« AnteriorContinuar »
107. Here, too, we may again repeat what we have said above, concerning the extending of natural philosophy, and reducing particular sciences to that one, so as to prevent any schism or dismembering of the sciences; without which we cannot hope to advance.
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 authorby 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 successive steps, without interruption or breach, from particulars to the lesser axioms, thence to the intermediate, (rising one above the other,) and lastly to the most general. For the lowest axioms differ but little from bare experiment, the highest and most general (as they are esteemed at present) are notional, abstract, and of no real weight. The intermediate are true, solid, full of life, and upon them depend the business and fortune of mankind; beyond these are the really general, but not abstract, axioms, which are truly limited by the intermediate.
We must not then add wings, but rather lead and ballast to the understanding, to prevent its jumping or flying, which has not yet been done; but whenever this takes place we may entertain greater hopes of the sciences.
105. In forming axioms, we must invent a different form of induction from that hitherto in use; not only for the proof and discovery of principles, (as they are called,) but also of minor intermediate, and in short every kind of axioms. The induction which proceeds by simple enumeration is puerile, leads to uncertain conclusions, and is exposed to danger from one contradictory instance, deciding generally from too small a number of facts, and those only the most obvious. But a really useful induction for the discovery and demonstration of the arts and sciences should separate nature by proper rejections and exclusions, and then conclude for the affirmative, after collecting a sufficient number of negatives. Now, this has not been done, or even attempted, except perhaps by Plato, who certainly uses this form of induction in some measure, to sift definitions and ideas. But much of what has never yet entered the thoughts of man, must necessarily be employed in order to exhibit a good and legitimate mode of induction, or demonstration; so as even to render it essential for us to bestow more pains upon it than have hitherto been bestowed on syllogisms. The assistance of induction is to serve us not only in the discovery of axioms, but also in defining our notions. Much indeed is to be hoped from such an induction as has been described.
106. In forming our axioms from induction, we inust examine and try, whether the axiom we deive, be only fitted and calculated for the particular instances from which it is deduced, or whether it be more extensive and general. If it be the latter, we must observe, whether it confirm its own extent and generality, by giving surety, as it were, in pointing out new particulars, so that we may neither stop at actual discoveries, nor with a
108. Such are the observations we would make, in order to remove despair and excite hope, by bidding farewell to the errors of past ages, or by their correction. Let us examine whether there be other grounds for hope. And, first, if many useful discoveries have occurred to mankind by chance or opportunity, without investigation or attention on their part, it must necessarily be acknowledged that much more may be brought to light by investigation and attention, if it be regular and orderly, not hasty and interrupted. For, although it may now and then happen that one falls by chance upon something that had before escaped considerable efforts and laborious inquiries, yet, undoubtedly, the reverse is generally the case. We may, therefore, hope for further, better, and more frequent results from man's reason, industry, method, and application, than from chance and mere animal instinct, and the like, which have hitherto been the sources of invention.
109. We may also derive some reason for hope, from the circumstance of several actual inventions being of such a nature, that scarcely any one could have formed a conjecture about them, previously to their discovery, but would rather have ridiculed them as impossible. For men are wont to guess about new subjects, from those they are already acquainted with, and the hasty and vitiated fancies they have thence formed: than which there cannot be a more fallacious mode of reasoning, because much of that which is derived from the sources of things, does not flow in their usual channel. If, for instance, before the discovery of cannon, one had described its effects in the following manner: "There is a new invention, by which walls and the greatest bulwarks can be shaken and overthrown from a considerable distance," men would have begun to contrive various means of multiplying the force of projectiles and machines, by means of weights and wheels, and other modes of battering and projecting. But it is improbable that any imagination or fancy would have hit upon a fiery blast expanding and developing itself so suddenly and violently, because none would have seen an instance at all resembling it, except perhaps in earthquakes or thunder, which they would have immediately rejected as the great operations of nature, not to be imitated by man.
