Imágenes de páginas

ficient, seeing many have occupied themselves in it. I may rather challenge no small part of it, in many of the writers thereof, as superstitious, fabulous, and fantastical.


The division of Natural Philosophy into Speculative and Operative; and that these two should be kept separate, both in the intention of the writer and in the body of the treatise.

It was

LEAVING therefore Natural Theology (to which I refer the inquiry concerning Spirits as an appendix), let us now proceed to the second part; namely, that concerning Nature and Natural Philosophy. It was well said by Democritus, "That the truth of nature lies hid in certain deep mines and caves." not ill said by the alchemists, " That Vulcan is a second nature, and imitates that dexterously and compendiously which nature works circuitously and in length of time." Why therefore should we not divide Natural Philosophy into two parts, the mine and the furnace; and make two professions or occupations of natural philosophers, some to be miners and some to be smiths? And certainly though I may seem to say this in sport, yet I think a division of this kind most useful, when propounded in familiar and scholastical terms; namely, that the doctrine of Natural Philosophy be divided into the Inquisition of Causes, and the Production of Effects; Speculative and Operative. The one searching into the bowels of nature, the other shaping nature as on an anvil. And though I am well aware how close is the intercourse between causes and effects, so that the explanations of them must in a certain way be united and conjoined; yet because all true and fruitful Natural Philosophy has a double scale or ladder, ascendent and descendent, ascending from experiments to axioms, and descending from axioms to the invention of new experiments; therefore I judge it most requisite that these two parts, the Speculative and the Operative, be considered separately, both in the intention of the writer and in the body of the treatise.

1 Diog. Laert. in Pyrrho. c. 72.


The division of Speculative doctrine concerning nature into Physic (special) and Metaphysic. Whereof Physic inquires of the Efficient Cause and the Material; Metaphysic of the Final Cause and the Form. The division of Physic (special) into the doctrine concerning the Principles of Things, concerning the Fabric of Things, or the world, and concerning the Variety of Things. The division of the doctrine concerning the Variety of Things into doctrine concerning things Concrete, and doctrine concerning things Abstract. The division of the doctrine concerning things Concrete is referred to the same divisions which Natural History receives. The division of the doctrine concerning things Abstract into doctrine concerning the Configurations of Matter and doctrine concerning Motions. Two Appendices of Speculative Physic, Natural Problems and Dogmas of the Ancient Philosophers. The division of Metaphysic into doctrine concerning Form and the doctrine concerning Final Causes.

THAT part of Natural Philosophy which is Speculative and Theoretical, we may divide into Physic special, and Metaphysic; wherein I desire men to observe that I use the word metaphysic in a different sense from that which is commonly received. And here it may be convenient to explain my general purpose touching the use of terms; which is, as well in this term of metaphysic, as in other cases where my conceptions and notions are novel and differ from the ancient, to retain with scrupulous care the ancient terms; for hoping well that the very order of the matter and the clear explanation which I give of everything will prevent the words I use from being misunderstood, I am otherwise zealous (as far as may stand with truth and the proficience of knowledge) to recede as little as possible from antiquity, either in terms or opinions. And herein I cannot a little marvel at the boldness of Aristotle, who was stirred by such a spirit of difference and contradiction to wage war on all antiquity, undertaking not only to coin new words of science at pleasure, but to extinguish and obliterate all ancient wisdom; insomuch that he never names or mentions an ancient author or opinion but to reprove the one and refute the other. For glory, indeed, and drawing followers and disciples he took the right course therein. For certainly in the


promulgation and reception of philosophic truth the same thing comes to pass that was noted in the case of divine truth; "I came in my Father's name, and ye received me not; if one shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." But in this divine aphorism, if we consider to whom it was applied (namely, to Anti-Christ, the highest deceiver of all ages), we may discern this well, that the coming in a man's own name, without regard of antiquity or (so to say) of paternity, is no good sign of truth, though it be oftentimes joined with the fortune and success of "him ye will receive." But of Aristotle, so excellent a person as he was, and so wonderful for the acuteness of his mind, I can well believe that he learnt that humour from his scholar, whom perhaps he emulated; the one aspiring to conquer all nations, the other to conquer all opinions, and to establish for himself a kind of despotism in thought. Wherein nevertheless, it may be, he may at some men's hands who are of a bitter temper and a sharp tongue get a like title as his scholar did;

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

But to me on the other side (who desire, as much as lies in my pen, to ground a sociable intercourse between the old and the new in learning) it seems best to keep way with antiquity in all things lawful, and to retain the ancient terms, though I often alter their sense and definitions; according to the moderate and approved course of innovation in civil matters, by which, when the state of things is changed, yet the forms of words are kept; as Tacitus remarks, "The names of the magistrates are the same."3

To return therefore to the use and acceptation of the term metaphysic, as I understand the word. It appears by that which has been already said, that I intend Primitive or Summary Philosophy and Metaphysic, which heretofore have been confounded as one, to be two distinct things. For the one I have made a parent or common ancestor to all knowledge; the other,

1 St. John, v. 43.

2 Cf. Lucan, x. 21.:

3 Tac. Ann. i. 3.

Great thief of nations, to the world sent forth
A dangerous precedent.

