Gustav Spiller.

A new system of scientific procedure; being an attempt to ascertain, develop, and systematise the general methods employed in modern enquiries at their best online

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A NEW SYSTEM



OF




BY



G. SPILLER

AUTHOR OF "THE MIND OF MAN", ETC.




LONDON

WATTS & CO.
17 JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET STREET, B.C.



THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



FROM THE LIBRARY OF
ERNEST CARROLL MOORE




A NEW SYSTEM



OF



SCIENTIFIC PROCEDURE

BEING

AN ATTEMPT TO ASCERTAIN, DEVELOP, AND

SYSTEMATISE THE GENERAL METHODS

EMPLOYED IN MODERN ENQUIRIES

AT THEIR BEST

BY

G. SPILLER

AUTHOR OF "THE MIND OF MAN", ETC.




LONDON
WATTS & CO.

17 JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET STREET, E.G.

1921



"Mais comment apprendre a bien conduire ses sens?
En faisant ce que nous avons fait lorsque nous les avons
bien conduits." Condiiiac.



"Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to
itself can effect much. It is by instruments and helps
that the work is done, which are as much wanted for
the understanding as for the hand." Bacon.



"Ich sag' es dir: Bin Kerl, der spekuliert,
1st wie ein Tier auf dtirrer Heide,
Von einem bo'sen Geist im Kreis herumgefuhrt,
Und rings umher liegt schone grime Weide."

Goethe.

"La science s'avance parce qu'elle n'est sure de rien."

Duclaux.

"Natural philosophy is essentially united in all its
departments, through all of which one spirit reigns and
one method of inquiry applies." sir John Hetschei.



"The logic of Science is the universal Logic, applicable
to all inquiries in which man can engage." j. s. Mill.



DEDICATED

TO

THE IMPERISHABLE MEMORY

OF

FRANCIS BACON

THE FOUNDER OF SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY



160718:



PREFACE.

The present treatise may be regarded as an attempt at a
modern re-statement of Bacon's position in his Novum Organum,
and this principally ~ because the author follows the great Eli-
zabethan in his suspicion of all precipitate theorising and in
his conviction that the human mind may be made incalculably
more effective for the discovery of truth than it has hitherto
been. Like Bacon, he deems it eccentric to expect of men a
high degree of methodological competency, so long as there
exists no science of correct thinking grounded on a circumspect
and exhaustive analysis of the process of thought at its best.
Until such a science is established, the author opines, the pro-
gress of the sciences generally, especially those relating to the
individual and to society, will be both snail-like and ant-like.
This demand for a science of correct thinking not hasty or
laborious speculations on the subject is so eminently rational
that it is difficult to imagine how any soberly reflecting per-
son can forbear echoing it, whilst in respect of the obstacles
which might be encountered in such a truly formidable enter-
prise, there should be agreement that these obstacles must be,
manifestly, objectively discpvered, not hypothetically created.
The author fain hopes that, as a result of over a quarter of
a century of indefatigable attention to the methodological prob-
lem, he has substantially advanced by this contribution the
state of the science to which all the other sciences turn for
light, as the planets do to the sun. On the principles he has
adopted, there should be at last a possibility of changing the
whirling chaos in the psychological, moral, economic, and kind-
red sciences into a steady and relatively swift forward move-
mentto the intense relief and immense benefit of the entire
human race.- Moreover, whatever the problem or issue that
might arise, fair assistance towards its examination and reso-
lution will be probably found in this work by those who have
assimilated its proposals.