So if, before the discovery of silk thread, any
one had observed, "that a species of thread had been discovered, fit for dresses and furniture, far surpassing the thread of worsted or flax in fineness, and at the same time in tenacity, beauty, and softness," men would have begun to imagine something about Chinese plants, or the fine hair of some animals, or the feathers or down of birds, but certainly would never have had an idea of its being spun by a small worm, in so copious a manner, and renewed annually. But if any one had ventured to suggest the silk worm, he would have been laughed at, as if dreaming of some new manufacture from spiders.
affords one copy; and again, from want of ob serving that ink might be thickened so as to stain without running, (which was necessary, seeing the letters face upwards, and the impression is made from above,) this most beautiful invention (which assists so materially the propagation of learning) remained unknown for so many ages.
The human mind is often so awkward and ill regulated in the career of invention, that it is at first diffident, and then despises itself. For it appears at first incredible that any such discovery should be made, and when it has been made, it appears incredible that it should so long have escaped men's research. All which affords good reason for the hope that a vast mass of inventions yet remains, which may be deduced not only from the investigation of new modes of operation, but also from transferring, comparing, and applying these already known, by the method of what we have termed literate experience.
So, again, if before the discovery of the compass, any one had said, "that an instrument had been invented, by which the quarters and points of the heavens could be exactly taken and distinguished," men would have entered into disquisitions on the refinement of astronomical instruments, and the like, from the excitement of their imaginations; but the thought of any thing being discovered, which not being a celestial body, but a mere mineral or metallic substance, should yet in its motion agree with that of such bodies, would have appeared absolutely incredible. Yet were these facts, and the like (unknown for so many ages) not discovered at last, either by philosophy or reasoning, but by chance and op-right to add this observation, because we candidly portunity; and (as we have observed) they are of a nature most heterogeneous, and remote from what was hitherto known, so that no previous knowledge could lead to them.
We may, therefore, well hope that many excellent and useful matters are yet treasured up in the bosom of nature, bearing no relation or analogy to our actual discoveries, but out of the common track of our imagination, and still undiscovered; and which will doubtless be brought to light in the course and lapse of years, as the others have been before them; but in the way we now point out, they may rapidly and at once be both represented and anticipated.
110. There are moreover some inventions which render it probable that men may pass and hurry over the most noble discoveries which lie immediately before them. For, however the discovery of gunpowder, silk, the compass, sugar, paper, or the like, may appear to depend on peculiar properties of things and nature, printing at least involves no contrivance which is not clear and almost obvious. But from want of observing that although the arrangement of the types of letters required more trouble than writing with the hand, yet these types once arranged serve for innumerable impressions, whilst manuscript only
*This hope has been abundantly realized in the discovery of gravity, and the decomposition of light, strictly by the inductive method. To a better philosophy, we may also attribute the discovery of electricity, galvanism, and their mutual connexion with each other, and magnetism, the inventions of the air pump, steam engine, chronometer, &c.
111. Nor should we omit another ground of hope. Let men only consider (if they will) their infinite expenditure of talent, time, and fortune, in matters and studies of far inferior importance and value: a small portion of which applied to sound and solid learning would be sufficient to overcome every difficulty. And we have thought
own that such a collection of natural and experimental history as we have traced in our own mind, and as is really necessary, is a great, and, as it were, royal work, requiring much labour and expense.
112. In the mean time, let no one be alarmed at the multitude of particulars, but rather inclined to hope on that very account. For the particular phenomena of the arts and nature are in reality but as a handful, when compared with the fictions of the imagination, removed and separated from the evidence of facts. The termination of our method is clear, and I had almost said, near at hand; the other admits of no termination, but only of infinite confusion. For men have hitherto dwelt but little, or rather only slightly touched upon experience, whilst they have wasted much time on theories and the fictions of the imagination. If we had but any one who could actually answer our interrogations of nature, the invention of all causes and sciences would be the labour of but a few years.
113. We think some ground of hope is afforded by our own example, which is not mentioned for the sake of boasting, but as a useful remark. Let those who distrust their own powers observe myself, one who have amongst my contemporaries been the most engaged in public business, who am not very strong in health, (which causes a great loss of time,) and am the first explorer of this course, following the guidance of none, nor even communicating my thoughts to a single indivi dual; yet having once firmly entered in the right
way, and submitting the powers of my mind to things, I have somewhat advanced (as I make bold to think, the matter I now treat of. Then let others consider what may be hoped from men who enjoy abundant leisure, from united labours, and the succession of ages, after these suggestions on our part, especially in a course which is not confined, like theories, to individuals, but admits of the best distribution and union of labour and effect, particularly in collecting experiments. For men will then only begin to know their own power, when each performs a separate part, instead of undertaking in crowds the same work.
