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derstandings merely with all this zeal and effort. Whilst nothing is more clear, than that in every great work executed by the hand of man without machines or implements, it is impossible for the strength of individuals to be increased, or for that of the multitude to combine.
Having premised so much, we lay down two points on which we would admonish mankind, lest they should fail to see or to observe them. The first of these is: that it is our good fortune (as we consider it), for the sake of extinguishing and removing contradiction and irritation of mind, to leave the honor and reverence due to the ancients untouched and undiminished, so that we can perform our intended work, and yet enjoy the benefit of our respectful moderation. For if we should profess to offer something better than the ancients, and yet should pursue the same course as they have done, we could never, by any artifice, contrive to avoid the imputation of having engaged in a contest or rivalry as to our respective wits, excellences, or talents; which though neither inadmissible or new (for why should we not blame and point out any thing that is imperfectly discovered or laid down by them, of our own right, a right common to all), yet however just and allowable, would perhaps be scarcely an equal match, on account of the disproportion of our strength. But since our present plan leads us to open an entirely different course to the understanding, and one unattempted and unknown to them, the case is altered. There is an end to party zeal, and we only take upon ourselves the character of a guide, which requires a moderate share of authority and good fortune, rather than talents and excellence. This first admonition relates to persons, the next to things.
We make no attempt to disturb the system of philosophy that now prevails, or any other which may or will exist, either more correct or more complete. For we deny not that the received system of philosophy, and others of a similar nature, encourage discussion, embellish harangues, are employed and are of service in the duties of the professor, and the affairs of civil life. Nay, we openly express and declare that the philosophy we offer will not be very useful in such respects. It is not obvious, nor to be understood in a cursory view, nor does it flatter the mind in its preconceived notions, nor will it descend to the level of the generality of mankind unless by its advantages and effects.
Let there exist then (and may it be of advantage to
both) two sources, and two distributions of learning, and in like manner two tribes, and as it were kindred families of contemplators or philosophers, without any hostility or alienation between them; but rather allied and united by mutual assistance. Let there be in short one method of cultivating the sciences, and another of discovering them. And as for those who prefer and more readily receive the former, on account of their haste or from motives arising from their ordinary life, or because they are unable from weakness of mind to comprehend and embrace the other (which must necessarily be the case with by far the greater number), let us wish that they may prosper as they desire in their undertaking, and attain what they pursue. But if any individual desire and is anxious not merely to adhere to and make use of present discoveries, but to penetrate still further, and not to overcome his adversaries in disputes but nature by labour, not in short to give elegant and specious opinions, but to know to a certainty and demonstration, let him, as a true son of science (if such be his wish), join with us; that when he has left the antichambers of nature trodden by the multitude, an entrance may at last be discovered to her inner apartments. And in order to be better understood, and to render our meaning more familiar by assigning determinate names, we have accustomed ourselves to call the one method the anticipation of the mind, and the other the interpretation of nature.
We have still one request left. We have at least reflected and taken pains in order to render our propositions not only true, but of easy and familiar access to men's minds, however wonderfully prepossessed and limited. Yet it is but just that we should obtain this favor from mankind (especially in so great a restoration of learning and the sciences), that whosoever may be desirous of forming any determination upon an opinion of this our work either from his own perceptions, or the crowd of authorities, or the forms of demonstrations, he will not expect to be able to do so in a cursory manner, and whilst attending to other matters; but in order to have a thorough knowledge of the subject, will himself by degrees attempt the course which we describe and maintain; will become accustomed to the subtilty of things which is manifested by experience; and will correct the depraved and deeply rooted habits of his mind by a seasonable and as it were just hesitation: and then finally (if he will) use his judgment when he has begun to be master of himself.
SUMMARY OF THE SECOND PART,
DIGESTED IN APHORISMS.
On the Interpretation of Nature and the Empire of Man.
1. MAN, as the minister and interpreter of nature, does and understands as much, as his observations on the order of nature, either with regard to things or the mind, permit him, and neither knows nor is capable of more.
2. The unassisted hand, and the understanding left to itself, possess but little power. Effects are produced by the means of instruments and helps, which the understanding requires no less than the hand. And as instruments either promote or regulate the motion of the hand, so those that are applied to the mind prompt or protect the understanding.