These pages have a predominantly practical object to aid
the inquirer in any investigation, extensive or restricted, which



VI

he may desire to undertake. On this account the problems of
the nature of reality, of knowledge, and of the categories of
thought, have been left severely alone, and even the question
of whether science presents us with a vision of eternal truth
or offers only convenient conceptual models of a precarious
kind has been brushed aside. Such a course does not involve
a contemptuous dismissal of ancient and modern controversies
on a variety of philosophical topics, or even a doubt as to
their penetrating significance, but rather a desire to avoid all
needless complications and to fix the attention on the practical
aspect of the methodological problem. In fact, the composing
of these controversies can evidently not be hoped for anterior
to the establishment of an effective methodology. Accordingly,
the centre of gravity of this treatise must be sought in Book II,
where a series of working Conclusions have been formulated,
and only secondarily in Book I, the primary intention of which
is to clear the way for a due appreciation of the Book it pre-
cedes.

In conclusion, the author desires cordially to thank those who
at diverse times read through the work in typescript and as-
sisted him by valuable suggestions, most especially Prof.
Patrick Geddes, Prof. J. H. Muirhead, and Dr. Cecil Desch.

The work has been completed abroad under considerable difficulties,
entailing certain unavoidable shortcomings in regard to bibliography,
indexes, and verification of sources. My warmest thanks are due to the
staff of the printing office, more especially to its manager, my friend
J. Safranek, who practically saw the work through the press, reducing
the author's co-operation to a negligible minimum.

Geneva, 1921.

G. SPILLER.



CONTENTS.



Page

PREFACE v

TABLE OF CONTENTS vii

PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS 1

I. FUNDAMENTAL ASSUMPTION OF THIS TREATISE.-II. THE UNITY OF NATURE
AND OF LIFE. III. THE METHODOLOGIST'S PROCEDURE. IV. THE METHODOLOG1ST
AS SCIENTIFIC? DISCOVERER.



BOOK I. THEORY.

PART I. THE PROBLEM.

Section I. ABSOLUTISM AND RELATIVISM IN METHODOLOGY .... 17

Section II. THE INFANT AND CHILD MIND 22

Section III. THE SCIENTIFICALLY UNTRAINED ADULT 24

Section IV. THE SCIENTIFICALLY TRAINED INDIVIDUAL .... 28
Section V. THE MAN OF GENIUS, AND THOUGHT AS HABIT-CON-
TROLLED AND AS A PAN-HUMAN PRODUCT 34

Section VI. THE PROGRESS OF METHODOLOGICAL THEORY ... 38

Section VII.- CONCLUSION 53

PART IL DEFINITION OF SOME IMPORTANT
METHODOLOGICAL TERMS.

Section VIII. OBJECT, FACT, ENVIRONMENT 54

Section IX. OBSERVATION 57

Section X. EXPERIMENT AND USE OF INSTRUMENTS .... 80

Section XI. CAUSAL ENQUIRIES 85

Section XII. HYPOTHESES 89

Section XIII. GENERALISATION OR EXTENSION 98

Section XIV. VERIFICATION AND PROOF 113

Section XV. DEDUCTION 118

Section XVI. DEFINITE, EXACT, AND MATHEMATICAL PROCE-
DURE:

a) The Case for Mathematical Procedure 123

b) Definition of Terms 128

c) Precision in Statements 129

d) Definiteness in Scientific Work generally 130

e) Mathematical and Non-Mathematical Procedure . . 130

Section XVII. INDUCTION 132

Section XVIII. CONCLUSION 142

BOOK H. PRACTICE.

PART III. INTRODUCTORY.

Section XIX. INTRODUCTORY AND SUMMARY 145



Section XX.-
Conclusion



PART IV. PREPARATORY STAGE.

