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properly and regularly abstracted from particulars, easily point out and define new particulars, and therefore impart activity to the sciences.
25. The axioms now in use are derived from a scanty handful, as it were, of experience, and a few particulars of frequent occurrence, whence they are of much the same dimensions or extent as their origin. And if any neglected or unknown instance occurs, the axiom is saved by some frivolous distinction, when it would be more consistent with truth to amend it.
26. We are wont, for the sake of distinction, to call that human reasoning which we apply to nature, the anticipation of nature (as being rash and premature); and that which is properly deduced from things the interpretation of nature.
27. Anticipations are sufficiently powerful in producing unanimity, for if men were all to become even uniformly mad, they might agree tolerably well with each other.
28. Anticipations again will be assented to much more readily than interpretations; because being deduced from a few instances, and these principally of familiar occurrence, they immediately hit the understanding, and satisfy the imagination; whilst, on the contrary, interpretations, being deduced from various subjects, and these widely dispersed, cannot suddenly strike the understanding; so that, in common estimation, they must appear difficult and discordant, and almost like the mysteries of faith.
29. In sciences founded on opinions and dogmas it is right to make use of anticipations and logic, if you wish to force assent rather than things.
30. If all the capacities of all ages should unite and combine and transmit their labours, no great progress will be made in learning by anticipations; because the radical errors, and those which occur in the first process of the mind, are not cured by the excellence of subsequent means and remedies.
31. It is in vain to expect any great progress in the sciences by the superinducing or engrafting new matters upon old. An instauration must be made from the very foundations, if we do not wish to revolve for ever in a circle, making only some slight and contemptible progress.
32. The ancient authors, and all others, are left in undisputed possession of their honours. For we enter into no comparison of capacity or talent but of method; and assume the part of a guide rather than of a critic.
33. To speak plainly, no correct judgment can be formed either of our method, or its discoveries, by those anticipations which are now in common use; for it is not to be required of us to submit ourselves to the judgment of the very method we ourselves arraign.
34. Nor is it an easy matter to deliver and explain our sentiments for those things which are in themselves new. can yet be only understood from some analogy to what is old.
35. Alexander Borgia said of the expedition of the French into Italy that they came with chalk in their hands to mark up their lodgings, and not with weapons to force their passage. Even so do we wish our philosophy to make its way quietly into those minds that are fit for it, and of good capacity. For we have no need of contention where we differ in first principles, and our very notions, and even in our forms of demonstration.
36. We have but one simple method of delivering our sentiments: namely, we must bring men to particulars, and their regular series and order, and they must for a while renounce their notions and begin to form an acquaintance with things.
37. Our method and that of the sceptics agree in some respects at first setting out: but differ most widely and are completely opposed to each other in their conclusion. For they roundly assert that nothing can be known; we, that but a small part of nature can be known by the present method. Their next step however is to destroy the authority of the senses and understanding, whilst we invent and supply them with assistance.
38. The idols and false notions which have already preoccupied the human understanding, and are deeplyrooted in it, not only so beset men's minds, that they become difficult of access, but even when access is obtained, will again meet and trouble us in the instauration of the sciences, unless mankind, when forewarned, guard themselves with all possible care against them.
39. Four species of idols beset the human mind: to which (for distinction's sake) we have assigned names: calling the first Idols of the tribe; the second Idols of the den; the third Idols of the market; the fourth Idols of the theatre.
40. The formation of notions and axioms on the foundation of true induction, is the only fitting remedy, by which we can ward off and expel these idols. It is however of
great service to point them out. For the doctrine of idols bears the same relation to the interpretation of nature, as that of the confutation of sophisms does to common logic.
41. The idols of the tribe are inherent in human nature, and the very tribe or race of man. For man's sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things. On the contrary, all the perceptions, both of the senses and the mind, bear reference to man, and not to the universe, and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors, which impart their own properties to different objects, from which rays are emitted, and distort and disfigure them.
42. The idols of the den are those of each individual. For every body (in addition to the errors common to the race of man) has his own individual den or cavern, which intercepts and corrupts the light of nature; either from his own peculiar and singular disposition, or from his education and intercourse with others, or from his reading, and the authority acquired by those whom he reverences and admires, or from the different impressions produced on the mind, as it happens to be preoccupied and predisposed, or equable and tranquil, and the like: so that the spirit of man (according to its several dispositions) is variable, confused, and as it were actuated by chance; and Heraclitus said well that men search for knowledge in lesser worlds and not in the greater or common world.
