« AnteriorContinuar »
conformation, and the changes of that conformation, its own action, and the law of this action or motion, for forms are a mere fiction of the human mind, unless you will call the laws of action by that name. Such are the idols of the tribe, which arise either from the uniformity of the constitution of man's spirit, or its prejudices, or its limited faculties, or restless agitation, or from the interference of the passions, or the incompetency of the senses, or the mode of their impressions.
53. The idols of the den derive their origin from the peculiar nature of each individual's mind and body; and also from education, habit, and accident. And although they be various and manifold, yet we will treat of some that require the greatest caution, and exert the greatest power in polluting the understanding.
54. Some men become attached to particular sciences and contemplations, either from supposing themselves the authors and inventors of them, or from having bestowed the greatest pains upon such subjects, and thus become most habituated to them. If men of this description apply themselves to philosophy and contemplations of an universal nature, they wrest and corrupt them by their preconceived fancies; of which Aristotle affords us a signal instance, who made his natural philosophy completely subservient to his logic, and thus rendered it little more than useless and disputatious. The chymists, again, have formed a fanciful philosophy with the most confined views, from a few experiments of the furnace. Gilbert, too, having employed himself most assiduously in the consideration of the magnet, immediately established a system of philosophy to coincide with his favourite pursuit.
55. The greatest, and, perhaps, radical distinction between different men's dispositions for philosophy and the sciences is this; that some are more vigorous and active in observing the differences of things, others in observing their resemblances. For a steady and acute disposition can fix its thoughts, and dwell upon, and adhere to a point, through all the refinements of differences; but those that are sublime and discursive recognise and compare even the most delicate and general resemblances. Each of them readily falls into excess, by catching either at nice distinctions or shadows of resemblance.
56. Some dispositions evince an unbounded admiration of antiquity, others eagerly embrace novelty; and but few can preserve the just medium, so as neither to tear up what the ancients have correctly laid down, nor to despise the just innovations of the moderns. But this is very prejudicial to the sciences and philosophy, and, instead of a correct judgment, we have but the factions of the ancients and moderns. Truth is not to be sought in the good fortune of any parti
Hence to Aphorism 59, treats of the idols of the den.
cular conjuncture of time, which is uncertain, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal. Such factions, therefore, are to be abjured, and the understanding must not allow them to hurry it on to assent.
57. The contemplation of nature and of bodies in their individual form distracts and weakens the understanding: but the contemplation of nature and of bodies in their general composition and formation stupifies and relaxes it. We have a good instance of this in the school of Leucippus and Democritus compared with others: for they applied themselves so much to particulars as almost to neglect the general structure of things, whilst the others were so astounded whilst gazing on the structure, that they did not penetrate the simplicity of nature. These two species of contemplation must therefore be interchanged, and each employed in its turn, in order to render the understanding at once penetrating and capacious, and to avoid the inconveniences we have mentioned, and the idols that result from them.
58. Let such, therefore, be our precautions in contemplation, that we may ward off and expel the idols of the den: which mostly owe their birth either to some predominant pursuit; or, secondly, to an excess in synthesis and analysis; or, thirdly, to a party zeal in favour of certain ages; or, fourthly, to the extent or narrowness of the subject. In general, he who contemplates nature should suspect whatever particularly takes and fixes his understanding, and should use so much the more caution to preserve it equable and unprejudiced.
59. The idols of the market are the most troublesome of all, those, namely, which have entwined themselves round the understanding from the associations of words and names. For men imagine that their reason governs words, whilst, in fact, words react upon the understanding; and this has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive. Words are generally formed in a popular sense, and define things by those broad lines which are most obvious to the vulgar mind; but when a more acute understanding, or more diligent observation is anxious to vary those lines, and to adapt them more accurately to nature, words oppose it. Hence the great and solemn disputes of learned men often terminate in controversies about words and names, in regard to which it would be better (imitating the caution of mathematicians) to proceed more advisedly in the first instance, and to bring such disputes to a regular issue by definitions. Such definitions, however, cannot remedy the evil in natural and material objects, because they consist themselves of words, and these words produce others; so that we must necessarily have recourse to particular instances, and their regular
Hence to Aphorism 61, treats of the idols of the market.