-STUDIES PREPARATORY TO ALL INVESTIGATIONS ....
1. Need of Procedure being determined Methodologically



154
154



Conclusion 2. Need of a Synthetic Methodology, and of a Historical
Appreciation of Differences in Methods and in the
Scope of Enquiries 163



Vlll

Page

Conclusion 3. Need of Fixing Methodologically the General Nature

and Relations of Phenomena 174

Conclusion 4. Need of a Life-Time Object of Enquiry 180

Conclusion 5. Need of a Simple Starting-Point 181

Conclusion 6. Need of Shunning Vagueness and Over-Subtlety in an

Enquiry 185

Conclusion 7. Need of Recognising that Formal Rules are Barren

and that Psychical Prejudice is Baneful 190

Conclusion 8. Need of taking advantage of Special Scientific Methods,
of utilising Existing Knowledge, of having regard to
the Future, and of allowing for Personal Equation and

for Training 194

Conclusion 9. Need of Experimental Preparation in Methodology . 199
Conclusion 10. Need of securing the Mental, Physiological, and
Environmental Conditions conducive to Efficiency and

to Waste Elimination 201

Conclusion 11. Need of Systematically Framing Hypotheses . . . 210

Conclusion 12. Need of Co-operation in Scientific Work 211

Conclusion 13. Need of a Provisional Conception as to the Form

which an Enquiry should assume 216

PART V. WORKING STAGE.

Section XXL PRECISE NATURE OF PROBLEM TO BE INVESTIGATED 236

Conclusion 14. Need of Precisely Determining the Nature of the

Problem under Investigation 236

Conclusion 15. Need of Exact Terminology, of Conclusions in the
Form of Precise Definitions, and of Extreme Definite-
ness in Thought and Statements 242

Section XXII. OBSERVATION . . 256

Conclusion 16. Need of Applying the Categories; of Strenuous Mental
Application in the Process of Observation; and of the
Observations being Graded, Comprehensive, Important,
Numerous, Full, Rational and Relevant, Original, Auto-
matically Initiated, and Methodically Developed 257

Conclusion 17. Need of Critically Examining the Reality of Alleged

Divisions . 273

a) Complex Facts regarded as Simple. b) Simple Facts
regarded as Complex. c) Environment Ignored.
d) Influence of Time and of Position in Space and Mind.

Conclusion 18. Need of Keeping and Consulting Records, of Improving
the Memory Experimentally, of Employing the Imagi-
nation, and of utilising the Intelligence in its entirety 282

Conclusion 19. Need of Ensuring Easy, Exhaustive, and Impartial

Observation 293

Conclusion 20. Need of Searching for the Simplest Practicable Case 296

Conclusion 20a.-Need of Degree Determination within and between
Divisions, and, in this connection, need of searching
for Pure, Normal, Minimal, Maximal, Parallel, Distantly
Related, Seemingly Unrelated, Deviating, Morbid,
Eccentric, Border, and Transitional Instances 308

Conclusion 206.-Need of Proceeding Dialectically, /.e., need of searching
in connection with any facts for what is Con-
tradictory, Contrary, Opposite, Common, Disparate,
Dependent, Interdependent, Supplementary, Alter-
native, Complementary, and Relative 308

Conclusion 21. Need of Habitual Alertness in order to discover
Exceptional, Unobtrusive, and Unsuspected Facts,
and need of Unremitting Concentration in Scientific
Work generally 308



IX
Page

Conclusion 22. Need of Collecting the Largest Number of Leading

Facts, and Ascertaining the Unlike as well as the Like 313

Conclusion 23. Need of Exhausting Classes of Facts, their Conditions,

and the Uniformities accompanying them ! 317

Conclusion 24. Need of a Critical Attitude, of Provisional Treatment,
and of Repeated Testing, throughout the Process of

Enquiry 319

Section XXIII. GENERALISATION .' 326

Conclusion 25. Need of Strenuous Mental Application in the Process
of Generalisation, and need of the Generalisations
being Graded, Comprehensive, Important, Numerous,
Full, Rational and Relevant, Original, Automatically
Initiated, and Methodically Developed 326

Conclusion 26. Need of Postponing Large Generalisations to near

the Conclusion of the Enquiry 342

Conclusion 27. Need of Exhausting the Degree of Applicability of a
Conclusion within and between Divisions, and also
of Extending it to Parallel, Distantly Related, Seem-
ingly Unrelated, Pure, Normal, Minimal, Maximal,
Deviating, Morbid, Eccentric. Border, and Transitional
Instances 343

