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FRANCIS OF VERULAM

THOUGHT THUS,

AND SUCH IS THE METHOD HE WITHIN HIMSELF PURSUED, WHICH HE THOUGHT IT CONCERNED

BOTH THE LIVING AND POSTERITY TO BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH.

Seeing he was satisfied that the human under- I be infinite, and above the strength of a mere morstanding creates itself labour, and makes not a tal, yet will it, in the execution, be found to be judicious and convenient use of such real helps more sound and judicious than the course which as are within man's power, whence arise both a has hitherto been pursued. For this method manifold ignorance of things, and innumerable admits at least of some termination, whilst, in the disadvantages, the consequence of such ignorance; present mode of treating the sciences, there is a he thought that we ought to endeavour, with all sort of whirl, and perpetual hurry round a circle. our might, either (if it were possible) completely | Nor has he forgotten to observe that he stands to restore, or, at all events, to bring to a better alone in this experiment, and that it is too bold issue that free intercourse of the mind with things, and astonishing to obtain credit. Nevertheless

, nothing similar to which is to be met with on he thought it not right to desert either the cause earth, at least as regards earthly objects. But or himself, by not exploring and entering upon that errors which have gained firm ground, and the only way, which is pervious to the human will forever continue to gain ground, would, if mind. For it is better to commence a matter the mind were left to itself, successively correct which may admit of some termination, than to be each other, either from the proper powers of the involved in perpetual exertion and anxiety about understanding, or from the helps and support of that which is interminable. And, indeed, the logic, he entertained not the slightest hope. Be- ways of contemplation nearly resemble those celecause the primary notions of things, which the brated ways of action; the one of which, steep and mind ignorantly and negligently imbibes, stores rugged at its commencement, terminates in a plain

, ap, and accumulates, (and from which every thing the other, at the first view smooth and easy, leads else is derived,) are faulty and confused, and care- only to by-roads and precipices. Uncertain, lessly abstracted from the things themselves; and however, whether these reflections would ever in the secondary and following notions, there is hereafter suggest themselves to another, and, par. an equal wantonness and inconsistency. Hence ticularly, having observed, that he has never yet it happens that the whole system of human rea- met with any person disposed to apply his mind soning, as far as we apply it to the investigation to similar meditations, he determined to publish of nature, not skilfully consolidated and built whatsoever he had first time to conclude. Nor is up, but resembles a magnificent pile that has no this the haste of ambition, but of his anxiety, that foundation. For while men admire and celebrate if the common lot of mankind should befall him, the false energies of the mind, they pass by, and some sketch and determination of the matter his lose sight of the real ; such as may exist if the mind had embraced might be extant, as well as mind adopt proper helps, and act modestly an earnest of his will being honourably bent upon towards things instead of weakly insulting them. promoting the advantage of mankind. He assuBut one course was left, to begin the matter anew redly looked upon any other ambition as beneath with better preparation, and to effect a restoration the matter he had undertaken; for that which is of the sciences, arts, and the whole of human learn- here treated of is either nothing, or it is so great ing, established on their proper foundation. And, that he ought to be satisfied with its own worth, although, at the first attempt, this may appear to and seek no other return.

TO

OUR MOST SERENE AND MIGHTY PRINCE AND LORD

JAMES,

BY THE GRACE OF GOD, KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE

FAITH, ETC.

Most SERENE AND MIGHTY King:

Your majesty will, perhaps, accuse me of theft, in that I have stolen from your employments time sufficient for this work. I have no reply, for there can be no restitution of time, unless, perhaps, that which has been withdrawn from your affairs might be set down as devoted to the perpetuating of your name and to the honour of your age, were what I now offer of any value. It is at least new, even in its very nature ; but copied from a very ancient pattern, no other than the world itself, and the nature of things, and of the mind. I myself (ingenuously to confess the truth) am wont to value this work rather as the offspring of time than of wit. For the only wonderful circumstance in it is, that the first conception of the matter, and so deep suspicions of preva. lent notions should ever have entered into any person's mind; the consequences naturally follow. But, doubtless, there is a chance, (as we call it,) and something as it were accidental in man's thoughts, no less than in his actions and words. I would have this chance, however, (of which I am speaking,) to be so understood, that if there be any merit in what I offer, it shjuld be attributed to the immeasurable mercy and bounty of God, and to the felicity of this your age; to which felicity I have devoted myself whilst living with the sincerest zeal, and I shall, perhaps, before my death have rendered the age a light unto posterity, by{kindling this new torch amid the darkness of philosophy. This regeneration and instauration of the sciences is with justice due to the age of a prince surpassing all others in wisdom and learning. There remains for me to but to make one request, worthy of your majesty, and very especially relating to my subject, namely, that, resembling Solomon as you do in most respects, in the gravity of your decisions, the peacefulness of your reign, the expansion of your heart, and, lastly, in the noble variety of books you have composed, you would further imitate the same monarch in procuring the compilation and completion of a Natural and Experimental History, that shall be genuine and rigorous, not that of mere philologues, and serviceable for raising the superstructure of philosophy, such, in short, as I will in its proper place describe : that, at length, after so many ages, philosophy and the sciences may no longer be unset. tled and speculative, but fixed on the solid foundation of a varied and well considered experience. I for my part have supplied the instrument, the matter to be worked upon must be sought from things themselves. May the great and good God long preserve your majesty in safety.