series and arrangement, as we shall mention when | depraved rules of demonstration. To attempt, we come to the mode and scheme of determining however, or undertake their confutation, would notions and axioms. not be consistent with our declarations. For, since we neither agree in our principles nor our demonstrations, all argument is out of the question. And it is fortunate that the ancients are left in possession of their honours. We detract nothing from them, seeing our whole doctrine relates only to the path to be pursued. The lame (as they say) in the path outstrip the swift, who wander from it, and it is clear that the very skill and swiftness of him who runs not in the
60. The idols imposed upon the understanding by words are of two kinds. They are either the names of things which have no existence, (for, as some objects are from inattention left without a name, so names are formed by fanciful imaginations which are without an object,) or they are the names of actual objects, but confused, badly defined, and hastily and irregularly abstracted from things. Fortune, the primum mobile, the planetary orbits, the element of fire, and the like fic-right direction, must increase his aberration. tions, which owe their birth to futile and false Our method of discovering the sciences is such theories, are instances of the first kind. And this as to leave little to the acuteness and strength of species of idols is removed with greater facility, wit, and indeed rather to level wit and intellect. because it can be exterminated by the constant For, as in the drawing of a straight line or accurefutation or the desuetude of the theories them-rate circle by the hand, much depends upon its selves. The others, which are created by vicious steadiness and practice, but if a ruler or compass and unskilful abstraction, are intricate and deeply rooted. Take some word for instance, as moist; and let us examine how far the different significations of this word are consistent. It will be found that the word moist is nothing but a confused sign of different actions, admitting of no settled and defined uniformity. For it means that which easily diffuses itself over another body; that which is indeterminable and cannot be brought to a consistency; that which yields easily in every direction; that which is easily divided and dispersed; that which is easily united and collected; that which easily flows and is put in motion; that which easily adheres to and wets another body; that which is easily reduced to a liquid state, though previously solid. When, therefore, you come to predicate or impose this name, in one sense flame is moist, in another air is not moist, in another fine powder is moist, in another glass is moist; so that it is quite clear that this notion is hastily abstracted from water only, and common, ordinary liquors, without any due verification of it.
be employed there is little occasion for either; so it is with our method. Although, however, we enter into no individual confutations, yet a little must be said, first, of the sects and general divisions of these species of theories; secondly, something further to show that there are external signs of their weakness, and, lastly, we must consider the causes of so great a misfortune, and so long and general a unanimity in error, that we may thus render the access to truth less difficult, and that the human understanding may the more readily be purified, and brought to dismiss its idols.
62. The idols of the theatre or of theories are numerous, and may and perhaps will be still more so. For, unless men's minds had been now occupied for many ages in religious and theological considerations, and civil governments (especially monarchies) had been averse to novelties of that nature, even in theory, (so that men must apply to them with some risk and injury to their own fortunes, and not only without reward, but subject to contumely and envy,) there is no doubt that many other sects of philosophers and theorists would have been introduced, like those which formerly flourished in such diversified abundance amongst the Greeks. For, as many imaginary theories of the heavens can be deduced from the phenomena of the sky, so it is even more easy to found many dogmas upon the phe
There are, however, different degrees of distortion and mistake in words. One of the least faulty classes is that of the names of substances, particularly of the less abstract and more defined | species; (those then of chalk and mud are good, of earth, bad;) words signifying actions are more faulty, as to generate, to corrupt, to change; but the most faulty are those denoting qualities, (ex-nomena of philosophy; and the plot of this our cept the immediate objects of sense,) as heavy, light, rare, dense. Yet in all of these there must be some notions a little better than others, in proportion as a greater or less number of things come before the senses.
61. The idols of the theatre* are not innate, nor do they introduce themselves secretly into the understanding; but they are manifestly instilled and cherished by the fictions of theories and
theatre resembles those of the poetical, where the plots which are invented for the stage are more consistent, elegant, and pleasurable than those taken from real history.
In general, men take for the groundwork of their philosophy either too much from a few topics, or too little from many; in either case their philosophy is founded on too narrow a basis of experiment and natural history, and decides on too scanty grounds. For the theoretic philosopher * Hence to Aphorism 68, treats of the idols of the theatre. seizes various common circumstances by experi
ment, without reducing them to certainty, or examining and frequently considering them, and relies for the rest upon meditation and the activity of his wit.
