Page images

mention the prophecy of Daniel of the last days and works it in the understanding. We have of the world,* “ Many shall run to and fro and good reason, therefore, to derive hope from a knowledge shall be increased,” thus plainly hint- closer and purer alliance of these faculties, (the ing and suggesting that Fate (which is Pro- experimental and rational) than has yet been vidence) would cause the complete circuit of attempted. the globe, (now accomplished, or at least going 96. Natural philosophy is not yet to be found forward by means of so many distant voyages,) unadulterated, but is impure and corrupted; by and the increase of learning, to happen at the logic in the school of Aristotle, by natural thersame epoch.

logy in that of Plato, by mathematics in the 94. Wet will next give a most potent reason second school of Plato, (that of Proclus and for hope deduced from the errors of the past, and others, which ought rather to terminate natural the ways still unattempted. For well was an ill philosophy than to generate or create it. We governed state thus reproved, £ That which is may, therefore, hope for better results from pure worst with regard to the past, should appear most and unmixed natural philosophy. consolatory for the future. For if you had done 97. No one has yet been found possessed of all that your duty commanded, and your affairs sufficient firmness and severity, to resolve upon proceeded no better, you could not even hope for and undertake the task of entirely abolishing their improvement; but since their present unhap- common theories and notions, and applying the py situation is not owing to the force of circum- mind afresh, when thus cleared and levelled, to stances, but to your own errors, you have reason particular researches. Hence our human reasonto hope, that by banishing or correcting the latter, ing is a mere farrago and crude mass, made up you can produce a great change for the better in of a great deal of credulity and accident, and the the former.” So, if men had, during the many puerile notions it originally contracted. years that have elapsed, adhered to the right way But if a man of mature age, unprejudiced senses, of discovering and cultivating the sciences with- and clear mind, would betake himself anew to out being able to advance, it would be assuredly experience and particulars, we might hope much bold and presumptuous to imagine it possible to more from such a one. In which respect we improve; but if they have mistaken the way and promise ourselves the fortune of Alexander the wasted their labour on improper objects, it fol. Great, and let none accuse us of vanity till they lows that the difficulty does not arise from things have heard the tale, which is intended to check themselves, which are not in our power, but from vanity. the human understanding, its practice and appli- For Æschines spoke thus of Alexander and cation, which is susceptible of remedy and cor- his exploits : “We live not the life of mortals

, rection. Our best plan, therefore, is to expose but are born at such a period that posterity will these errors. For, in proportion as they impeded relate and declare our prodigies.” As if he conthe past, so do they afford reason to hope for the sidered the exploits of Alexander to be miraculous. future. And although we have touched upon But in succeeding ages* Livy took a better them above, yet we think it right to give a brief, view of the fact, and has made some such observa. bare, and simple enumeration of them in this tion as this upon Alexander: "That he did no place.

more than dare to despise insignificance." So in 95. Those who have treated of the sciences our opinion posterity will judge of us, “That we have been either empirics or dogmatical. The have achieved no great matters, but only set less former like ants only heap up and use their store, account upon what is considered important." the latter like spiders spin out their own webs. For the mean time (as we have before observed) The bee, a mean between both, extracts matter our only hope is in the regeneration of the from the flowers of the garden and the field, but sciences, by regularly raising them on the foundaworks and fashions it by its own efforts. The tion of experience and building them anew, which true labour of philosophy resembles hers, for it I think none can venture to affirm to have been neither relies entirely or principally on the pow- already done or even thought of. ers of the mind, nor yet lays up in the memory, 98. The foundations of experience (our sole the matter afforded by the experiments of natural resource) have hitherto failed completely or hare history or mechanics in its raw state, but changes been very weak; nor has a store and a collection

of particular facts capable of informing the mind * Daniel, c. xii. ver. 4. + Hence to Aphorism 108 treats of the grounds of hope to after or amassed. On the contrary, learned, but

or in any way satisfactory, been either sought he derived from correcting former errors.

See Demosthenes's 3d Philippic near the beginning, το χείριςον εν τοις παρεληλυθότι, τούτο προς τα μελλοντα * See Livy, lib. x. c. 17, where in a digression on the proβέλτισον υπάρχει. Τί ούν επί τούτο; ότι ούτε μικρόν, ούτε bable effect of a contest between Rome and Alexander the μέγα ουδέν των δεόντων ποιoύντων υμών, κακώς τα πράγματα Great, he says: “Non cum Dario rem esse dixisset : quell έχει επείτοιγε ει πάντα προσήκει πραττόντων υμών, ούτω mulierum ac spadonum agmen trahentem inter purpuram dereito oud av eltis ir dvrà yéveosa. Bedriw, rūv dè ris atque aurum, oneratum fortunæ apparatibus, prædam veride vir pašvpías ris fueripas, kai rīs djedcías kerpárnce Didero quam hostem, nihil aliud quam ausus vana contemnere, incru τος, της πόλεως δ' ού κεκράτηκεν.

entus devicit."

