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Such in 1847 were my reasons for rejecting as unsatisfactory all the explanations I had then met with of the distinctive peculiarity of the Baconian philosophy, and such the result of my attempt to find a more satisfactory one for myself.
In rejecting former explanations as unsatisfactory, Mr. Ellis, it will be seen, concurs with me, and for much the same reason. According to them "it becomes," he says, "impossible to justify or to understand Bacon's assertion that his system was essentially new.” He then proceeds to point out one great peculiarity by which it aspired to differ from all former systems a peculiarity residing in the supposed perfection of the logical machinery; which, since it would of itself account for Bacon's belief of its importance no less than for his assertion of its novelty, does certainly supply a new explanation unencumbered with the difficulties pointed out in the foregoing extract. But there is another difficulty which it leaves behind. It is impossible, I think, to reconcile with this supposition the course which Bacon afterwards took in expounding and developing his system. For if the great secret which he had, or thought he had, in his keeping, lay only, or even chiefly, in the perfection of the logical machinery in the method of induction; if this method was a kind of mechanical process an organum or engine at once "wholly new," "universally applicable," "in all cases infallible," and such as anybody might manage; if his explanation of this method in the second book of the Novum Organum is so incomplete that it leaves all the principal practical difficulties unexplained; and if it was a thing which nobody but himself had any notion of, or any belief in; how
is it that, during the remaining five years of his life — years of eager and unremitting labour, devoted almost exclusively to the exposition of his philosophy – he made no attempt to complete the explanation of it? Why did he leave the Novum Organum as it was, being a work which he could have completed alone, and which indeed he only could have completed, and apply himself with advised and deliberate industry to the collection of Natural History; a work which he knew he could not carry to perfection himself, even in any of its parts; which he had once thought it a waste of time to employ himself upon, as being within every man's capacity; concerning the execution of which he had already given sufficient general directions; and of which, even when accomplished, the right use could not be made except in virtue of that very method or logical machinery, the constitution and management of which still remained to be explained? It was not that he had changed his opinion as to the value of it: His sense of the difficulties may have increased, his views as to details may have altered; but there is no reason to think that he ever lost any part of his faith either in the importance or in the practicability of it. It was not that when he came to closer quarters with the subject, he felt that he was himself unable to deal with it: Two years after the publication of the first part of the Novum Organum, and three years before his death, he speaks of the second part as a thing yet to be done, but adds, "quam tamen animo jam complexus et metitus sum."1 It was not that he thought the description he had already given sufficient: In the winter of 1622, he tells us that 1 Letter to Fulgenzio.
there are "haud pauca, eaque ex præcipuis," still wanting. It was not that he had found any disciple or fellow-labourer to whom he might intrust the completion of his unfinished task: To the very last he felt himself alone in his work. It was not from inadvertence: He left the Novum Organum for the Natural History deliberately, because it seemed upon consideration the better and more advisable 66 course; quare omnino et ante omnia in hoc incumbere satius et consultius visum est." It was not that he wanted either time or industry; for during the five succeeding years he completed the De Augmentis, and composed his histories of the Winds, of Life and Death, of Dense and Rare; his lost treatise on Heavy and Light, his lost Abecedarium Naturæ, his New Atlantis, his Sylva Sylvarum. Why did he employ no part of that time in completing the description of the new machine? in explaining how he proposed to supply the defects 1 and rectify the errors 2 of the imperfect logical process which he had already exhibited; how to adapt the mode of inquiry to the nature of the subject; how to determine what questions ought to be dealt with first, -what "natures" to have precedence in the order of inquiry; above all, how to ascertain where the inquiry might safely terminate as having left no "nature" in the universe unchallenged,5-a security without which the whole process must always have been in
1 De Adminiculis Inductionis.
2 De Rectificatione Inductionis.
8 De Variatione Inquisitionis pro naturâ subjecti.
4 De Prærogativis Naturarum quatenus ad inquisitionem, sive de eo quod inquirendum est prius et posterius.
5 De Terminis Inquisitionis, sive de Synopsi omnium naturarum in uni
danger of vitiation from an "instance contradictory" remaining behind? To me the question appears to admit of but one answer. He considered the collection of natural history upon the plan he meditated, to be, in practice at least, a more important part of his philosophy than the Organum itself, a work of which the nature and importance more needed to be pressed upon the attention of mankind, of which the neglect would be more fatal to the progress of science. That this was in fact his opinion at the very time he was composing the Novum Organum may be inferred from the last aphorism of the first book, as I have pointed out at the end of the preface. That he was still of the same opinion two years after, we have his own express declaration in the Auctoris monitum prefixed to the History of the Winds, where he explains his motives for going on with the third part of the Instauratio, instead of finishing the second. It had occurred to him, he there tells us, that if the Organum should fall into the hands of some man of genius capable of understanding and willing to use it, still without a natural history of the proper kind provided to his hand, he would not know how to proceed; whereas if a full and faithful history of nature and the arts were set before him, he might succeed even by the old method -"licet via veteri pergere malint, nec via nostri organi (quæ ut nobis videtur aut unica est aut optima) uti" in building upon it something of solid worth. "Itaque huc res redit," he concludes; "ut organum nostrum, etiamsi fuerit absolutum, absque historiâ naturali non multum, historia naturalis absque organo non parum, instaurationem scientiarum sit provectura." I know not how therefore to escape the conclusion that,
in Bacon's own estimate of his own system, the Natural History held the place of first importance. He regarded it as not less new than the new method, and as more indispensable. Though the "via nostri organi” still appeared to him to be "aut unica aut optima," something of substantial worth might, he thought, be accomplished without it. Without a natural history "tali qualem nunc præcipiemus," he thought no advance of any value could possibly be made.
What may be the real value of this part of Bacon's system is, of course, quite another question. The evidence just adduced goes only to show what was the value which he himself set upon it, and affects the question no otherwise than by giving it a new interest, and suggesting the expediency of considering more carefully than has yet, I think, been done, whether his advice on this head might not be followed- I do not say as far as he intended- but much further than has yet been tried; with effects-I do not say such as he anticipated—but larger than we are likely to get any other way.
That he himself indeed, even if all mankind had united to carry his plan into effect, would have been disappointed with the result, I have little doubt. For I suppose the collected observations of all the world, -reduced to writing, digested, and brought into his study, would not have sufficed to give him that knowledge of the forms of nature which was to carry
1 His assertion of the novelty is as strong in the one case as in the other. "Atque hoc posterius [viz. the use of natural history, "tanquam materia prima philosophiæ atque veræ inductionis supellex sive sylva"] nunc agitur; nunc inquam, NEQUE UNQUAM ANTEHAC."