There are other philosophers who have diligently and accurately attended to a few experiments, and have thence presumed to deduce and invent systems of philosophy, forming every thing to conformity with them.
A third set, from their faith and religious veneration, introduce theology and traditions; the absurdity of some amongst them having proceeded so far as to seek and derive the sciences from spirits and genii. There are, therefore, three sources of error and three species of false philosophy; the sophistic, empiric, and superstitious.
63. Aristotle affords the most eminent instance of the first; for he corrupted natural philosophy by logic: thus, he formed the world of categories, assigned to the human soul, the noblest of substances, a genus determined by words of secondary operation, treated of density and rarity (by which bodies occupy a greater or lesser space) by the frigid distinctions of action and power, asserted that there was a peculiar and proper motion in all bodies, and that if they shared in any other motion, it was owing to an external moving cause, and imposed innumerable arbitrary distinctions upon the nature of things; being everywhere more anxious as to definitions in teaching, and the accuracy of the wording of his propositions, than the internal truth of things. And this is best shown by a comparison of his philosophy with the others of greatest repute among the Greeks. For the similar parts of Anaxagoras, the atoms of Leucippus and Democritus, the heaven and earth of Parmenides, the discord and concord of Empedocles, the resolution of bodies into the common nature of fire, and their condensation, according to Heraclitus, exhibit some sprinkling of natural philosophy, the nature of things, and experiment, whilst Aristotle's physics are mere logical terms, and he remodelled the same subject in his metaphysics under a more imposing title, and more as a realist than a nominalist. Nor is much stress to be laid on his frequent recourse to experiment in his books on animals, his problems, and other treatises; for he had already decided, without having properly consulted experience as the basis of his decisions and axioms, and after having so decided, he drags experiment along, as a captive constrained to accommodate herself to his decisions; so that he is even more to be blamed than his modern followers, (of the scholastic school,) who have deserted her altogether.
poor and superficial, is yet in a manner universal and of a general tendency,) but in the confined obscurity of a few experiments. Hence this species of philosophy appears probable and almost certain to those who are daily practised in such experiments, and have thus corrupted: their imagination, but incredible and futile to others. We have a strong instance of this in the alchymists and their dogmas; it would be difficult to find another in this age, unless, perhaps, in the philosophy of Gilbert.* We could not, however, neglect to caution others against this school, because we already foresee and augur, that if men be hereafter induced by our exhortations to apply seriously to experiments, (bidding farewell to the sophistic doctrines,) there will then be imminent danger from empirics, owing to the premature and forward haste of the understanding, and its jumping or flying to generalities and the principles of things. We ought, therefore, already to meet the evil.
65. The corruption of philosophy by the mixing of it up with superstition and theology is of a much wider extent, and is most injurious to it, both as a whole and in parts. For the human understanding is no less exposed to the impressions of fancy, than to those of vulgar notions. The disputatious and sophistic school entraps the understanding, whilst the fanciful, bombastic, and, as it were, poetical school rather flatters it. There is a clear example of this among the Greeks, especially in Pythagoras, where, however, the superstition is coarse and overcharged, but it is more dangerous and refined in Plato and his school. This evil is found also in some branches of other systems of philosophy, where it introduces abstracted forms, final and first causes, omitting frequently the intermediate, and the like. Against it we must use the greatest caution; for the apotheosis of error is the greatest evil of all, and when folly is worshipped, it is, as it were, a plague-spot upon the understanding. Yet, some of the moderns have indulged this folly, with such consummate inconsiderateness, that they have endeavoured to build a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis, the book of Job, and other parts of Scripture; seeking thus the dead amongst the living. And this folly is the more to be prevented and restrained, because not only fantastical philosophy but heretical religion spring from the absurd mixture of matters divine and human. It is, therefore, most wise soberly to render unto faith the things that are faith's.
66. Having spoken of the vicious authority of the systems founded either on vulgar notions, or on a few experiments, or on superstition, we must now consider the faulty subjects for contemplation, especially in natural philosophy.
