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NATURALEM ET EXPERIMENTALEM.
[Published in 1620 in the same volume with the Novum Organum.]
AMONG the eight subjects which were to have been handled in the remaining books of the Novum Organum (see ii. 21.), the last but one is entitled De parascevis ad inquisitionem, under which head Bacon intended (as appears by the introduction to the following treatise) to set forth the character of the Natural and Experimental History, which was to form the third part of the Instauratio.
What may have been the logical connexion between these eight subjects which determined him to reserve this for the penultimate place, it seems impossible, by the help of the titles alone, to divine. But whatever the order in which he thought advisable to approach it, there can be no doubt that this Natural and Experimental History was always regarded by him as a part of his system both fundamental and indispensable. So earnestly indeed and so frequently does he insist on the importance of it, that I once believed it to be the one real novelty which distinguished his philosophy from those of his contemporaries and immediate predecessors. And even now, though Mr. Ellis's analysis of the Baconian Induction has given me much new light and considerably modified my opinion in that matter, I am still inclined to think that Bacon himself regarded it not only as a novelty, but as the novelty
from which the most important results were to be expected; and however experience may have proved that his expectations were in great part vain and his scheme impracticable, I cannot help suspecting that more of it is practicable than has yet been attempted, and that the greatest results of science are still to be looked for from a further proceeding in this direction.
The grounds of this opinion will be explained most conveniently in connexion with the following treatise; a treatise published by Bacon (on account of the exceeding importance of the subject) out of its proper place and incomplete; and to which I find nothing among Mr. Ellis's papers that can serve as preface.
In what the distinctive peculiarity of the Baconian philosophy really consisted, is a question to which every fresh inquirer gives a fresh answer. Before I was acquainted with Mr. Ellis's, which is the latest, and formed upon the largest survey and subtlest scrutiny of the evidence, I had endeavoured to find one for myself, and had come to a conclusion which, though quite different from his, is not I think irreconcilable with it, but contains (as I still venture to believe) a part, though a part only, of the truth. And the question which I wish now to raise is whether, as my solution was imperfect from not taking any account of the novelty contained in the method of Induction as Bacon understood it, Mr. Ellis's be not likewise imperfect from not taking sufficient account of the novelty contained in the Natural History as Bacon intended it to be employed; and whether there be not room for a third solution more complete than either, as including both.
That the philosophy which Bacon meant to announce
was in some way essentially different not only from any that had been before but from any that has been since, is a position from which in both cases the inquiry sets out; and since it is one which will not perhaps be readily granted by everybody, it may be worth while to explain the considerations which led me to it; the rather because Mr. Ellis and myself, though proceeding not only independently but by entirely dif ferent roads and in pursuit of different objects — he endeavouring to penetrate the secret of Bacon's philosophy, I endeavouring to understand the objects and purposes of his life-meet nevertheless at this point in the same conclusion.
The process by which I arrived at it myself, I cannot explain better than by transcribing a paper which I wrote on the subject in 1847; at which time I had not seen any part of Mr. Ellis's argument, or heard his opinion upon the question at issue. What my own opinion is now, I will state afterwards; but first I give the paper exactly as I then wrote it; the length of the extract being justified — at least if there be any truth in the conclusion-by the importance of the question at issue; for it bears upon the business of the present and future quite as much as on the knowledge of the past. The form in which it is written, — that of a familiar conversation between two friends, -happened to be the most convenient for the business I was then about; and as I could not present the argument more clearly in any other, I leave it as it is.
Before you go on I wish you would satisfy me on one point, upon which I have hitherto sought satisfaction in vain.