Conclusion 28. Need of Proceeding Dialectically, i.e., need of
Searching in connection with any Conclusion for what
is Contradictory, Contrary, Opposite, Common, Dis-
parate, Dependent, Interdependent, Supplementary,
Alternative, Complementary, and Relative .... 356
Section XXIV. VERIFICATION AND PROOF 363

Conclusion 29. Need of Verifying and Proving all Conjectures . . 363
Section XXV. INTERIM STATEMENT 366

Conclusion 30. Need of Exhausting and Gradually Consolidating
Lines of Inductive Enquiry and of Aiming at a

Balanced Interim Statement 366

Section XXVI.-DEDUCTION 369

Conclusion 31. Need of Strenuous Mental Application in the Process
of Deduction, and need of the Deductions being
Graded, Comprehensive, Important, Numerous, Full,
Rational and Relevant, Original, Automatically Initia-
ted, and Methodically Developed 369

Section XXVII. APPLICATION 381

Conclusion 32. Need of Drawing Practical Deductions 381

Section XXVIII. CLASSIFICATION 392

Conclusion 33. Need of Judicious Classification 392

Section XXIX. FINAL STATEMENT 403

Conclusion 34. Need of Formulating a Final Statement 403

Section XXX. REPORT STAGE 404

Conclusion 35. Need of Being Concise, of Carefully Summarising,

and of Writing Acceptably 404

PART VI. CONCLUSION CONCERNING CONCLUSIONS.

Section XXXI.- CONCLUSION CONCERNING CONCLUSIONS 405

Conclusion 36. Need of Respecting each of the preceding Conclusions
in all the above Conclusions, of Improving them,
and also of applying them to Non-Scientific Matters 405

PART VIL- GENERAL CONCLUSION.

Section XXXII. GENERAL CONCLUSION .. 412



INDEX OF AUTHORS, INDEX OF SUBJECTS, BIBLIOGRAPHY.



PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS.

I. FUNDAMENTAL ASSUMPTION OF THIS TREATISE.

1. A System of Scientific Procedure? Whewell 1 held that
an art of discovery is impossible, and, as if by contrast,
Macaulay- argued that all men instinctively practised this art.
Other thinkers have assured us that by familiarising ourselves
with any one science, our entire mode of thought becomes of
necessity scientific ; and still others that each science is unique,
and that consequently there cannot be a single methodology
embracing the whole field of knowledge. Finally, there are
few who do not shake their heads at the suggestion of framing
rules for the right conduct of the understanding.

Lest the reader, impregnated with views such as those just
alluded to, lay this treatise aside without reading it, or peruse
it convinced that its underlying conception is vitiated by a
gross fallacy, it will be well to outline in this and the following
paragraphs the fundamental assumption pervading the whole
work. Whether we note the remarkably slow progress through
aeons upon aBons in the development of implements, or the
infinite efforts which have yielded modern science in all its
incompleteness ; whether we observe how microscopically small
have been the individual contributions of the men and women
of far renown, as we shall see, compared to the vast stock of
human acquisitions existing in this age, or the sick man's pace
in the evolution of political and economic institutions, we become
equally confirmed in our belief that the individual is first and
foremost a cultural being, vitally dependent on general human
progress, and virtually a zero if thrown back on himself.