64. The empiric school produces dogmas of a
It is thus the Vulcanists and Neptunians have framed their opposite theories in geology. Phrenology is a modern instance
the affections of bodies, nor the process of their parts, but merely establish a division of that motion, which coarsely exhibits to the senses matter in its varied form. Even when they wish to point out something relative to the causes of motion, and to establish a division of them, they most absurdly introduce natural and violent motion, which is also a popular notion, since every violent motion is also in fact natural, that is to say, the external efficient puts nature in action in a different manner to that which she had previously employed.
human understanding is perverted by observing | ferent species of it; they merely suggest how far, the power of mechanical arts, in which bodies and not how or whence. For they exhibit neither are very materially changed by composition or separation, and is induced to suppose that something similar takes place in the universal nature of things. Hence the fiction of elements, and their co-operation in forming natural bodies. Again, when man reflects upon the entire liberty of nature, he meets with particular species of things, as animals, plants, minerals, and is thence easily led to imagine that there exist in nature certain primary forms which she strives to produce, and that all variation from them arises from some impediment or error which she is exposed to in completing her work, or from the collision or metamorphosis of different species. The first hypothesis has produced the doctrine of elementary properties, the second that of occult properties and specific powers: and both lead to trifling courses of reflection, in which the mind acquiesces, and is thus diverted from more important subjects. But physicians exercise a much more useful labour in the consideration of the secondary qualities of things, and the operations of attraction, repulsion, attenuation, inspissation, dilatation, astringency, separation, maturation, and the like; and would do still more if they would not corrupt these proper observations by the two systems I have alluded to, of elementary qualities and specific powers, by which they either reduce the secondary to first qualities, and their subtile and immeasurable composition, or at any rate neg-systems and contemplations bestow their labour lect to advance by greater and more diligent observation to the third and fourth qualities, thus terminating their contemplation prematurely. Nor are these powers (or the like) to be investigated only among the medicines of the human body, but also in all changes of other natural bodies.
But if, neglecting these, any one were for instance to observe, that there is in bodies a tendency of adhesion, so as not to suffer the unity of nature to be completely separated or broken, and a vacuum to be formed; or that they have a tendency to return to their natural dimensions or tension, so that, if compressed or extended within or beyond it, they immediately strive to recover themselves, and resume their former volume and extent; or that they have a tendency to congregate into masses with similar bodies, the dense, for instance, towards the circumference of the earth, the thin and rare towards that of the heavens, these and the like are true physical genera of motions, but the others are clearly logical and scholastic, as appears plainly from a comparison of the two. Another considerable evil is, that men in their
upon the investigation and discussion of the principles of things and the extreme limits of nature, although all utility and means of action consist in the intermediate objects. Hence men cease not to abstract nature till they arrive at potential and shapeless matter, and still persist in their dissection, till they arrive at atoms; and yet, were all this true, it would be of little use to advance man's
67. The understanding must also be cautioned against the intemperance of systems, so far as regards its giving or withholding its assent; for such intemperance appears to fix and perpetuate idols, so as to leave no means of removing them.
A greater evil arises from the contemplation and investigation rather of the stationary princi-estate. ples of things, from which, than of the active, by which things themselves are created. For the former only serve for discussion, the latter for practice. Nor is any value to be set on those common differences of motion which are observed in the received system of natural philosophy, as These excesses are of two kinds. The first is generation, corruption, augmentation, diminution, seen in those who decide hastily, and render the alteration, and translation. For this is their sciences positive and dictatorial. The other in meaning: if a body, unchanged in other respects, those who have introduced skepticism, and vague, is moved from its place, this is translation; if the unbounded inquiry. The former subdues, the place and species be given, but the quantity latter enervates the understanding. The Aristochanged, it is alteration; but if, from such a telian philosophy, after destroying other systems change, the mass and quantity of the body do not (as the Ottomans do their brethren) by its dispucontinue the same, this is the motion of augmentations, confutations, decided upon every thing, tation and diminution; if the change be continued and Aristotle himself then raises up questions at so as to vary the species and substance, and trans- will, in order to settle them; so that every thing fuse them to others, this is generation and corrup- should be certain and decided, a method now in tion. All this is merely popular, and by no use among his successors. means penetrates into nature; and these are but the measures and bounds of motion, and not dif
The school of Plato introduced skepticism, first, as it were, in joke and irony, from their dislike
to Protagoras, Hippias, and others, who were ashamed of appearing not to doubt upon any subject. But the new academy dogmatized in their skepticism, and held it as their tenet. Although this method be more honest than arbitrary decision, (for its followers allege that they by no means confound all inquiry, like Pyrrho and his disciples, but hold doctrines which they can follow as probable, though they cannot maintain them to be true,) yet, when the human mind has once despaired of discovering truth, every thing begins to languish. Hence men turn aside into pleasant controversies and discussions, and into a sort of wandering over subjects, rather than sustain any rigorous investigation. But, as we observed at first, we are not to deny the authority of the human senses and understanding, although weak; but rather to furnish them with assistance. 68. We have now treated of each kind of idols, and their qualities; all of which must be abjured and renounced with firm and solemn resolution, and the understanding must be completely freed and cleared of them; so that the access to the kingdom of man, which is founded on the sciences, may resemble that to the kingdom of heaven, where no admission is conceded except to children.