[ocr errors]

idle and indolent men received some mere reports duce a completely different method, order, and
of experience, traditions, as it were, of dreams, as progress of continuing and promoting experience
establishing or confirming their philosophy; and For vague and arbitrary experience is (as we
have not hesitated to allow them the weight of have observed) mere groping in the dark, and
legitimate evidence. So that a system has been rather astonishes than instructs. But when ex-
porsued in philosophy with regard to experience, perience shall proceed regularly and uninterrupt-
resembling that of a kingdom or state which edly by a determined rule, we may entertain
would direct its councils and affairs according to better hopes of the sciences.
the gossip of city and street politicians, instead 101. But after having collected and prepared
of the letters and reports of ambassadors and mes- an abundance and store of natural history, and
sengers worthy of credit. Nothing is rightly of the experience required for the operations of
inquired into, or verified, noted, weighed, or mea- the understanding, or philosophy ; still the un
sured, in natural history. Indefinite and vague derstanding is as capable of acting on such ma-
observation produces fallacious and uncertain in- terials of itself with the aid of memory alone,
formation. If this appear strange or our com- as any person would be of retaining and achiev-
plaint somewhat too unjust, (because Aristotle ing by memory the computation of an almanac.
himself, so distinguished a man, and supported by Yet meditation has hitherto done more for disco-
the wealth of so great a king, has completed an very than writing, and no experiments have been
accurate history of animals, to which others with committed to paper. We cannot, however, ap-
greater diligence but less noise have made con- prove of any mode of discovery without writing,
siderable additions, and others again have com- and when that comes into more general use we
posed copious histories and notices of plants, I may have further hopes.
metals, and fossils,) it will arise from a want of 102. Besides this, there is such a multitude and
sufficiently attending to and comprehending our host as it were of particular objects, and lying so
present observations. For a natural history com- widely dispersed, as to distract and confuse the
piled on its own account, and one collected for understanding; and we can therefore hope for no
the mind's information as a foundation for philoso- advantage from its skirmishing, and quick move-
phy, are two different things. They differ in ments and incursions, unless we put its forces in
several respects, but principally in this; the due order and array by means of proper, and well
former contains only the varieties of natural spe- arranged, and as it were living tables of discove-
cies without the experiments of mechanical arts. ry of these matters which are the subject of in-
For as in ordinary life every person's disposition, vestigation, and the mind then apply itself to the
and the concealed feelings of the mind and ready prepared and digested aid which such ta-
passions are most drawn out when they are dis- bles afford.
turbed ; so the secrets of nature betray themselves 103. When we have thus properly and regu.
more readily when tormented by art, than when larly placed before the eyes a collection of parti-
left to their own course.

We must begin, there- culars, we must not immediately proceed to the fore, to entertain hopes of natural philosophy then investigation and discovery of new particulars or only, when we have a better compilation of natural effects, or, at least, if we do so, must not rest sahistory, its real basis and support.]

tisfied therewith. For, though we do not deny 99. Again, even in the abundancě of mechanical that by transferring the experiments from one art experiments there is a very great scarcity of those to another, (when all the experiments of each have which best inform and assist the understanding. been collected and arranged, and have been acFor the mechanic, little solicitous about the in- quired by the knowledge and subjected to the vestigation of truth, neither directs his attention judgment of a single individual,) many new exnor applies his hand to any thing that is not of periments may be discovered, tending to benefit service to his business. But our hope of further society and mankind, by what we term literate progress in the sciences will then only be well experience; yet comparatively insignificant results founded, when numerous experiments shall be are to be expected thence, whilst the more imreceived and collected into natural history, which, portant are to be derived from the new light of though of no use in themselves, assist materially axioms, deduced by certain method and rule from in the discovery of causes and axioms: which the above particulars, and pointing out and deexperiments we have termed enlightening, to fining new particulars in their turn.