To cast this thought in the form of a tentative definition:
Man alone is primarily a civilisable or culturable being, that
is, Man alone possesses the power to absorb the substantial
part of a highly developed civilisation, together with the ability
of advancing this civilisation to an infinitesimal degree; or,
stated more abstractly and broadly, the stock of humanity's

1 See 17.

2 See 57.



2 PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS.

acquisitions, divided by the number of human beings who
have lived, allowing for the actual physical and cultural con-
ditions, approximately yields the single individual's intellectual,
moral, and other capacities for invention and discovery. From
this definition, if substantially correct, it follows that the unaided
individual, reared in a cultureless environment, looms indiffer-
ently above his cousins, the apes. Fairly and squarely facing
the facts of general historical development from the most primi-
tive times to our day the gigantic evolution of intercommuni-
cation through language and transport, of buildings and furniture,
of implements and industrial processes, of domesticated animals
and cultivated plants, of discovered energies and raw materials,
of trade and tribal intercourse to internationalism, of dress
and education, of play and pastimes and the inner life and its
expression, of nutrition and care of health, of morals and reli-
gion, of science and art, of the family and other non-civic
groupings, of civic groupings, government, and law small doubt
should remain in regard to the general soundness of the above
position. 1 (For some details, see Conclusion 13.)

We may consider here with advantage the signification of three con-
nected expressions.

Culture is a term which is frequently, but unwarrantably, confused with
intellectual culture. Those who do so should remember that it is common
to speak of physical culture ; that there are organisations in many countries
calling themselves societies for ethical culture ; 2 and that the phrase artistic
or aesthetic culture is not unknown. Culture, then, simply implies culti-
vation, whether it be that of the soil, of the intelligence, of moral and
aesthetic sentiments, or of practical ability, on the basis of the inventions
and discoveries made by the human race. Culture, in other words, is a
comprehensive term to be employed in contradistinction to native power
or spontaneity. He who is truly cultured, is highly cultivated in respect
of every important part of his nature.

Secondly. It is often asserted that culture is a social product. The
term social provides, however, no insight into the fact that virtually the
whole of humanity, from earliest times to to-day, is collectively responsible
for the contemporary store of general culture. Alternative terms, such
as inter-individual, inter-social, super-social, are alike unsatisfactory because
of their indefiniteness. A new term is therefore required. In our genera-
tion we have heard much of Pan-Germans, Pan-Slavs, Pan-Islamists, terms
expressive of a universal category. Profiting by the current use of pan
as an adjective and adverb, we may speak of culture as pan-human. The

1 A signal example of collective advance is furnished by the fact that
the Royal Society, the Accademia del Cimento of Florence, the Academic
Royale at Paris, and the Berlin Academy were founded within a few years
of each other, plainly indicating a trend of the times rather than the
embodiment of novel ideas occurring to exceptionally gifted individuals.

2 Mill (System of Logic, bk. 6, ch. 10, 2) speaks of "intellectual und
moral culture".



PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS. 3

term employed in this form would render it at once plain that our culture
is, for all intents, the cumulative product of the efforts of all mankind
past and present, and no doubt enthusiasts will be found who will go
further and speak of a pan-humanist movement and of themselves as pan-
humanists.

Lastly. For the reasons stated in the immediately preceding paragraph,
the term sociology appears to be misleading. It is generally taken to
mean that human beings live in groups; but since many animal species
live also in groups, the term does not hint at any distinctively human
characteristic. What is more, since man depends primarily on culture
and Culture is a pan-human product, he is not a social, but a pan-species
being a being whose mode of life is intimately related to, although not
identical with, that of his kind as a whole. Consequently, the term
sociology expresses a fact which holds of many animal species, but not
of man. We need, therefore, a term which shall have reference to man's
essential dependence on culture, and which shall, if possible, embody the
conception that culture is primarily a cumulative species-product. We
might accordingly speak of specio-psychics, to indicate that culture is the
product of the spiritual endeavours of the whole of humanity. Under-
standing, then, Specio-Psychics to be the equivalent of "science of pan-
species culture", we may regard it as concerned with one of the leading
aspects of nature, and constituting with Physics (the science of the in-
animate) and Biology (the science of the animate) the three most distinc-
tive departments of existence, to be ultimately subsumed under Cosmology
(the science of the whole).

