Zoonomia; Or, The Laws of Organic Life: Preface by@erasmusdarwin

Zoonomia; Or, The Laws of Organic Life: Preface

The purport of the following pages is an endeavor to reduce the facts belonging to ANIMAL LIFE into classes, orders, genera, and species; and, by comparing them with each other, to unravel the theory of diseases. It happened, perhaps unfortunately for the inquirers into the knowledge of diseases, that other sciences had received improvement previous to their own; whence, instead of comparing the properties belonging to animated nature with each other, they, idly ingenious, busied themselves in attempting to explain the laws of life by those of mechanism and chemistry; they considered the body as a hydraulic machine, and the fluids as passing through a series of chemical changes, forgetting that animation was its essential characteristic.
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Erasmus Darwin

Zoonomia; Or, the Laws of Organic Life

Zoonomia, Vol. I Or, the Laws of Organic Life by Erasmus Darwin is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here: [LINK TO TABLE OF LINK]. Preface

PREFACE

The purport of the following pages is an endeavour to reduce the facts belonging to ANIMAL LIFE into classes, orders, genera, and species; and, by comparing them with each other, to unravel the theory of diseases. It happened, perhaps unfortunately for the inquirers into the knowledge of diseases, that other sciences had received improvement previous to their own; whence, instead of comparing the properties belonging to animated nature with each other, they, idly ingenious, busied themselves in attempting to explain the laws of life by those of mechanism and chemistry; they considered the body as a hydraulic machine, and the fluids as passing through a series of chemical changes, forgetting that animation was its essential characteristic.

The great CREATOR of all things has infinitely diversified the works of his hands, but has at the same time stamped a certain similitude on the features of nature, that demonstrates to us, that the whole is one family of one parent. On this similitude is founded all rational analogy; which, so long as it is concerned in comparing the essential properties of bodies, leads us to many and important discoveries; but when with licentious activity it links together objects, otherwise discordant, by some fanciful similitude; it may indeed collect ornaments for wit and poetry, but philosophy and truth recoil from its combinations.

The want of a theory, deduced from such strict analogy, to conduct the practice of medicine is lamented by its professors; for, as a great number of unconnected facts are difficult to be acquired, and to be reasoned from, the art of medicine is in many instances less efficacious under the direction of its wisest practitioners; and by that busy crowd, who either boldly wade in darkness, or are led into endless error by the glare of false theory, it is daily practised to the destruction of thousands; add to this the unceasing injury which accrues to the public by the perpetual advertisements of pretended nostrums; the minds of the indolent become superstitiously fearful of diseases, which they do not labour under; and thus become the daily prey of some crafty empyric.

A theory founded upon nature, that should bind together the scattered facts of medical knowledge, and converge into one point of view the laws of organic life, would thus on many accounts contribute to the interest of society. It would capacitate men of moderate abilities to practise the art of healing with real advantage to the public; it would enable every one of literary acquirements to distinguish the genuine disciples of medicine from those of boastful effrontery, or of wily address; and would teach mankind in some important situations the knowledge of themselves.

There are some modern practitioners, who declaim against medical theory in general, not considering that to think is to theorize; and that no one can direct a method of cure to a person labouring under disease without thinking, that is, without theorizing; and happy therefore is the patient, whose physician possesses the best theory.

The words idea, perception, sensation, recollection, suggestion, and association, are each of them used in this treatise in a more limited sense than in the writers of metaphysic. The author was in doubt, whether he should rather have substituted new words instead of them; but was at length of opinion, that new definitions of words already in use would be less burthensome to the memory of the reader.

A great part of this work has lain by the writer above twenty years, as some of his friends can testify: he had hoped by frequent revision to have made it more worthy the acceptance of the public; this however his other perpetual occupations have in part prevented, and may continue to prevent, as long as he may be capable of revising it; he therefore begs of the candid reader to accept of it in its present state, and to excuse any inaccuracies of expression, or of conclusion, into which the intricacy of his subject, the general imperfection of language, or the frailty he has in common with other men, may have betrayed him; and from which he has not the vanity to believe this treatise to be exempt.

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Darwin, Erasmus, 2005. Zoonomia, Vol. Or, the Laws of Organic Life. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15707/15707-h/15707-h.htm

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org, located at https://www.gutenberg.org/policy/license.html.

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