Our road is distinguish them from those which are profitable

. not along a plain, but rises and falls, ascending They possess this wonderful property and nature, to axioms and descending to effects. that they never deceive or fail you, for, being used 104. Nor can we suffer the understanding to only to discover the natural cause of some object, jump and fly from particulars to remote and most whatever be the result, they equally satisfy your general axioms, (such as are termed the princiaim by deciding the question.

ples of arts and things,) and thus prove and maku 100. We must not only search for and procure out their intermediate axioms according to the a greater number of experiments, but also intro- supposed unshaken truth of the former. This,

[ocr errors]

however, has always been done to the present careless grasp catch at shadows and abstract
time from the natural bent of the understanding, forms, instead of substances of a determinate
educated, too, and accustomed to this very method nature; and as soon as we act thus, well author-
by the syllogistic mode of demonstration. But ized hopes may with reason be said to beam
we can then only augur well for the sciences, upon us.
when the ascent shall proceed by a true scale and 107. Here, too, we may again repeat what we
successive steps, without interruption or breach, have said above, concerning the extending of
from particulars to the lesser axioms, thence to natural philosophy, and reducing particular sci-
the intermediate, (rising one above the other,) and ences to that one, so as to prevent any schism or
lastly to the most general. For the lowest axi- dismembering of the sciences; without which we
oms differ but little from bare experiment, the cannot hope to advance.
highest and most general (as they are esteemed 108. Such are the observations we would make,
at present) are notional, abstract, and of no real in order to remove despair and excite hope, by
weight. The intermediate are true, solid, full of bidding farewell to the errors of past ages, or by
life, and upon them depend the business and for their correction. Let us examine whether there
tune of mankind; beyond these are the really ge- be other grounds for hope. And, first, if many
neral, but not abstract, axioms, which are truly useful discoveries have occurred to mankind by
limited by the intermediate.

chance or opportunity, without investigation or We must not then add wings, but rather lead attention on their part, it must necessarily be and ballast to the understanding, to prevent its acknowledged that much more may be brought to jumping or flying, which has not yet been done ; light by investigation and attention, if it be regu. but whenever this takes place we may entertain lar and orderly, not hasty and interrupted. For, greater hopes of the sciences.

although it may now and then happen that one 105. In forming axioms, we must invent a dif- falls by chance upon something that had before ferent form of induction from that hitherto in use; escaped considerable efforts and laborious innot only for the proof and discovery of principles, quiries, yet, undoubtedly, the reverse is generally (as they are called,) but also of minor intermedi- the case. We may, therefore, hope for further, ate, and in short every kind of axioms. The in-better, and more frequent results from man's readuction which proceeds by simple enumeration is son, industry, method, and application, than from puerile, leads to uncertain conclusions, and is ex- chance and mere animal instinct, and the likey posed to danger from one contradictory instance, which have hitherto been the sources of invention. deciding generally from too small a number of 109. We may also derive some reason for hope, facts, and those only the most obvious. But a from the circumstance of several actual inventions really useful induction for the discovery and de- being of such a nature, that scarcely any one monstration of the arts and sciences should sepa- could have formed a conjecture about them, prerate nature by proper rejections and exclusions, viously to their discovery, but would rather have and then conclude for the affirmative, after collect- ridiculed them as impossible. For men are wont ing a sufficient number of negatives. Now, this to guess about new subjects, from those they are has not been done, or even attempted, except per- already acquainted with, and the hasty and haps by Plato, who certainly uses this form of vitiated fancies they have thence formed : than induction in some measure, to sift definitions and which there cannot be a more fallacious mode of ideas. But much of what has never yet entered reasoning, because much of that which is derived the thoughts of man, must necessarily be em- from the sources of things, does not flow in their ployed in order to exhibit a good and legitimate usual channel. If, for instance, before the dismode of induction, or demonstration; so as even covery of cannon, one had described its effects in to render it essential for us to bestow more pains the following manner : “ There is a new invenupon it than have hitherto been bestowed on tion, by which walls and the greatest bulwarks syllogisms. The assistance of induction is to be shaken and overthrown from a considerable serve us not only in the discovery of axioms, but distance," men would have begun to contrive vaalso in defining our notions. Much indeed is to rious means of multiplying the force of projectiles be hoped from such an induction as has been de- and machines, by means of weights and wheels

, scribed.

and other modes of battering and projecting. But 106. In forming our axioms from induction, we it is improbable that any imagination or fancy inust examine and try, whether the axiom we de would have hit upon a fiery blast expanding and live, be only fitted and calculated for the particu- developing itself so suddenly and violently

, be. lar instances from which it is deduced, or whether cause none would have seen an instance at all il be more extensive and general. If it be the resembling it, except perhaps in earthquakes or latter, we must observe, whether it confirm its thunder, which they would have immediately reown extent and generality, by giving surety, as it jected as the great operations of nature, not to be were, in pointing out new particulars, so that we imitated by man. may neither stop at actual discoveries, nor with a