114. Lastly, though a much more faint and uncertain breeze of hope were to spring up from our new continent, yet we consider it necessary to make the experiment, if we would not show a dastard spirit. For the risk attending want of success is not to be compared with that of neglecting the attempt; the former is attended with the loss of a little human labour, the latter with that of an immense benefit. For these and other reasons, it appears to us that there is abundant ground to hope, and to induce not only those who are sanguine to make experiment, but even those who are cautious and sober to give their assent.
115. Such are the grounds for banishing despair, hitherto one of the most powerful causes of the delay and restraint to which the sciences have been subjected; in treating of which, we have at the same time discussed the signs and causes of the errors, idleness, and ignorance, that have prevailed seeing especially that the more refined causes, which are not open to popular judgment and observation, may be referred to our remarks on the idols of the human mind. Here, too, we should close the demolishing branch of our Instauiation, which is comprised in three confutations. 1. The confutation of natural human reason left to itself. 2. The confutation of demonstration. 3. The confutation of theories, or received systems of philosophy and doctrines. Our confutation has followed such a course as was open to it, namely, the exposing of the signs of error, and the producing evidence of the causes of it: for we could adopt no other, differing, as we do, both in first principles and demonstrations from others.
It is time for us, therefore, to come to the art itself, and the rule for the interpretation of nature: there is, however, still something which must not be passed over. For the intent of this first book of aphorisms being to prepare the mind for understanding as well as admitting what follows, we must now, after having cleansed, polished, and levelled its surface, place it in a good position, and, as it were, a benevolent aspect towards our propositions; seeing that prejudice in new matters may be produced not only by the strength of preconceived notions, but also by a false anticipation or expectation of the matter proposed. We shall, therefore, endeavour to induce good and correct
opinions of what we offer, although this be only necessary for the moment, and, as it were, laid out at interest, until the matter itself be well understood.
116. First, then, we must desire men not to suppose that we are ambitious of founding any philosophical sect, like the ancient Greeks, or some moderns, as Telesius,* Patricius, and Severinus.‡ For, neither is this our intention, nor do we think that peculiar abstract opinions on nature and the principles of things, are of much importance to men's fortunes; since it were easy to revive many ancient theories, and to introduce many new ones; as, for instance, many hypotheses with regard to the heavens can be formed, differing in themselves, and yet sufficiently according with the phenomena.
We bestow not our labour on such theoretical and, at the same time, useless topics. On the contrary, our determination is that of trying whether we can lay a firmer foundation, and extend to a greater distance the boundaries of human power and dignity. And although, here and there, upon some particular points, we hold (in our own opinion) more true and certain, and I might even say, more advantageous tenets, than those in general repute, (which we have collected in the fifth part of our Instauration,) yet we offer no universal or complete theory. The time does not yet appear to us to be arrived, and we entertain no hope of our life being prolonged to the completion of the sixth part of the Instauration, (which is destined for philosophy discovered by the interpretation of nature,) but are content if we proceed quietly and usefully in our intermediate pursuit, scattering, in the mean time, the seeds of less adulterated truth for posterity, and, at least, commence the great work.
117. And, as we pretend not to found a sect, so do we neither offer nor promise particular effects: which may occasion some to object to us, that since we so often speak of effects, and consider every thing in its relation to that end, we ought also to give some earnest of producing them. Our course and method, however, as we have often said, and again repeat, is such as not to deduce effects from effects, nor experiments from experiments, (as the empirics do,) but in our capacity of legitimate interpreters of nature, to deduce causes and axioms from effects and
* Bernardino Telesio, a Neapolitan. He studied at Padua, and published his "De Rerum natura juxta propria principia" in 1565, in opposition to Aristotle. He applied matheParmenides.
matics to physics, and held some notions similar to those of
Francesco Patrizio, born in Cherso, on the coast of Dalmatia, in 1529. He studied at Padua, and was afterwards professor of Platonic philosophy at Rome till his death in 1597. He impugned Aristotle's philosophy in his Nova de Universis Philosophia.
who published an attack on Aristotle's Natural History, and several other works. He was born in 1550.