Your majesty's
Most bounden and devoted,

Francis VERULAM, Chancellor

333

FRANCIS OF VERULAM'S

GREAT INSTAURATION, .

PREFACE.

ON THE STATE OF LEARNING.–THAT IT IS NEITHER PROSPEROUS NOR GREATLY ADVANCED, AND
THAT AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT WAY FROM ANY KNOWN TO OUR PREDECESSORS MUST BE
OPENED TO THE HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, AND DIFFERENT HELPS BE OBTAINED, IN ORDER
THAT THE MIND MAY EXERCISE ITS JURISDICTION OVER THE NATURE OF THINGS.

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It appears to me that men know not either their acquirements or their powers, and trust too much to the former, and too little to the latter. Hence it arises that, either estimating the arts they have become acquainted with at an absurd value, they require nothing more, or forming too low an opinion of themselves, they waste their powers on trivial objects, without attempting any thing to the purpose. The sciences have thus their own pillars, fixed as it were by fate,* since men are not roused to penetrate beyond them either by zeal or hope: and inasmuch as an imaginary plenty mainly contributes to a dearth, and from a reliance upon present assistance, that which will really hereafter aid us is neglected, it becomes useful, nay, clearly necessary, in the very outset of our work, to remove, without any circumlocution or concealment, all excessive conceit and admiration of our actual state of knowledge, by this wholesome warning not to exaggerate or boast of its extent or utility.] For, if any one look more attentively into that vast variety of books which the arts and sciences are so proud of, he will everywhere discover innumerable repetitions of the same thing, varied only by the method of treating it, but anticipated in invention; so that although at first sight they appear numerous, they are found, pon examination, to be but scanty. And with regard to their utility I must speak plainly. That philosophy of ours which we have chiefly derived from the Greeks, appears to me but the childhood of knowledge, and to possess the peculiarity of that age, being prone to idle loquacity, but weak and unripe for generation; for it is fruitful of controversy and barren of effects. So that the fable of Seylla seems to be a lively image of the present state of letters; for she exhibited the countenance and expression of a virgin, but barking monsters surrounded and fastened themselves to her womb. Even thus, the sciences to which we have been accustomed have their flattering and specious generalities, but when we come to particulars, which, like ihe organs of generation, should produce fruit and effects, then spring up altercations and barking questions, in the which they end, and bring forth nothing else. Besides, if these sciences were not manifestly a dead letter, it would never happen, as for many ages has been the case in practice, that they should adhere almost immovably 10 their original footing, without acquiring a growth worthy of mankind : and this so completely

, that frequently not only an assertion continues to be an assertion, but even a question to be a question, which, instead of being solved by discussion, becomes fixed and encouraged; and every system of instruction successively handed down to us brings upon the stage the characters of master and scholar

, not those of an inventor and one capable of adding some excellence to his inventions. But we see the contrary happen in the mechanical arts.

For they, as if inhaling some life-inspiring air, daily increase, and are brought to perfection; they generally án the hands of the inventor appear rude, cumbrous, and shapeless, but afterwards acquire such additional powers and facility, that sooner may men's wishes and fancies decline and change, than the arts reach their full height and perfection

. Philosophy and the intellectual sciences on the contrary, like statues, are adored and celebrated, but are not made to advance: nay, they are frequently most vigorous in the hands of their author, and thenceforward degenerate. For since men have voluntarily surrendered themselves, and gone over in crowds to the opinion of their leader, like those silent senators of Rome,t they add nothing to the extent of learning themselves, but perform the servile duty of illustrating and waiting upon particular authors. Nor let any one allege that learning, slowly springing up, attained by degrees its full stature, and from that time took up its abode in the works of a few, as having performed its predetermined course; and that, as it is impossible to discover any further improvement, it only * Alluding to the frontispiece of the original work, which represents a vessel passing beyond the Pillars of Hercules.

