by Hindus and Muselmáns, a mere empirical bistory of diseases and remedies; useful, I admit, in a high degree, and worthy of attentive examination, but wholly foreign to the subject before us: though the Arabs, however, have chiefly followed the Greeks in this branch of knowledge, and have themselves been implicitly followed by other Mohammedan writers, yet (not to mention the Chinese, of whose medical works I can at present say nothing with confidence) we still have access to a number of Sanscrit books on the old Indian practice of physick, from which, if the Hindus had a theoretical system, we might easily collect it. The Ayurvéda, supposed to be the work of a celestial

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