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SCIENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS,
MORE PARTICULARLY ILLUSTRATIVE
PHENOMENA OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE,
FEELING, AND ACTION,
BY J. L. MURPHY.
E. C. AND W. OSBORNE, BIRMINGHAM.
TO ROBERT OWEN,
THE PHILANTHROPIST. MY BELOVED FRIEND, I dedicate this book to you, as to one qualified to judge of its validity. If it contain error, you above all men, know how to unravel and expose the sophism; if it be true, you will not be deterred by the bigot’s rage from giving it your sanction. The cause which you have so long advocated involves the change from ignorance, superstition, vice, and misery, to knowledge, rationalization, virtue, and happiness; from a system, in which the most powerful individuals are surrounded by danger and unhappiness, to one in which all will be made more happy, than any one, of any grade, under the present arrangements.
Supernaturalism is the fortress of your opponents, the strong hold of the enemies of human improvement; and dogmatic assumptions and misrepresentations form their outworks. A host of the “ mighty dead” speak to us through the philosophic page, and tell us that “nature and truth should be our guide;" and a Lycurgus, a Plato, a More, and a Bacon, have left us their opinions, on the effects of systematizing a society. Supernaturalism is falling away, shrinking into the void nothingness of rhetorical spiritualization, and metaphysical vagueness, before the keen scrutiny of modern philosophy, and the blazing poetic genius of a Shelley and a Byron; and the time has now arrived, when the writings of those .great men, Godwin and Thomson, are studiously referred to by the enquirer, and your opinion, as a practical philosopher, eagerly sought after by the masses of the people. I have for some time been of opinion, that the substitution of a “ Science of Consciousness” for the vague metaphysics which have proved so conservative of superstition, would much facilitate, even the rapid progression of the present times; and actuated by the hope (not of bringing before the public a complete science) but rather of merely calling the attention of men of greater ability than I am possessed of, to the importance of the subject, I have produced the following Essay to the investigation of which, I humbly invite you.
I am, my beloved Sir,
Your sincere Friend,
J, L, MURPHY.
The subject matter of the following “ Essay" having been very generally admitted to be of so difficult a character, that the greatest have often been bewildered by it, the author is aware that his boldness in attacking such, may subject him to censure, and also is fully convinced that the philosophy resultant from the facts he lays down, tending as it does to the exposition and refutation of certain metaphysical, phrenological, theological, moral, and political doctrines, must naturally excite considerable opposition of feeling; this, however, appears to him to be no reason for withholding from the publication of opinions, which may at least lead to useful discussion. A few years ago, both book and author might have been got rid of by the summary process of burning; times however have changed, and the people have now attained the knowledge that free discussion, however injurious it may be to party interests, always tends to the general good.
To the metaphysical mystic the author would say, that it is not by gross assumptions, dogmas without any proof, that society can really be benefitted ; but, by a collection of useful facts which can be demonstrated. To the Phrenologist he would remark, that if there be truth in Phrenology, a bold attack upon it can only tend to elicit that truth, and give its advocate an opportunity of replying to objections with the more force and precision, from having an accurate knowledge of their nature. To the Theologist he would say, the time has now come when True Religion must take the place of atheistical blasphemy, and it is to the real interest of all parties that this change do take place immediately. No moralist can have any interest in the perpetuation of vice and misery, and can therefore have no objection to the discussion of the means of its removal. No honest politician ever fears open discussion on any subject, and the candid attention of such the author most respectfully requests ; for, he is satisfied that an investigation of matters like these, is an essential preliminary to the attainment of a sound political philosophy, and that the politician cannot know too much on such subjects.
The work being merely an Essay towards, &c., much of emendation and addition may be required; these will doubtless be suggested by the criticism to which the book will be subjected; the quotations inserted to illustrate, are taken from the most popular and approved authors.