Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

at first, .as visionary, or impracticable, merely for being new. This our author foresaw, and endeavoured to obviate, in the third part of his Instauration; by furnishing materials himself towards a natural and experimental history; a work which he thought so indispensably necessary, that without it the united endeavours of all mankind, in all ages, would be insufficient to rear and perfect the great structure of the sciences. He was aware too, that even men of freer and more extensive notions, who relished his new logic, might be deterred from reducing it to practice, by the difficulties they would meet with in experimenting, according to the rules by him prescribed. He therefore led the way to other inquirers in his Sylva Sylvarum, or history of nature: which, however imperfect in many respects, ought to be looked upon as extensive and valuable for that age, when the whole work was to be begun. This collection, which did not appear till after his death, has been generally considered as detached from, and independent on his general plan : and therefore his design in making and recording these experiments has not been duly attended to by the reader. They are a common repository or storehouse of materials, not arranged for ornament and show, but thrown loosely together for the service of the philosopher: who may from thence select such as fit his present purpose; and with them, by the aid of that organ or engine already described, build up some part of an axiomatical philosophy, which is the crown and completion of this system. The phenomena of the universe he Vol. VIII. ranges under three principal divisions; the history of p. 225. generations, or the production of all species according to the common laws of nature; that of pretergenerations, or of births deviating from the stated rule; and thirdly, the history of nature as confined or assisted, changed or tortured by the art of man : which last discloses to us a new face of things, and as it were another world of appearances. The use of such a history he reckons two-fold; either the knowledge of qualities in themselves: or to serve for the

,

mense.

first matter of a true and useful philosophy. With this view only did our author make and gather together the miscellaneous collection I am speaking of. That many particular experiments have been found doubtful or false, cannot be wondered at: the whole was then a tract of science uncultivated and desert. If several considerable men, treading in the path he struck out for them, have gone farther and surveyed it more exactly than he did, yet to him is the honour of their discoveries in a manner due. It was Columbus alone who imagined there might be a new world ; and who had the noble boldness to go in search of it, through an ocean unexplored and im

He succeeded in the attempt; and led his followers into a spacious continent, rich and fruitful. If succeeding adventurers have penetrated farther than he into its several regions, marked out and distinguished them with more accuracy; the result of these discoveries has less extended their fame than it has raised and enlarged his.

4. After these preparations, nothing seems wanting but to enter at once on the last and most exalted kind of philosophy: but the author judged, that, in an affair so complicated and important, some other things ought to precede, partly for instruction, and partly for present use. He therefore interposed a fourth and fifth part: the former of which he named Scala Intellectus, or a series of steps by which the understanding might regularly ascend in its philosophical researches. For this purpose he proposed examples of inquiry and investigation, agreeable to his own method, in certain subjects; selecting such especially as are of the noblest order, and most widely differing from one another, that instances of every sort might not be wanting. The fourth part then was to contain a particular application and illustration of the second. In this light we choose to consider the six monthly histories which he proposed to write on six principal topics in natural history : namely, of winds; of life and death; of rarefaction and condensation; of the three chemical principles, salt, sul

Scala Intellectus.

phur, mercury; of bodies heavy and light; of

sympathy and antipathy. The first three, in the order I have here placed them, he prosecuted at some length; and in a manner that shews with what a happy sagacity he could apply his own rules to the interpretation of nature. The wonder is, that other inquirers since his time have done so little towards perfecting the two first mentioned, things of so great concern to human society, and to every individual. As to the three last, we have only a short introduction to each: death having prevented him from writing any thing on the subjects themselves. Such is our condition here : whoever is capable of planning useful and extensive schemes dies always too soon for mankind, even in the most advanced age.

5. Of the fifth part he has left nothing but the Anticipe.. title and scheme. It was indeed to be only a tem- philos

. porary structure, raised with such materials as he secundæ. himself had either invented, or tried, or improved ; not according to the due form of genuine induction, but by the same common use of the understanding that others had employed. And this was to remain no longer than till he had raised,

6. The sixth and sublimest part of this grand In- Philosophia stauration, to which all the precedent are merely sub- prima, sive servient; a philosophy purely axiomatical and scientific; flowing from that just, castigated, genuine manner of inquiry, which the author first invented and applied. But this he despaired of being able to accomplish; and the learned of all countries from his days have been only labouring some separate or lesser parts of this amazing edifice, which ages to come may not see finished according to the model left them by this one man.

Such, and so unlimited were his views for the universal advancement of science; the noble aim to which he directed all his philosophic labours. What Cæsar said, in compliment, to Tully, may, with strict justice, be applied to him; that it was more glorious to have extended the limits of human wit, than to have enlarged the bounds of the Roman world. Sir

Francis Bacon really did so; a truth acknowledged not only by the greatest private names in Europe, but by all the public societies of its most civilized nations. France, Italy, Germany, Britain, I may add even Russia, have taken him for their leader, and submitted to be governed by his institutions. The empire he has erected in the learned world is as universal as the free use of reason : and one must continue, till the other is no more.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS.

THE

TWO BOOKS

OF

FRANCIS BACON,

OF THE

PROFICIENCE AND ADVANCEMENT OF

LEARNING

DIVINE AND HUMAN.

TO THE KING.

« AnteriorContinuar »