43. There are also idols formed by the reciprocal intercourse and society of man with man, which we call idols of the market, from the commerce and association of men with each other. For men converse by means of language; but words are formed at the will of the generality; and there arises from a bad and unapt formation of words a wonderful obstruction to the mind. Nor can the definitions and explanations, with which learned men are wont to guard and protect themselves in some instances, afford a complete remedy: words still manifestly force the understanding, throw every thing into confusion, and lead mankind into vain and innumerable controversies and fallacies.
44. Lastly, there are idols which have crept into men's minds from the various dogmas of peculiar systems of philosophy, and also from the perverted rules of demonstration, and these we denominate idols of the theatre. For we regard all the systems of philosophy hitherto received or imagined, as so many plays brought out and performed, creating fictitious and theatrical worlds. Nor do we speak only of the present systems, or of the philosophy and sects
of the ancients, since numerous other plays of a similar nature can be still composed and made to agree with each other, the causes of the most opposite errors being generally the same. Nor, again, do we allude merely to general systems, but also to many elements and axioms of sciences, which have become inveterate by tradition, implicit credence, and neglect. We must, however, discuss each species of idols more fully and distinctly in order to guard the human understanding against them.
45.* The human understanding, from its peculiar nature, easily supposes a greater degree of order and equality in things than it really finds; and although many things in nature be sui generis, and most irregular, will yet invent parallels and conjugates, and relatives where no such thing is. Hence the fiction, that all celestial bodies were in perfect circles, thus rejecting entirely spiral and serpentine lines (except as explanatory terms). Hence also the element of fire is introduced with its peculiar orbit, to keep square with those other three which are objects of our senses. The relative rarity of the elements (as they are called) is arbitrarily made to vary in tenfold progression, with many other dreams of the like nature. Nor is this folly confined to theories, but it is to be met with even in simple notions.
46. The human understanding, when any proposition. has been once laid down (either from general admission and belief, or from the pleasure it affords), forces every thing else to add fresh support and confirmation; and although more cogent and abundant instances may exist to the contrary, yet either does not observe or despises them, or gets rid of and rejects them by some distinction, with violent and injurious prejudice, rather than sacrifice the authority of its first conclusions. It was well answered by him who was shown in a temple the votive tablets suspended by such as had escaped the peril of shipwreck, and was pressed as to whether he would then recognise the power of the gods by an inquiry; "But where are the portraits of those who have perished in spite of their vows?" All superstition is much the same, whether it be that of astrology, dreams, omens, retributive judgment, or the like; in all of which the deluded believers observe events which are fulfilled, but neglect and pass over their failure, though it be much more common. But this evil insinuates itself still more
* Hence to Aphorism 53 treats of the idols of the tribe.
craftily in philosophy and the sciences; in which a settled maxim vitiates and governs every other circumstance, though the latter be much more worthy of confidence. Besides even in the absence of that eagerness and want of thought (which we have mentioned), it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than negatives, whereas it ought duly and regularly to be impartial; nay, in establishing any true axiom, the negative instance is the most powerful.
47. The human understanding is most excited by that which strikes and enters the mind at once and suddenly, and by which the imagination is immediately filled and inflated. It then begins almost imperceptibly to conceive and suppose that every thing is similar to the few objects which have taken possession of the mind; whilst it is very slow and unfit for the transition to the remote and heterogeneous instances, by which axioms are tried as by fire, unless the office be imposed upon it by severe regulations and a powerful authority.
48. The human understanding is active and cannot halt or rest, but even, though without effect, still presses forward. Thus we cannot conceive of any end or external boundary of the world, and it seems necessarily to occur to us, that there must be something beyond. Nor can we imagine how eternity has flowed on down to the present day, since the usually received distinction of an infinity, a parte ante and a parte post cannot hold good: for it would thence follow that one infinity is greater than another, and also that infinity is wasting away and tending to an end. There is the same difficulty in considering the infinite divisibility of lines, arising from the weakness of our minds, which weakness interferes to still greater disadvantage with the discovery of causes. For although the greatest generalities in nature must be positive, just as they are found, and in fact not causable, yet the human understanding, incapable of resting, seeks for something more intelligible. Thus, however, whilst aiming at further progress, it falls back to what is actually less advanced, namely, final causes; for they are clearly more allied to man's own nature, than the system of the universe; and from this source they have wonderfully corrupted philosophy. But he would be an unskilful and shallow philosopher, who should seek for causes in the greatest generalities, and not be anxious to discover them in subordinate objects.
49. The human understanding resembles not a dry light,