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whereas those concluded by negatives and exclusions are extorted and educed as it were out of darkness and night. Now this Cupid is truly an egg hatched by Nox; for all the knowledge of him which is to be had proceeds by exclusions and negatives : and proof made by exclusion is a kind of ignorance, and as it were night, with regard to the thing included. Whence Democritus excellently affirmed that atoms or seeds, and the virtue thereof, were unlike anything that could fall under the senses; but distinguished them as being of a perfectly dark and hidden nature; saying of themselves, “that they resembled neither fire nor anything else that could be felt or touched ;”1 and of their virtue, “that in the generation of things the first beginnings must needs have a dark and hidden nature, lest something should rise up to resist and oppose them.”? Atoms therefore are neither like sparks of
" 2 fire, nor drops of water, nor bubbles of air, nor grains of dust, nor particles of spirit or ether. Neither is their power and form heavy or light, hot or cold, dense or rare, hard or soft, such as those qualities appear in greater bodies; since these and others of the kind are results of composition and combination. And in like manner the natural motion of the atom is not that motion of descent which is called natural, nor the one contrary to it (that of percussion), nor the motion of expansion and contraction, nor the motion of impulse
1 Lucret. i. 688.:
Neque sunt igni simulata, neque ulli
Sensibus, et nostros adjectu tangere tactus. * Id. i. 779.:
At primordia gignundis in rebus oportet
and connection, nor the motion of rotation of the celestial bodies, nor any of the other motions of large bodies simply. Notwithstanding in the body of the atom are the elements of all bodies, and in the motion and virtue of the atom are the beginnings of all motions and virtues. But yet on this point, namely, the motion of the atom compared with the motion of larger bodies, the philosophy of the parable seems to differ from that of Democritus. For Democritus is found to be not only at variance with the parable, but inconsistent and almost in contradiction with himself in that which he says further on this point. For he should have attributed to the atom a heterogeneous motion, as well as a heterogeneous body and a heterogeneous virtue ; whereas, out of the motions of the larger bodies, he has selected two motions ; namely, the descent of heavy things and the ascent of light (which latter he explained. as the effect of force or percussion of the heavier driving the less heavy upwards), and ascribed them as primitive motions to the atom.
The parable on the contrary preserves the heterogeneity and exclusion throughout, both in substance and motion. But it further intimates, that there is some end and limit to these exclusions ; for Nox does not sit for ever. And certainly it is the prerogative of God alone, that when his nature is inquired of by the sense, exclusions
, shall not end in affirmations. But here the case is different; and the result is, that after due exclusions and negations something is affirmed and determined, and an egg laid, as it were, after a proper course of incubation ; and not only that Nox lays her egg, but that from this egg is hatched the person of Cupid : that is to say, not only is some notion of the thing educed and extracted out of ignorance, but a distinct and definite notion. With regard then to the kind of demonstrations which are possible concerning primary matter, this is what I conceive to be most in accordance with the meaning of the parable. Let us now proceed to Cupid himself, that is, primary matter, together with its properties, which are surrounded by so dark a night; and see what light the parable throws upon this. Now I am well aware that opinions of this kind sound harsh and almost incredible to the senses and thoughts of men. As we see it has been tried and proved in this very philosophy of Democritus respecting atoms, which, because it penetrated somewhat more sharply and deeply into nature and was further removed from common ideas, was treated as childish by the vulgar; and was moreover by the disputes of other philosophies more adapted to their capacity blown about and almost extinguished. And yet this man was much admired in his day,' and was called Pentathlus from the variety of his knowledge, and by consent of all was esteemed the greatest physical philosopher, so that he obtained also the surname of Magus. Nor could either the battles and contests of Aristotle (who after the Ottoman fashion felt insecure about his own kingdom of philosophy till he had slain his brethren; and who was likewise anxious, as
l appears from his own words, that posterity should doubt about nothing), or the majesty and solemnity of Plato, so far prevail — the one by violence, the other by reverence — as to obliterate entirely this philosophy of Democritus. But while that of Plato and Aristotle was noised and celebrated in the schools amid the din and pomp of professors, this of Democritus was held in great honour with the wiser sort, and those who embraced more closely the more silent and arduous kinds of speculation. Certainly in the times of Roman learning that of Democritus was not only extant but well accepted ; for Cicero mentions him everywhere in terms of the highest praise ; and the well-known lines of the poet, who appears to have spoken (as poets commonly do) according to the judgment of his own time, were written not long after; wherein he is quoted as an instance to prove that great men may be born in heavy climates. Therefore it was not Aristotle or Plato, but Genseric and Attila and the barbarians, who destroyed this philosophy. For at that time, when all human learning had suffered shipwreck, these planks of Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy, as being of a lighter and more inflated substance, were preserved and came down to us, while the more solid parts sank and almost passed into oblivion. But to me the philosophy of Democritus seems worthy to be rescued from neglect; especially as in most things it agrees with the authority of the earliest ages. First therefore Cupid is described as a person ; and to him are attributed infancy, wings, arrows, and other things of which I will afterwards speak separately. But in the mean time I make this assumption ; that the ancients set down the first matter (such as may be the beginning of things) as having form and qualities, not as abstract, potential, and unshapen. And certainly that despoiled and passive matter seems altogether a fiction of the human mind, arising from this, that to the human mind those things most seem to exist, which itself imbibes most readily, and by which it is most affected. It follows therefore that forms (as they call them) seem to exist more than either matter or action ; because the former is hidden, the latter variable; the former does not strike so strongly, the latter does not rest so constantly. These images on the other hand are thought to be both manifest and constant; so that the first and common matter seems to be as an accessory and support; and action, of whatever kind, to be merely an emanation from the form ; and altogether
1 Diog. Laert. ix. 37.
1 Juv. x. 48.:
Cujus prudentia monstrat, Magnos posse viros, et magna exempla daturos, Vervecum in patria crassoque sub aere nasci
; the first place is assigned to forms. And hence appears to have come the reign of forms and ideas in essences; with the addition (that is to say) of a kind of fantastical matter.
All which was increased, moreover, by superstition (intemperance following error); and abstract ideas and their dignities were also introduced, with so much confidence and majesty, that the dreamers almost overpowered the wakers.
These things however have now for the most part vanished; though an individual in our age has tried, with more boldness (as it appears to me) than success, to prop them up in their decline and resuscitate them. But how contrary to reason it is to lay down abstract matter as a principle is easily seen, if prejudices be not in the way. For the actual existence of separate forms has been asserted by some, of separate matter by no one ; not even by those who have taken it for a principle ; and to constitute entities from things imaginary seems hard and perverse, and not consonant with the inquiry concerning principles. For the inquiry is not how we may most conveniently embrace and distinguish the