Great thief of learning, &c.

a branch or portion of Natural Philosophy. Now I have assigned to Primitive Philosophy the common principles and axioms which are promiscuous and indifferent to several sciences. I have assigned to it likewise the question of the Relative and Adventitious Conditions of Essences (which I have termed Transcendentals); as Much, Little; Like, Unlike; Possible, Impossible, and the rest; with this provision alone, that they be handled as they have efficacy in nature, and not logically. But the inquiry concerning God, Unity, the nature of Good, Angels and Spirits, I have referred to Natural Theology. It may fairly therefore now be asked, what is left remaining for Metaphysic? Certainly nothing beyond nature; but of nature itself much the most excellent part. And herein without prejudice to truth I may preserve thus much of the conceit of antiquity, that Physic handles that which is most inherent in matter and therefore transitory, and Metaphysic that which is more abstracted and fixed. And again, that Physic supposes in nature only a being and moving and natural necessity; whereas Metaphysic supposes also a mind and idea. For that which I shall say comes perhaps to this. But avoiding all height of language, I will state the matter perspicuously and familiarly. I divided Natural Philosophy into the Inquiry of Causes and the Production of Effects. The Inquiry of Causes I referred to the Theoretical part of Philosophy. This I subdivide into Physic and Metaphysic. It follows that the true difference between them must be drawn from the nature of the causes that they inquire into. And therefore to speak plain and go no further about, Physic inquires and handles the Material and Efficient Causes, Metaphysic the Formal and Final. Physic then comprehends causes vague, variable, and respective; but does not aspire to the constant.

Limus ut hic durescit, et hæc ut cera liquescit,

Uno eodemque igne.'

Fire is the cause of induration, but respective to clay; fire is the cause of colliquation, but respective to wax. Now I will divide Physic into three doctrines. For nature is either united and collected, or diffused and distributed. Nature is collected into one, either by reason of the community of the principles of all things, or by reason of the unity of the integral body of the universe. And thus this union of nature has begot two de

1 Virg. Ecl. viii. 80.:

As the same fire which makes the soft clay hard,
Makes hard wax soft.

partments of Physic; the one concerning the first principles of things, the other concerning the structure of the universe, or the world; which parts I have likewise usually termed the doctrines concerning the Sums of Things. The third doctrine (which handles nature diffused or distributed) exhibits all the varieties and lesser sums of things. Hence it Hence it appears that there are three physical doctrines in all: concerning the principles of things; concerning the world or structure of the universe; and concerning nature manifold or diffused. Which last, as I have said, includes all variety of things, and is but as a gloss or paraphrase attending upon the text of natural history. Of these three I cannot report any as totally deficient; but in what truth or perfection they are handled, I make not here any judgment.

But Physic diffused, which touches on the variety and particularity of things, I will again divide into two parts: Physic concerning things Concrete, and Physic concerning things Abstract; or Physic concerning Creatures, and Physic concerning Natures. The one (to make use of logical terms) inquires concerning substances, with every variety of their accidents; and the other, concerning accidents, through every variety of substances. For example, if the inquiry be about a lion, or an oak, these support many different accidents; if contrariwise, it be about heat or gravity, these are found in many different substances. But as all Physic lies in a middle term between Natural History and Metaphysic, the former part (if you observe rightly) comes nearer to Natural History, the latter to Metaphysic. Concrete Physic is subject to the same division as Natural History; being conversant either with the heavens or meteors, or the globe of earth and sea, or the greater colleges, which they call the elements, or the lesser colleges or species, as also with pretergenerations and mechanics. For in all these Natural History investigates and relates the fact, whereas Physic likewise examines the causes; I mean the variable causes, that is, the Material and Efficient. Among these parts of Physic that which inquires concerning the heavenly bodies, is altogether imperfect and defective, though by reason of the dignity of the subject it deserves special consideration. Astronomy has indeed a good foundation in phenomena, yet it is weak, and by no means sound; but astrology is in most parts without foundation even. Certainly astronomy offers to the human intellect a

« AnteriorContinuar »