Strictly interpreting our definition, there is practically nothing
which we can profitably leave to the individual as such. A
tendency towards co-operation extending to all ages and all
lands is, accordingly, the very life-breath of human society,
and so far as this factor is absent there is minimal advance,
stagnation, or retrogression, disguised maybe by ignorance, pre-
judice, and the weaving of mazes of error. However, since
truth is so difficult of attainment, aimless co-operation argues
profuse waste of energy, and co-operation should therefore be
informed by science which should consequently penetrate every
nook and cranny of human life. Even our views on health
and on happiness, the moral and the matrimonial relations, the
nurture and the education of the young, the methods of work-
manship and trading, our social affairs and politics, our arts
and our relations to near neighbours and distant peoples as
well as to domestic and wild animals, our thought and our
inner life all should be clarified and guided by considerations
drawn from a highly developed methodology, if they are not
to remain in perpetuity emblematical of confusion and of
twilight.

We ought hence to assume that the scientific mode of think-
ing is a slowly developing product of pan-human civilisation,
and that with the passing of the ages, and as the result of
mountains of experience, man gradually discovers how to

l*



4 PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS.

employ his understanding most effectively. 1 It appears, there-
fore, right and proper to reject the narrowly individualistic
conception of human nature and human reason, which traces
the origin of leading methodological concepts to the superior
minds of a few distinguished thinkers, and to posit the liberat-
ing and the perfecting of the human intelligence through pan-
humanly developed methods of thought. Our great men, we
shall see, are first and foremost historic milestones; they con-
veniently, ably, and enthusiastically summarise for us the larger
and more definite results of an epoch in a specific direction.

II. THE UNITY OF NATURE AND OF LIFE.

2. The nineteenth century established in the minds of men
the concept of the uniformity of nature. No longer, therefore,
can it be asserted, without calling forth emphatic and almost
universal protest, that objects alter their nature indifferently,
or that there are countless occult forces whose activities make
reliance on experiment fatally precarious. 2 Men affirm now
boldly, and in the very act of affirming they lay the foundations
of science, that given a certain cause a certain effect will
invariably follow under certain defined natural conditions.

It will be the privilege of the twentieth century to lodge in
the human mind the notion of the unity of nature. The concept
is yet far from having been generally assimilated. There are
not a few men who consider that action at a distance should
be assumed as a simple fact, and that it savours of metaphysics
to seek for the proto-element or stuff out of which the chemical
elements have possibly been formed. Others not only doubt
whether we shall ever know intimately the stellar regions or
the world of atoms, but they discern a break between non-

1 See 73 for a historical analysis.

' 2 "Pendant des siecles, les hommes ont cru que meme ies mineraux
n'etaient pas regis par des lois definies, mais pouvaient prendre toutes les
formes et toutes les proprietes possibles pourvu qu'une volonte suffisamment
puissante s'y appliquat. On croyait que certaines formules ou certains gestes
avaient la vertu de transformer un corps brut en un etre vivant, un homme
en un animal ou une plante, et inversement." (E. Durkheirn, in De la rne-
thode dans les sciences, 1910, p. 308.)

"In the 17th century Alexander Ross, commenting on Sir Thomas Browne's
doubt as to whether mice may be bred by putrefaction, flays his antagonist
in the following words: 'So may we doubt whether in cheese and timber
worms are generated, or if beetles and wasps in cow-dung, or if butterflies,
locusts, shell-fish, snails, eels, and such like, be procreated of putrefied
matter, which is to receive the form of that creature to which it is by forma-
tive power disposed. To question this is to question reason, sense, and ex-
perience. If he doubts this, let him go to Egypt, and there he will find the



PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS. 5

living and living substance, between animals and man, and
most especially between mind and matter. And widely, pre-
valent is the view which insists upon the ultimate mystery and
inexplicability of the Universe.

Such a non possumus attitude acts as a relentless brake on



Online LibraryGustav SpillerA new system of scientific procedure; being an attempt to ascertain, develop, and systematise the general methods employed in modern enquiries at their best → online text (page 1 of 56)