69. Vicious demonstrations are the muniments and support of idols, and those which we possess in logic, merely subject and enslave the world to human thoughts, and thoughts to words. But demonstrations are, in some manner, themselves systems of philosophy and science. For such as they are, and accordingly as they are regularly or improperly established, such will be the resulting systems of philosophy and contemplation. But those which we employ in the whole process leading from the senses and things to axioms and conclusions, are fallacious and incompetent. This process is fourfold, and the errors are in equal number. In the first place the impressions of the senses are erroneous, for they fail and deceive us. We must supply defects by substitutions, and fallacies by their correction. 2dly. Notions are improperly abstracted from the senses, and indeterminate and confused when they ought to be the reverse. 3dly. The induction that is employed is improper, for it determines the principles of sciences by simple enumeration, without adopting the exclusions, and resolutions, or just separations of nature. Lastly, the usual method of discovery and proof, by first establishing the most general propositions, then applying and proving the intermediate axioms according to them, is the parent of error and the calamity of every science. But we will treat more fully of that which we now slightly touch upon, when we come to lay down the true way of interpreting nature, after having gone through the above expiatory process and purification of the mind.
70. But experience is by far the best demonVOL. III.-45
stration, provided it adhere to the experiment actually made; for if that experiment be transferred to other subjects apparently similar, unless with proper and methodical caution, it becomes fallacious. The present method of experiment is blind and stupid. Hence men wandering and roaming without any determined course, and consulting mere chance, are hurried about to various points, and advance but little; at one time they are happy, at another their attention is distracted, and they always find that they want something further. Men generally make their experiments carelessly, and as it were in sport, making some little variation in a known experiment, and then, if they fail, they become disgusted and give up the attempt: nay, if they set to work more seriously, steadily, and assiduously, yet they waste all their time on probing some solitary matter; as Gilbert on the magnet, and the alchymists on gold. But such conduct shows their method to be no less unskilful than mean. For nobody can successfully investigate the nature of any object by considering that object alone; the inquiry must be more generally extended.
Even when men build any science and theory upon experiment, yet they almost always turn with premature and hasty zeal to practice, not merely on account of the advantage and benefit to be derived from it, but in order to seize upon some security in a new undertaking of their not employing the remainder of their labour unprofitably; and by making themselves conspicuous, to acquire a greater name for their pursuit. Hence, like Atalanta, they leave the course to pick up the golden apple, interrupting their speed, and giving up the victory. But, in the true course of experiment, and in extending it to new effects, we should imitate the Divine foresight and order. For God, on the first day, only created light, and assigned a whole day to that work, without creating any material substance thereon. In like manner, we must first, by every kind of experiment, elicit the discovery of causes and true axioms, and seek for experiments which may afford light rather than profit. Axioms, when rightly investigated and established, prepare us not for a limited but abundant practice, and bring in their train whole troops of effects. But we will treat hereafter of the ways of experience, which are not less beset and interrupted than those of judgment; having spoken at present of common experience only as a bad species of demonstration, the order of our subject now requires some mention of those external signs of the weakness in practice of the received systems of philosophy and contemplation,* which we referred to above, and of the causes of a circumstance at first sight so wonderful and incredible. For the knowledge of these external signs prepares the *See Ax. 61, towards the end. This subject extends to