Pedarij Senatores

1

remains for us to adorn and cultivate that which has been discovered. It were indeed to be wished that such were the case; the more correct and true statement, however, is, that this slavery of the sciences arises merely from the impudence of a few, and the indolence of the rest of mankind. For, no sooner was any particular branch of learning (diligently enough, perhaps) cultivated and laboured, than up would spring some individual confident in his art, who would acquire authority and reputation from the compendious nature of his method, and, as far as appearances went, would establish the art, whilst in reality he was corrupting the labours of his ancestors. Yet will this please succeeding generations, from the ready use they can make of his labour, and their wearisome impatience of fresh inquiry. But if any one be influenced by an inveterate uniformity of opinion, as though it were the decision of time let him learn that he is relying on a most fallacious and weak argument. For not only are we, in a great measure, unacquainted with the proportion of arts and sciences that has been discovered and made its way to the public in various ages and regions, (much less with what has been individually attempted and privately agitated,) neither the births nor the abortions of time being extant in any register; but also that uniformity itself, and its duration are not to be considered of any great moment. For, however varied the forms of civil government may be, there is but one state of learning, and that ever was and ever will be the democratic. Now with the people at large, the doctrines that most prevail are either disputatious and violent, or specious and vain, and they either ensnare or allure assent. Hence, without question, the greatest wits have undergone violence in every age, whilst others of no vulgar capacity and understanding have still, from consulting their reputation, submitted themselves to the decision of time and the multitude. Wherefore, if more elevated speculations have perchance anywhere burst forth, they have been from time to time blown about by the winds of public opinion, and extinguished; so that time, like a river, has brought down all that was light and inflated, and has sunk what was weighty and solid. Nay, those very leaders who have usurped, as it were, a dictatorship in learning, and pronounce their opinion of things with so much confidence, will yet, when they occasionally return to their senses, begin to complain of the subtility of nature, the remoteness of truth, the obscurity of things, the complication of causes, and the weakness of human wit. They are not, however, more modest in this than in the forme rinstances, since they prefer framing an excuse of the common condition of men and things, to confessing their own defects. Besides, it is generally their practice, if some particular art fail to accomplish any object, to conclude that it cannot be accomplished by that art. But yet the art cannot be condemned, for she herself deliberates and decides the question; so that their only aim is to deliver their ignorance from ignominy. The following statement exhibits sufficiently well the state of knowledge delivered down and received by us. It is barren in effects, fruitful in questions, slow and languid in its improvement, exhibiting in its generality the counterfeit of perfection, but ill filled up in its details, popular in its choice, but suspected by its very promoters, and therefore bolstered up and countenanced with artifices. Even those who have been determined to try for themselves, to add their support to learning, and to enlarge its limits, have not dared entirely to desert received opinions, nor to seek the springhead of things. But they think they have done a great thing if they intersperse and contribute something of their own, prudently considering that by their assent they can save their modesty, and by their contributions their liberty. Whilst consulting, however, the opinions of others, and good manners, this admired moderation tends to the great injury of learning: for it is seldom in our power both to admire and surpass our author, but, like water, we rise not higher than the springhead whence we have descended. Such men, therefore, amend some things, but cause little advancement, and improve more than they enlarge knowledge. Yet there have not been wanting some, who, with greater daring, have considered every thing open to them, and, employing the force of their wit, have opened a passage for themselves and their dogmas by prostrating and destroying all before them; but this violence of theirs has not availed much, since they have not laboured to enlarge philosophy and the arts, both in their subject-matter and effect; but only to substitute new dogmas, and to transfer the empire of opinion to themselves, with but small advantage; for opposite errors proceed mostly from common causes. Even if some few, whù neither dogmatise nor submit to dogmatism, have been so spirited as to request others to join them in investigation, yet have such, though honest in their zeal, been weak in their efforts. For they seem to have followed only probable reasoning, and are hurried in a continued whiri of arguments, till

, by an indiscriminate license of inquiry, they have enervated the strictness of investigation. But not one has there been found of a disposition to dwell sufficiently on things themselves and experience. For some again, who have committed themselves to the waves of experience, ana become almost mechanics, yet in their very experience employ an unsteady investigation, and war not with it by fixed rules. Nay, some have only proposed to themselves a few paltry tasks, and think it a great thing if they can work out one single discovery, a plan no less beggarly than unskiltil. For no one examines thoroughly or successfully the nature of any thing in the thing itself, but after

