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A SKETCH of the thoughts expressed in the following pages was given in two lectures to the Members of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution in November 1866. Exciting considerable interest at the time, and receiving through the newspapers a wider audience than that to which they were originally addressed, these lectures, as might have been expected, met with a somewhat varied reception. By many the views they contained were adopted without reserve; by some, though not adopted, they were received in a spirit of candour and inquiry; while by a few the whole argument was met with the most vehement and unreasoning opposition. Had the last contented themselves with merely opposing-every man having a right to the free utterance of his opinions—the argument on the author's part might have terminated with the lectures ; but as they resorted, either ignorantly or intentionally, to misrepresentation, he has been constrained, in justice to himself and his subject, to prepare the following extension, and seek for his views a wider, and he trusts also a fairer consideration.
If the reader has not hitherto directed his attention to the natural-history relations of Man-to his origin, antiquity, and destiny-what follows may assist him in his considerations; if he has made the question a subject of research, and his views should coincide in the main with those of the author, he may glean from these pages some new facts to strengthen his convictions; and if, on the other hand, he has been led by early training to entertain opinions at variance with those herein expressed, a thoughtful perusal may induce him, if not to forego his preconceptions, at all events to review the evidence upon which they have been founded. This is all the author desires—the most he hopes for; his wish being to contribute his mite to that modern movement of mind which seeks to substitute inquiry for dogmatism, comprehensible methods for miracles, and rational convictions for traditional beliefs.
Though cursory—and intentionally so—these
chapters are given in strict connection, and the author would solicit from those who may turn to them the same sequence in perusal—a following of the argument from beginning to end and in the order enunciated. What appears unsatisfactory under one section may receive further elucidation under another, and what startles at the outset may be accepted without reserve at a future stage of the exposition. Man's WHERE, WHENCE, and WHITHER, are inseparably linked together, and there can be no intelligent appreciation of the one without a competent knowledge of the others—no successful dealing with one problem unless studied in connection with the other problems that arise from a philosophical consideration of the whole question of Man's place in nature.
EDINBURGH, September 1867.