Front Page Titles (by Subject) Preface to the Second Edition - The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy
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Preface to the Second Edition - John Elliot Cairnes, The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy 
The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy (London: Macmillan, 1875 2nd ed).
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Preface to the Second Edition
In offering to the public a new edition of some lectures delivered in Dublin more than seventeen years ago, a few words of explanation are needed. As regards the substance of the opinions advanced—the view taken of Political Economy and of its methods of proof and development—the present work does not differ from its predecessor; but extensive changes have been made in the form and treatment. Numerous passages have been recast; increased prominence has been given to aspects of the case only touched on in the former volume; and some entirely new topics have been introduced. To one of these—'Definition'—an additional lecture has been devoted. I would fain hope that in its new shape the work will be found somewhat less unworthy than in its earlier form of such favour as it has met with. No one, however, can be more conscious than the author how very far it still falls short of what such a work ought to be.
In connection with logical method, a good deal of discussion has of late taken place on a question that had been but little heard of when the book first appeared—I mean the employment of Mathematics in the development of economic doctrine. The position then taken with reference to this point was that, having regard to the sources from which Political Economy derives its premisses, the science does not admit of mathematical treatment. Since that time, my friend Professor Jevons has published an able work ('The Theory of Political Economy'), in which the opposite opinion is maintained; and some few others, both here and on the Continent of Europe, have followed in his track. Having weighed Professor Jevons's argument to the best of my ability, and so far as this was possible for one unversed in Mathematics, I still adhere to my original view. So far as I can see, economic truths are not discoverable through the instrumentality of Mathematics. If this view be unsound, there is at hand an easy means of refutation—the production of an economic truth, not before known, which has been thus arrived at; but I am not aware that up to the present any such evidence has been furnished of the efficacy of the mathematical method. In taking this ground I have no desire to deny that it may be possible to employ geometrical diagrams or mathematical formulæ for the purpose of exhibiting economic doctrines reached by other paths; and it may be that there are minds for which this mode of presenting the subject has advantages. What I venture to deny is the doctrine which Professor Jevons and others have advanced—that economic knowledge can be extended by such means; that Mathematics can be applied to the development of economic truth, as it has been applied to the development of mechanical and physical truth; and, unless it can be shown, either that mental feelings admit of being expressed in precise quantitative forms, or, on the other hand, that economic phenomena do not depend upon mental feelings, I am unable to see how this conclusion can be avoided. 'The laws of Political Economy,' says Mr. Jevons, 'must be mathematical for the most part, because they deal with quantities and the relations of quantities.' If I do not mistake, something more than this is needed to sustain Mr. Jevons's position.
I have retained most of the discussions in the original notes, although some of the questions discussed have lost much of the practical interest they once had; what was formerly speculation having in some instances become realised fact. They will not on this account, however, serve less well the purpose of their first introduction—that of illustrating the principles of economic method.
It falls to me once again to have to express my deep obligations to my friend Professor Nesbitt, who, with his usual kindness in correcting the proofs, has not a little lightened my present labours.
J. E. CAIRNES.
Kidbrook Park Road, S.E. February 1875.