‘A PIONEER WORK’

The principles of science: a treatise on logic and scientific method.

London, Macmillan and Co., 1874.

Two vols, 8vo, pp. xvi, 463, [1] blank; vii, [1], 480; with an engraved frontispiece illustration of the logical machine in volume I; a few spots, lightly browned throughout, short marginal tear to pp. 359-360 of vol. I., repaired, a good copy in the original publisher’s pebbled cloth, spines lettered gilt, spines very neatly restored at the head, extremities a little worn, very slightly soiled.

£1500

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First edition of Jevons’ ‘most important contribution to scientific methodology’ (Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, pp. 260).

The work is a collection of Jevons’ thoughts on logic and induction in which he opposes Baconian empirical procedure in favour of the Newtonian approach: ‘I endeavour to show that hypothetical anticipation of nature is an essential part of inductive inquiry, and that it is the Newtonian method of deductive reasoning combined with elaborate experimental verification, which has led to all the greatest triumphs of scientific research’ (p. vii). In the author’s eyes this work was a pioneering step towards constructing a more rigorous form of investigation within the non-physical sciences: ‘we must sooner or later have strict sciences of those mental and social phenomena, which, if comparison be possible, are of more interest to us than purely material phenomena’ (p. v). He asserts that the empirical sciences stem from logic and takes the inverse method of probabilities as an inductive ideal, arguing that ‘the logical value of every inductive result must be determined consciously or unconsciously, according to the principles of the inverse method of probability’ (p. vii).

‘The Principles of Science (1874) has been recognized as a pioneer work, in important respects well ahead of its time. Especially notable was [Jevons’] development of the fundamentals of formal logic on the lines of George Boole, and his construction of a machine, still extant … for the mechanical solution of deductive problems – an anticipation of modern computing machines’ (T.W. Hutchison in IESS).

Church 24:4; IESS (1874); Inoue and White 134; not in Risse.

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