Marco Aurelio Severini, a learned physician of Naples,
experiments; and new effects and from those causes and axioms.
experiments | contain much that is light and common, mean and illiberal, too refined and merely speculative. and, as it were, of no use, and this, perhaps, may divert and alienate the attention of mankind. With regard to what is common; let men reflect, that they have hitherto been used to do nothing but refer and adapt the causes of things of rare occurrence to those of things which more frequently happen, without any investigation of the causes of the latter, taking them for granted and admitted.
And, although any one of moderate intelligence and ability will observe the indications and sketches of many noble effects in our tables of inventions, (which form the fourth part of the Instauration,) and also in the examples of particular instances cited in the second part, as well as in our observations on history, (which is the subject of the third part; yet we candidly confess that our present natural history, whether compiled from books or our own inquiries, is not sufficiently copious and well ascertained to satisfy, or even assist, a proper interpretation.
If, therefore, there be any one who is more disposed and prepared for mechanical art, and ingenious in discovering effects, than in the mere management of experiment, we allow him to employ his industry in gathering many of the fruits of our history and tables in his way, and applying them to effects, receiving them as interest till he can obtain the principal. For our own part, having a greater object in view, we condemn all hasty and premature rest in such pursuits, as we would Atalanta's apple (to use a common allusion of ours;) for we are not childishly ambitious of golden fruit, but use all our efforts to make the course of art outstrip nature, and we hasten not to reap moss or the green blade, but wait for a ripe harvest.
Hence they do not inquire into the causes of gravity, the rotation of the heavenly bodies, heat, cold, light, hardness, softness, rarity, density, liquidity, solidity, animation, inanimation, similitude, difference, organic formation, but taking them to be self-evident, manifest, and admitted, they dispute and decide upon other matters of less frequent and familiar occurrence.
But we (who know that no judgment can be formed of that which is rare or remarkable, and much less any thing new brought to light, without a previous regular examination and discovery of the causes of that which is common, and the causes again of those causes) are necessarily compelled to admit the most common objects into our history. Besides, we have observed that nothing has been so injurious to philosophy as this circumstance, namely, that familiar and frequent objects do not arrest and detain men's contemplation, but are carelessly admitted, and their causes never inquired after; so that information on unknown subjects is not more often wanted than attention to those which are known.
120. With regard to the meanness or even the filthiness of particulars, for which (as Pliny observes) an apology is requisite, such subjects are no less worthy of admission into natural history than the most magnificent and costly: nor do they at all pollute natural history, for the sun enters alike the palace and the privy, and is not thereby polluted. We neither dedicate nor raise a capitol or pyramid to the pride of man, but rear a holy temple in his mind, on the model of the universe, which model therefore we imitate. For that which is deserving of existence is deserving of knowledge, the image of existence. Now, the mean and splendid alike exist. Nay, as the finest odours are sometimes produced from putrid matter, (such as musk and civet,) so does valuable light and information emanate from mean and sordid instances. But we have already said too much, for such fastidious feelings are childish and effeminate.
118. There will be some, without doubt, who, on a perusal of our history and tables of invention, will meet with some uncertainty, or perhaps fallacy, in the experiments themselves, and will thence, perhaps, imagine that our discoveries are built on false foundations and principles. There is, however, really nothing in this, since it must needs happen in beginnings. For it is the same as if in writing or printing one or two letters were wrongly turned or misplaced, which is no great inconvenience to the reader, who can easily by his own eye correct the error; let men in the same way conclude that many experiments in natural history may be erroneously believed and admitted, which are easily expunged and rejected afterwards by the discovery of causes and axioms. It is, however, true that if these errors in natural history and experiments become great, frequent, and continued, they cannot be corrected and amended by any dexterity of wit or art. If, then, even in our natural history, well examined and compiled with such diligence, strictness, and (I might say) reverential scruples,mere be now and then something false and erroneous in the details, what must we say of the common natural history, 121. The next point requires a more accurate which is so negligent and careless when compared consideration, namely, that many parts of our with ours? or of systems of philosophy and the history will appear to the vulgar, or even any sciences based on such loose soil, or rather quick- mind accustomed to the present state of things, sand? Let none then be alarmed by such observa- fantastically and uselessly refined. Hence we tions. have in regard to this matter said from the first, 119. Again, our history and experiments will and must again repeat, that we look for experi
ments that shall afford light rather than profit, imitating the divine creation, which, as we have often observed, only produced light on the first day, and assigned that whole day to its creation, without adding any material work.