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a laborious variety of experiments, instead of pausing there, they set out upon some further inquiry. And we must by no means omit observing, that all the industry displayed in experiment, has, from the very first, caught with a too hasty and intemperate zeal at some determined effect; has sought (I say) productive rather than enlightening experiments, and has not imitated the Divine method

, which on the first day created light alone, and assigned it one whole day, producing no material works thereon, but descending to their creation on the following days. Those who have attributed the pre-eminence to logic, and have thought that it afforded the safest support to learning, have seen very correctly and properly that man's understanding, when left to itself, is deservedly to be suspected. Yet the remedy is even weaker than the disease; nay, it is not itself free from disease. For the common system of logic, although most properly applied to civil matters, and such arts as lie in discussion and opinion, is far from reaching the subtility of nature, and, by catching at that which it cannot grasp, has done more to confirm, and, as it were, fasten errors upon us, than to open the way to truth.

To sum up, therefore, our observations, neither reliance upon others, nor their own industry, appear hithertc to have set forth learning to mankind in her best light, especially as there is little aid in such demonstrations and experiments as have yet reached us. For the fabric of this universe is like a labyrinth to the contemplative mind, where doubtful paths, deceitful imitations of things and their signs, winding and intricate folds and knots of nature everywhere present themselves, and a way must constantly be made through the forests of experience and particular natures, with the aid of the uncertain light of the senses, shining and disappearing by fits. But the guides who offer their services are (as has been said) themselves confused, and increase the number of wanderings and of wanderers. In so difficult a matter we must despair of man's unassisted judgment, or even of any casual good fortune: for neither the excellence of wit, however great, nor the die of experience, however frequently cast, can overcome such disadvantages. We must guide our steps by a clue, and the whole path, from the very first perceptions of our senses, must be secured by a determined method. Nor must I be thought to say, that nothing whatever has been done by so many and so much labour; for I regret not our discoveries, and the ancients have certainly shown themselves worthy of admiration in all that requires either wit or abstracted meditation. But, as in former ages, when men at sea used only to steer by their observations of the stars, they were indeed enabled to coast the shores of the Continent, or some small and inland seas; but before they could traverse the ocean and discover the regions of the new world, it was necessary that the use of the compass, a more trusty and certain guide on their voyage, should be first known; even so, the present discoveries in the arts and sciences are such as might be found out by meditation, observation, and discussion, as being more open to the senses and lying immediately beneath our common notions : but before we are allowed to enter the more remote and hidden parts of nature, it is necessary that a better and more perfect use and application of the human mind and understanding should be introduced.

We, for our part at least, overcome by the eternal love of truth, have committed ourselves to uncertain, steep, and desert tracks, and trusting and relying on Divine assistance, have borne up our mind against the violence of opinions, drawn up as it were in battle array, against our own internal doubts and scruples, against the mists and clouds of nature, and against fancies flitting on all sides around us: that we might at length collect some more trustworthy and certain indications for the living and posterity. And if we have made any way in this matter, no other method than the true and genuine humiliation of the human soul has opened it unto us. For all who before us have applied themselves to the discovery of the arts, after casting their eyes a while upon things, instances, and experience, have straightway invoked, as it were, some spirits of their own to disclose their oracles, as if invention were nothing but a species of thought. But we, in our subdued and perpetual intercourse with things, abstract our understanding no farther from them than is necessary to prevent the confusion of the images of things with their radiation, a confusion similar to that we experience by our senses : and thus but little is left for the powers and excellence of wit. And we have in teaching continued to show forth the humility, which we adopt in discovering. For we do not endeavour to assume or acquire any majestic state for these our discoveries, by the triumphs of confutation, the citing of antiquity, the usurpation of authority, or even the veil of obscurity, which would easily suggest themselves to one endeavouring to throw light upon his own name, rather than the minds of others. We have not, I say, practised either force or fraud on men's judgments, nor intend we so to do; but we conduct them to things themselves and the real connexion of things, that they may themselves behold what they possess, what they prove, what they add, and what they contribute to the common stock.) If

, however, we have in any matter given too easy credit, or slumbered and been too inadvertent, or have mistaken our road, and broken off inquiry, yet we exhibit things plainly and openly, so that our errors can be noted and separated before they corrupt any further the mass of sciences, and the continuation of our labours

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