So if, before the discovery of silk thread, any one had observed, “ that a species of thread had affords one copy; and again, from want of ob been discovered, fit for dresses and furniture, far serving that ink might be thickened so as to stain surpassing the thread of worsted or flax in fine without running, (which was necessary, seeing ness, and at the same time in tenacity, beauty, the letters face upwards, and the impression is and softness," men would have begun to imagine made from above,) this most beautiful invention something about Chinese plants, or the fine hair (which assists so materially the propagation of of some animals, or the feathers or down of birds, learning) remained unknown for so many ages. but certainly would never have had an idea of its The human mind is often so awkward and ill being spun by a small worm, in so copious a regulated in the career of invention, that it is at manner, and renewed annually. But if any one first diffident, and then despises itself. For it had ventured to suggest the silk worm, he would appears at first incredible that any such discovery have been laughed at, as if dreaming of some new should be made, and when it has been made, it manufacture from spiders.

appears incredible that it should so long have So, again, if before the discovery of the com- escaped men's research. All which affords good pass, any one had said, " that an instrument had reason for the hope that a vast mass of ini entions been invented, by which the quarters and points yet remains, which may be deduced not only from of the heavens could be exactly taken and distin- the investigation of new modes of operation, but guished," men would have entered into disquisi- also from transferring, comparing, and applying tions on the refinement of astronomical instru- these already known, by the method of what we ments, and the like, from the excitement of their have termed literate experience. imaginations; but the thought of any thing being 111. Nor should we omit another ground of discovered, which not being a celestial body, but hope. Let men only consider (if they will) their a mere mineral or metallic substance, should yet infinite expenditure of talent, time, and fortune, in its motion agree with that of such bodies, in matters and studies of far inferior importance would have appeared absolutely incredible. Yet and value : a small portion of which applied to were these facts, and the like (unknown for so sound and solid learning would be ficient to many ages) not discovered at last, either by overcome every difficulty. And we have thought philosophy or reasoning, but by chance and op- right to add this observation, because we candidly portunity; and (as we have observed) they are own that such a collection of natural and experiof a nature most heterogeneous, and remote from mental history as we have traced in our own mind, what was hitherto known, so that no previous and as is really necessary, is a great, and, as it knowledge could lead to them.

were, royal work, requiring much labour and We* may, therefore, well hope that many ex- | expense. cellent and useful matters are yet treasured up in 112. In the mean time, let no one be alarmed the bosom of nature, bearing no relation or ana- at the multitude of particulars, but rather inclined logy to our actual discoveries, but out of the to hope on that very account. For the particular common track of our imagination, and still un- phenomena of the arts and nature are in reality discovered ; and which will doubtless be brought but as a handful, when compared with the flutions to light in the course and lapse of years, as the of the imagination, removed and separated from others have been before them; but in the way we the evidence of facts. The termination of our now point out, they may rapidly and at once be method is clear, and I had almost said, near at both represented and anticipated.

hand; the other admits of no termination, but only 110. There are moreover some inventions which of infinite confusion. For men have hitherio render it probable that men may pass and hurry dwelt but little, or rather only slightly touched over the most noble discoveries which lie imme- upon experience, whilst they have wasted much diately before them. For, however the discovery time on theories and the fictions of the imaginaof gunpowder, silk, the compass, sugar, paper, or tion. If we had but any one who could actually the like, may appear to depend on peculiar pro- answer our interrogations of nature, the invention perties of things and nature, printing at least in- of all causes and sciences would be the labour of volves no contrivance which is not clear and but a few years. almost obvious. But from want of observing 113. We think some ground of hope is afforded that although the arrangement of the types of let- by our own example, which is not mentioned for ters required more trouble than writing with the the sake of boasting, but as a useful remark. Let hand, yet these types once arranged serve for those who distrust their own powers observe myinnumerable impressions, whilst manuscript only self, one who have amongst my contemporaries

been the most engaged in public business, who * This hope has been abundantly realized in the discovery am not very strong in health, (which causes of gravity, and the decomposition of light, strictly by the in- great loss of time,) and am the first explorer of this ductive method. To a better philosophy, we may also auri- course, following the guidance of none, nor even bute the discovery of electricity, galvanism, and their mutnal connexion with each other, and magnetism, the inven

mmunicating my thoughts to a single indivi tions of the air pump, steam engine, chronometer, &c.

