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COGITATIONES DE SCIENTIA HUMANA.
THE value of this collection would be much increased if the dates of the several pieces could be fixed, or even the order of succession. I fear however that it is impossible to do this with any certainty. I have arranged them in the order in which it seems to me most probable that they were written, but the evidence is so scanty and unsatisfactory that I wish every reader to consider it an open question and to judge for himself upon the data which will be laid before him.
This which I place first, and to which for convenience of reference I give the title Cogitationes de Scientiâ Humanâ, is a fragment, or rather three separate fragments, that have not been printed before. They are copied from a manuscript which came to the British Museum among the papers of Dr. Birch, who appears to have received it from the executors of Mr. John Locker. Locker was a friend of Robert Stephens, the Historiographer Royal; was employed by him to see through the press his second collection of Bacon's letters, published in 1734; was afterwards engaged in preparing an edition of all Bacon's works, but died before it was completed; whereupon the task, together with the papers which he had collected, was transferred to Dr. Birch.
Of the history of this manuscript I have not been able to learn anything beyond what appears upon the face of it. It is a transcript in a hand of the 18th century, and has evidently been made from a mutilated original; blank spaces having been left by the transcriber in several parts, such as would occur in the copy, not of an unfinished or illegible writing, but of one worn away at the edges of the outer leaves. The leaves of the
transcript are put together in a false order, and are not numbered; which makes it less easy to guess what the original consisted of. But it looks as if there had been three separate papers, each wanting a leaf or two at the beginning, and each containing a series of "Cogitationes" or short philosophical essays. The transcript has been corrected throughout by Locker himself and prepared for the press or the copyist; some passages being marked for omission, and some to stand, and titles being added to the latter. It seems that he meant to include in his edition of Bacon's works all those portions which were not to be found elsewhere in the same or nearly the same words. As these titles do not appear to have formed part of the original, I have omitted them here; my object being to print Bacon's own paper as Locker received it; which I suppose the transcriber to have copied as correctly as he could.
The subjects of cogitation are various, and not arranged in any logical order. I find interspersed among them the four fables, Metis, Soror Gigantum, Cœlum, and Proteus, exactly as they are printed in the De Sapientiâ Veterum; and the fifth, sixth, seventh, and tenth of the Cogitationes de Rerum Naturâ, exactly as they are given by Gruter; except a few verbal differences which I have pointed out where they occur. In the last mentioned (which forms the seventh article of the first fragment), the passage about the new star in Cassiopeia appears in the same words and with the same context precisely; and therefore the reasons which I have given for presuming that the Cogitationes de Rerum Naturâ were written before 1605 are equally applicable to this fragment. It is on this account that I place it first in the series; not that some of the other pieces contained in this part may not have been written earlier than 1605, but that there is none among them concerning which I have such good grounds for concluding that it cannot have been written later.
The Cogitatio in which this passage occurs is immediately followed by one on the true relation between natural philosophy and natural history; in which the kind of natural history on which a sound and active philosophy may be built is particularly described. If we could be sure that this also was written before 1605, the fact would be valuable; as showing that this part of the design was no after thought, but was as clearly conceived, and its essential importance as
fully recognised, in 1605 as in 1620.
In the Parasceve and
in the admonition prefixed to the Historia Ventorum (monendi sunt homines, &c.), the impossibility of carrying the work on without such a collection of natural history, though more fully and anxiously insisted upon, is not more distinctly understood. The presumption however which fixes the date of the preceding Cogitatio does not necessarily hold with regard to this, because it may no doubt have been added afterwards; and the word partitionem at the end of the paragraph in page 189 may seem to imply that it was meant for the Partitiones Scientiarum, and therefore written after the plan of the Instauratio Magna had been laid out in its ultimate form.
The miscellaneous character of these meditations makes the loss of the rest of less consequence. It is easy to strike into the argument of each, and to refer it to its proper place in Bacon's philosophy. It may be convenient however, as they are for the most part without explanatory titles, to give here a list of the several pieces, with a note of the subjects to which they refer.
1. (Cog. 3.) Of the limits and end of Knowledge: the same argument which is handled in the first chapter of Valerius Terminus, and the opening of the Advancement of Learning. (The beginning wanting.)
2. (Cog. 4.) Of the Use of Knowledge.
7. (Cog. 9.) Of the error in supposing a difference in point of eternity and mutability between things celestial and things sublunary.
8. (Cog. 10.) Of Natural History considered as the groundwork of Natural Philosophy. (Imperfect at the end.)
1. (Cog. 8.) That general consent affords no presumption of
truth in matters intellectual.
2. (Cog. 9.) Of the error of supposing that conversancy with particulars is below the dignity of the human mind. 3. (Cog. 10.) The exposition of the fable of Midas. (Not included in the De Sapientiâ Veterum.)
1. Of wisdom in the business of life. (The beginning wanting.) 2. That the quantum of matter is always the same.
3. Of the sympathy between bodies with sense and bodies without. 4. Of apparent rest, and solidity and fluidity.
The notes to these pieces, and the explanatory remarks within brackets, are mine.
COGITATIONES DE SCIENTIA HUMANA.
THE FIRST FRAGMENT.1
a Deo defectionem homini insinuavit.
ad terminos sobrietatis attinet, eos demum legitimos et veros esse censemus, qui sensus aditum ad divina prohibeant; ut jam dictum est. Si enim per alas sensus male conglutinatas ad Dei naturam, vias, voluntatem, regimen, et reliqua mysteria, tanquam ex propinquo audacius conspicienda, superbo volatu efferamur, præcipitium certum nos manet. Atque hoc est quod per fallaciam philosophiæ et gloriæ oppressionem cavere jubemur. Quicquid vero non est Deus, sed pars Universi aut Creatura, hujus certe contemplatio et scientia obscuritate sæpius et difficultate removetur, sed nullo edicto separatur. Certe Scriptura, post vicissitudines rerum et temporum commemoratas, ad extremum subjungit: Cuncta fecit bona in tempore suo, et mundum tradidit disputationibus eorum; ut tamen non inveniat homo quod operatus est Deus ab initio usque ad finem: ubi satis aperte significat, tradi certe mundum hominum contemplationibus et controversiis, et infinitas et abditas Naturæ operationes posse erui; opus autem quod operatus est Deus ab initio usque ad finem, id est legem Naturæ summariam, quæ instar puncti verticalis Pyramidis est, in quo omnia coeunt in unum; hoc inquam, non aliud quicquam, ab Intellectu humano seponi. Nam ut idem Author affirmat, Lucerna Dei est spiraculum hominis quo quæque interiora pervestigat; et rursus ait, Gloriam Dei esse rem celare, gloriam Regis autem rem investigare; non aliter ac si Divina Natura innocenti ac benevolo puerorum ludo delectaretur, qui ideo se abscondunt ut inveniantur, ac animam humanam sibi
1 Additional MSS. Brit. Mus. 4258. fo. 219.
2 He has been speaking, probably, of the nature of the temptation which led to the fall of man; viz. the promise that he should be as God, knowing good and evil.