3. Knowledge and human power are synonymous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect. For nature is only subdued by submission, and that which in contemplative philosophy corresponds with the cause, in practical science becomes the rule.
4. Man, whilst operating, can only apply or withdraw natural bodies; nature, internally, performs the rest.
5. Those who become practically versed in nature, are the mechanic, the mathematician, the physician, the alchymist, and the magician, but all (as matters now stand) with faint efforts and meagre success.
6. It would be madness, and inconsistency, to suppose that things, which have never yet been performed, can be performed without employing some hitherto untried means.
7. The creations of the mind and hand appear very numerous if we judge by books and manufactures: but all that variety consists of an excessive refinement, and of deductions from a few well known matters; not of a number of axioms.
8. Even the effects already discovered are due to chance
and experiment rather than to the sciences. For our present sciences are nothing more than peculiar arrangements of matters already discovered, and not methods for discovery, or plans for new operations.
9. The sole cause and root of almost every defect in the sciences is this; that whilst we falsely admire and extol the powers of the human mind, we do not search for its real helps.
10. The subtilty of nature is far beyond that of sense or of the understanding: so that the specious meditations, speculations, and theories of mankind, are but a kind of insanity, only there is no one to stand by and observe it.
11. As the present sciences are useless for the discovery of effects, so the present system of logic is useless for the discovery of the sciences.
12. The present system of logic rather assists in confirming and rendering inveterate the errors founded on vulgar notions, than in searching after truth; and is therefore more hurtful than useful.
13. The syllogism is not applied to the principles of the sciences, and is of no avail in intermediate axioms, as being very unequal to the subtilty of Nature. It forces assent, therefore, and not things.
14. The syllogism consists of propositions, propositions of words, words are the signs of notions. If therefore the notions (which form the basis of the whole) be confused and carelessly abstracted from things, there is no solidity in the superstructure. Our only hope, then, is in genuine induction.
15. We have no sound notions either in logic or physics; substance, quality, action, passion, and existence are not clear notions; much less, weight, levity, density, tenuity, moisture, dryness, generation, corruption, attraction, repulsion, element, matter, form, and the like. They are all fantastical and ill defined.
16. The notions of less abstract natures, as man, dog, dove; and the immediate perceptions of sense, as heat, cold, white, black, do not deceive us materially, yet even these are sometimes confused by the mutability of matter and the intermixture of things. All the rest, which men have hitherto employed, are errors; and improperly abstracted, and deduced, from things.
17. There is the same degree of licentiousness and error in forming axioms, as in abstracting notions: and that in the first principles, which depend on common induction.
Still more is this the case in axioms and inferior propositions derived from syllogisms.
18. The present discoveries in science are such as lie immediately beneath the surface of common notions. It is necessary, however, to penetrate the more secret and remote parts of nature, in order to abstract both notions and axioms from things, by a more certain and guarded method.
19. There are and can exist but two ways of investigating and discovering truth. The one hurries on rapidly from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms; and from them as principles and their supposed indisputable truth derives and discovers the intermediate axioms. This is the way now in use. The other constructs its axioms from the senses and particulars, by ascending continually and gradually, till it finally arrives at the most general axioms, which is the true but unattempted way.
20. The understanding when left to itself proceeds by the same way as that which it would have adopted under the guidance of logic, namely, the first. For the mind is fond of starting off to generalities, that it may avoid labour, and after dwelling a little on a subject is fatigued by experiment. But these evils are augmented by logic, for the sake of the ostentation of dispute.
21. The understanding when left to itself in a man of a steady, patient, and reflecting disposition (especially when unimpeded by received doctrines), makes some attempt in the right way, but with little effect; since the understanding, undirected and unassisted, is unequal to and unfit for the task of vanquishing the obscurity of things.
22. Each of these two ways begins from the senses and particulars, and ends in the greatest generalities. But they are immeasurably different; for the one merely touches cursorily the limits of experiment, and particulars, whilst the other runs duly and regularly through them; the one from the very outset lays down some abstract and useless generalities, the other gradually rises to those principles which are really the most common in nature.
23. There is no small difference between the idols of the human mind, and the ideas of the divine mind; that is to say between certain idle dogmas, and the real stamp and impression of created objects, as they are found in nature.
24. Axioms determined upon in argument can never assist in the discovery of new effects: for the subtilty of nature is vastly superior to that of argument. But axioms