dual; yet having once firmly entered in the right

[ocr errors][merged small]


way, and submitting the powers of my mind to opinions of what we offer, although this be only things, I have somewhat advanced (as I make necessary for the moment, and, as it were, laid bold to think) the matter I now treat of. Then out at interest, until the matter itself be well unlet others consider what may be hoped from men derstood. who enjoy abundant leisure, from united labours, 116. First, then, we must desire men not to and the succession of ages, after these sugges- suppose that we are ambitious of founding any tions on our part, especially in a course which is philosophical sect, like the ancient Greeks, or not confined, like theories, to individuals, but some moderns, as Telesius,* Patricius,f and admits of the best distribution and union of labour Severinus. For, neither is this our intention, and effect, particularly in collecting experiments. nor do we think that peculiar abstract opinions For men will then only begin to know their own on nature and the principles of things, are of power, when each performs a separate part, instead much importance to men's fortunes; since it were of undertaking in crowds the same work. easy to revive many ancient theories, and to in

114. Lastly, though a much more faint and troduce many new ones; as, for instance, many uncertain breeze of hope were to spring up from hypotheses with regard to the heavens can be formour new continent, yet we consider it necessary ed, differing in themselves, and yet suficiently to make the experiment, if we would not show a according with the phenomena. dastard spirit. For the risk attending want of We bestow not our labour on such theoretical success is not to be compared with that of neglect- and, at the same time, useless topics. On the ing the attempt; the former is attended with the contrary, our determination is that of trying, loss of a little human labour, the latter with that whether we can lay a firmer foundation, and exof an immense benefit. For these and other rea- tend to a greater distance the boundaries of human sons, it appears to us that there is abundant ground power and dignity. And although, here and to hope, and to induce not only those who are there, upon some particular points, we hold (in sanguine to make experiment, but even those who our own opinion) more true and certain, and I are cautious and sober to give their assent. might even say, more advantageous tenets, than

115. Such are the grounds for banishing de- those in general repute, (which we have collected spair, hitherto one of the most powerful causes of in the fifth part of our Instauration,) yet we offer the delay and restraint to which the sciences have no universal or complete theory. The time does been subjected ; in treating of which, we have at not yet appear to us to be arrived, and we enterthe same time discussed the signs and causes of tain no hope of our life being prolonged to the the errors, idleness, and ignorance, that have pre- completion of the sixth part of the Instauration, vailed: sering especially that the more refined (which is destined for philosophy discovered by causes, which are not open to popular judgment the interpretation of nature,) but are content if and observation, may be referred to our remarks we proceed quietly and usefully in our intermeon the idols of the human mind. Here, too, we diate pursuit, scattering, in the mean time, the should close the demolishing branch of our Instau- seeds of less adulterated truth for posterity, and, ration, which is comprised in three confutations. at least, commence the great work. 1. The confutation of natural human reason left 117. And, as we pretend not to found a sect, to itself. 2. The confutation of demonstration. so do we neither offer nor promise particular 3. The confutation of theories, or received sys- effects: which may occasion some to object to us, tems of philosophy and doctrines. Our confuta- that since we so often speak of effects, and contion has followed such a course as was open to it, sider every thing in its relation to that end, we namely, the exposing of the signs of error, and ought also to give some earnest of producing the producing evidence of the causes of it: for we them. Our course and method, however, as we could adopt no other, differing, as we do, both in have often said, and again repeat, is such as not first principles and demonstrations from others. to deduce effects from effects, nor experiments

It is time for us, therefore, to come to the art from experiments, (as the empirics do,) but in itself, and the rule for the interpretation of nature: our capacity of legitimate interpreters of nature, there is, however, still something which must not to deduce causes and axioms from effects and be passed over. For the intent of this first book of aphorisms being to prepare the mind for under

• Bernardino Telesio, a Neapolitan. He studied at Padua, standing as well as admitting what follows, we and published his “ De Rerum natura juxta propria princimust now, after having cleansed, polished, and pia” in 1565, in opposition to Aristotle. He applied mathelevelled its surface, place it in a good position, Parmenides.

matics to physics, and held some notions similar to those of and, as it were, a benevolent aspect towards our

† Francesco Patrizio, born in Cherso, on the coast of Dalpropositions; ceeing that prejudice in new matters matia, in 1529. He studied at Padua, and was afterwards may be produced not only by the

strength of pre- 1597. He impugned Aristotle's philosophy in his Nova de conceived notions, but also by a false anticipation Universis Philosophia. or expectation of the matter proposed. We shall, † Marco Aurelio Severini, a learned physician of Naples; therefore, endeavour to induce good and correct several other works. He was born in 1580

who published an attack on Aristotle's Natural History, and

« PreviousContinue »