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THE INTRODUCTION OF THE AUTHOR
THAT the conception of the scientific does not consist alone, or chiefly,
in system, and its finished theoretical constructions, requires nowadays
no exposition. System in this treatise is not to be found on the surface,
and instead of a finished building of theory, there are only materials.
The scientific form lies here in the endeavour to explore the nature of
military phenomena to show their affinity with the nature of the things of
which they are composed. Nowhere has the philosophical argument been
evaded, but where it runs out into too thin a thread the Author has
preferred to cut it short, and fall back upon the corresponding results of
experience; for in the same way as many plants only bear fruit when they
do not shoot too high, so in the practical arts the theoretical leaves and
flowers must not be made to sprout too far, but kept near to experience,
which is their proper soil.
Unquestionably it would be a mistake to try to discover from the chemical
ingredients of a grain of corn the form of the ear of corn which it bears,
as we have only to go to the field to see the ears ripe. Investigation and
observation, philosophy and experience, must neither despise nor exclude
one another; they mutually afford each other the rights of citizenship.
Consequently, the propositions of this book, with their arch of inherent
necessity, are supported either by experience or by the conception of War
itself as external points, so that they are not without abutments.(*)
(*) That this is not the case in the works of many military
writers especially of those who have aimed at treating of
War itself in a scientific manner, is shown in many
instances, in which by their reasoning, the pro and contra
swallow each other up so effectually that there is no
vestige of the tails even which were left in the case of the
It is, perhaps, not impossible to write a systematic theory of War full of
spirit and substance, but ours hitherto, have been very much the reverse.
To say nothing of their unscientific spirit, in their striving after
coherence and completeness of system, they overflow with commonplaces,
truisms, and twaddle of every kind. If we want a striking picture of them
we have only to read Lichtenberg's extract from a code of regulations in
case of fire.
If a house takes fire, we must seek, above all things, to protect the
right side of the house standing on the left, and, on the other hand, the
left side of the house on the right; for if we, for example, should
protect the left side of the house on the left, then the right side of the
house lies to the right of the left, and consequently as the fire lies to
the right of this side, and of the right side (for we have assumed that
the house is situated to the left of the fire), therefore the right side
is situated nearer to the fire than the left, and the right side of the
house might catch fire if it was not protected before it came to the left,
which is protected. Consequently, something might be burnt that is not
protected, and that sooner than something else would be burnt, even if it
was not protected; consequently we must let alone the latter and protect
the former. In order to impress the thing on one's mind, we have only to
note if the house is situated to the right of the fire, then it is the
left side, and if the house is to the left it is the right side.
In order not to frighten the intelligent reader by such commonplaces, and
to make the little good that there is distasteful by pouring water upon
it, the Author has preferred to give in small ingots of fine metal his
impressions and convictions, the result of many years' reflection on War,
of his intercourse with men of ability, and of much personal experience.
Thus the seemingly weakly bound-together chapters of this book have
arisen, but it is hoped they will not be found wanting in logical
connection. Perhaps soon a greater head may appear, and instead of these
single grains, give the whole in a casting of pure metal without dross.