If any one then imagine such matters to be of no use, he might equally suppose light to be of no use, because it is neither solid nor material. For in fact the knowledge of simple natures, when sufficiently investigated and defined, resembles light, which though of no great use in itself, affords access to the general mysteries of effects, and with a peculiar power comprehends and draws with it whole bands and troops of effects, and the sources of the most valuable axioms. So, also, the elements of letters have of themselves separately no meaning, and are of no use, yet are they as it were the original matter in the composition and preparation of speech. The seeds of substances whose effect is powerful, are of no use except in their growth, and the scattered rays of light itself avail not unless collected.
to those of the Greeks, (since the sciences in all probability flourished more in their natural state, though silently, than when they were paraded with the fifes and trumpets of the Greeks;) or even (in parts at least) to some of the Greeks themselves, and to derive authority and honour from thence; as men of no family labour to raise and form nobility for themselves in some ancient line, by the help of genealogies. Trusting, however, to the evidence of facts, we reject every kind of fiction and imposture: and think it of no more consequence to our subject, whether future discoveries were known to the ancients, and set or rose according to the vicissitudes of events and lapse of ages, than it would be of importance to mankind to know whether the new world be the island of Atlantis,* and known to the ancients, or be now discovered for the first time.
With regard to the universal censure we have bestowed, it is quite clear to any one who properly considers the matter, that it is both more probable and more modest than any partial one could But if speculative subtilties give offence, what have been. For if the errors had not been rooted must we say of the scholastic philosophers who in the primary notions, some well conducted indulged in them to such excess? And those discoveries must have corrected others that were subtiities were wasted on words, or at least com- deficient. But since the errors were fundamental, mon notions, (which is the same thing,) not on and of such a nature that men may be said rather things or nature, and alike unproductive of benefit to have neglected or passed over things than to in their origin and their consequences: in no way have formed a wrong or false judgment of them, resembling ours, which are at present useless, but it is little to be wondered at, that they did not in their consequences of infinite benefit. Let obtain what they never aimed at, nor arrive at a men be assured that all subtile disputes and dis-goal which they had not determined, nor perform cursive efforts of the mind are late and preposte- a course which they had neither entered upon nor rous, when they are introduced subsequently to adhered to. the discovery of axioms, and that their true or at any rate chief opportunity is when experiment is to be weighed and axioms to be derived from it. They otherwise catch and grasp at nature, but never seize or detain her: and we may well apply to nature that which has been said of opportunity or fortune," that she wears a lock in front, but is bald behind."
In short, we may reply decisively to those who despise any part of natural history as being vulgar, mean, or subtle and useless in its origin, in the words of a poor woman to a haughty prince who had rejected her petition, as unworthy and beneath the dignity of his majesty: "then cease to reign;" for it is quite certain that the empire of nature can neither be obtained nor administered by one who refuses to pay attention to such matters as being poor and too minute.
122. Again, it may be objected to us as being singular and harsh, that we should with one stroke and assault, as it were, banish all authorities and sciences, and that too by our own efforts, without requiring the assistance and support of any of the ancients.
Now, we are aware, that had we been ready to act otherwise than sincerely, it was not difficult to refer our present method to remote ages, prior
With regard to our presumption, we allow that if we were to assume a power of drawing a more perfect straight line or circle than any one else, by superior steadiness of hand or acuteness of eye, it would lead to a comparison of talent; but if one merely assert that he can draw a more perfect line or circle with a ruler or compasses, than another can by his unassisted hand or eye, he surely cannot be said to boast of much. Now this applies not only to our first original attempt, but also to those who shall hereafter apply themselves to the pursuit. For our method of discovering the sciences, merely levels men's wits, and leaves but little to their superiority, since it achieves every thing by the most certain rules and demonstrations. Whence, (as we have often observed,) our attempt is to be attributed to fortune rather than talent, and is the offspring of time rather than of wit. For a certain sort of chance has no less effect upon our thoughts than on our acts and deeds.
123. We may, therefore, apply to ourselves the joke of him who said, "that water and wine drinkers could not think alike," especially as it hits the matter so well. For others, both an
See Plato's Timæus.