Method. (Μέθοδος a transit,
a following after, from
word is used by Plato both for a scientific inquiry, and for the mode of
prosecuting such, in which latter sense it has continued to this day. In
a kindred one it is applied to practical action. One man is said to be
methodical in the management of business, another not. It is, however,
with the question of acquiring knowledge or prosecuting science that we
are at present concerned, and for success in either it will not be
disputed that method is requisite. It becomes therefore important to
know what it is.
Method is to be distinguished from order. Any arrangement, any
assignment to each thing of a particular place, no matter how
irrespective of the relations of the things to each other, comes under
the head of order. Method on the other hand demands that the arrangement
should be in accordance with those relations. "Methodus differt ab ordine; quia ordo facit ut unam rem diseamus
post aliam; methodus ut unam per aliam."(1)
There are two great constituents of method which move counter to each
other, but whose combination is essential to the attainment of science.
These are analysis and synthesis. By the former process we resolve a
whole into its constituent elements; by the latter we combine those
elements into the whole. The movements no doubt are counter to each
other, but the operation of both is essential to the attainment of real
knowledge. In the choice of these processes, we must be greatly
influenced by our aim. Method is requisite both for the acquisition and
for the communication of knowledge. It will sometimes happen that the
methods for each are counter to each other. I have constructed by
synthesis the result into which varying elements combine. That result
stands before my disciple, and the aim is to exhibit to him the
different elements which in their combination produce it. Or I analyze
the object before me into its elements, this done, I teach best by
putting those elements together, and displaying to the learner the
result into which they combine.
An anticipatory idea, a point of departure is also requisite, as
Coleridge has shown to method. This he illustrates in a comparison
between educated, and uneducated, utterance.
The name methodist has been applied to two very different sets of
persons. The physicians in ancient times who grounded their practice
entirely by rule and system were called
μεθοδικοί, which pretty much
answers to our word methodists. (See
Dogma.) And the modern sect of
Methodists received the title from the strict and exact methods of piety practised by Wesley and his friends at Oxford, their rigid observance of
fasts and festivals, and the like.
The great treatises on method are that of Descartes, that in the Port
Royal Logic, Coleridge Intr. to Encycl. Metropol., reprinted separately,
and also to be found in the Friend, vol. III., and Sir W. Hamilton's
Lectures on Logic, vol. II.
(1) Facciolati Rudimenta Logic, quoted by HAMILTON,
Metaph. vol. I. p.