Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

1

knowledge Solomon likewise, though in a more divine sense, elegantly describes, “ Thy steps shall not be straitened, and when thou runnest thou shalt not stumble;" I meaning thereby that the ways of wisdom are not much liable either to straitness or obstructions.

The second part of Metaphysic is the inquiry of Final Causes, which I report not as omitted, but as misplaced. For they are generally sought for in Physic, and not in Metaphysic. And yet if it were but a fault in order I should not think so much of it; for order is matter of illustration, but pertains not to the substance of sciences. But this misplacing has caused a notable deficience, and been a great misfortune to philosophy. For the handling of final causes in physics has driven away and overthrown the diligent inquiry of physical causes, and made men to stay upon these specious and shadowy causes, without actively pressing the inquiry of those which are really and truly physical; to the great arrest and prejudice of science. For this I find done, not only by Plato, who ever anchors upon that shore, but also by Aristotle, Galen, and others, who also very frequently strike upon these shallows. For to introduce such causes as these, “that the hairs of the eyelids are for a quickset and fence about the sight;” or “ that the firmness of the skins and hides of living creatures is to defend them from the extremities of heat and cold ;” or “ that the bones are for columns or beams, whereupon the frames of the bodies of living creatures are built ;” or “that the leaves of trees are for protecting the fruit from the sun and wind;” or “ that the clouds are formed above for watering the earth;” or “that the thickness and solidity of the earth is for the station and mansion of living creatures,” and the like, is a proper inquiry in Metaphysic, but in Physic it is impertinent. Nay, as I was going to say, these discoursing causes (like those fishes they call remoras, which are said to stick to the sides of ships) have in fact hindered the voyage and progress of the sciences, and prevented them from holding on their course and advancing further; and have brought it to pass that the inquiry of physical causes has been long neglected and passed in silence. And therefore the natural philosophy of Democritus and others, who removed God and Mind from the structure of things, and attributed the form thereof to infinite essays and proofs of nature (which they

I Prov. iv. 12.

termed by one name, Fate or Fortune), and assigned the causes of particular things to the necessity of matter, without any intermixture of final causes, seems to me (so far as I can judge from the fragments and relics of their philosophy) to have been, as regards physical causes, much more solid and to have penetrated further into nature than that of Aristotle and Plato; for this single reason, that the former never wasted time on final causes, while the latter were ever inculcating them. And in this Aristotle is more to be blamed than Plato, seeing that he left out the fountain of final causes, namely God, and substituted Nature for God; and took in final causes themselves rather as the lover of logic than of theology. And I say this, not because those final causes are not true and worthy to be inquired in metaphysical speculations; but because their excursions and irruptions into the limits of physical causes has bred a waste and solitude in that track. For otherwise, if they be but kept within their proper bounds, men are extremely deceived if they think there is any enmity or repugnancy at all between the two. For the cause rendered, “ that the hairs about the

yelids are for the safeguard of the sight,” does not impugn the cause rendered, “that pilosity is incident to orifices of moisture;”

Muscosi fontes, &c.' Nor the cause rendered, “ that the firmness of hides in animals is for the armour of the body against extremities of heat or cold,” does not impugn the cause rendered, “ that this firmness is caused from the contraction of the pores in the outward parts by cold and depredation of the air;" and so of the rest; both causes being perfectly compatible, except that one declares an intention, the other a consequence only. Neither does this call in question or derogate from divine providence, but rather highly confirms and exalts it. For as in civil actions he is far the greater and deeper politician that can make other men the instruments of his ends and desires and yet never acquaint them with his purpose (so as they shall do what he wills and yet not know that they are doing it), than he that imparts his meaning to those he employs; so does the wisdom of God shine forth more admirably when nature intends one thing and Providence draws forth another, than if he had communicated to

[blocks in formation]

all natural figures and motions the characters and impressions of his providence. For instance, Aristotle, when he had made nature pregnant with final causes, laying it down that “ Nature does nothing in vain, and always effects her will when free from impediments,” and many other things of the same kind, had no further need of a God. But Democritus and Epicurus, when they proclaimed their doctrine of atoms, were tolerated so far by some of the more subtle wits; but when they proceeded to assert that the fabric of the universe itself had come together through the fortuitous concourse of the atoms, without a mind, they were met with universal ridicule. Thus so far are physical causes from withdrawing men from God and Providence, that contrariwise, those philosophers who have been occupied in searching them out can find no issue but by rcsorting to God and Providence at the last. And so much for Metaphysic; the latter part whereof, concerning Final Causes, I allow to be extant in books both physical and metaphysical; in the latter rightly, in the former wrongly, by reason of the inconvenience that ensues thereon.

CHAP. V.

Division of the operative doctrine concerning Nature into Mechanic

and Magic, which correspond with the divisions of the speculative doctrine ; Mechanic answering to Physic, Magic to Metaphysic. Purification of the word Magic. Two appendices of the operative doctrine. Inventory of the possessions of man, and Catalogue of Polychrests, or things of general

use.

The operative doctrine concerning nature I will likewise divide into two parts, and that by a kind of necessity, for this division is subject to the former division of the speculative doctrine; and as Physic and the inquisition of Efficient and Material causes produces Mechanic, so Metaphysic and the inquisition of Forms produces Magic For the inquisition of Final Causes is barren, and like a virgin consecrated to God produces nothing. I know that there is also a kind of Mechanic often merely empirical and operative, which does not depend on Physic; but

a

1 Arist. Polit. i. 2.

this I have remitted to Natural History, taking it away from Natural Philosophy. I speak only of that mechanic which is connected with physical causes. Nevertheless between these two kinds of mechanic there is also another which is not altogether operative, yet does not properly reach to philosophy. For all inventions of works which are known to men have either come by chance and so been handed down from one to another, or they have been purposely sought for. But those which have been found by intentional experiment have been either worked out by the light of causes and axioms, or detected by extending or transferring or putting together former inventions; which is a matter of ingenuity and sagacity rather than philosophy. And this kind, which I noways despise, I will presently touch on by the way, when I come to treat of learned experience among the parts of logic. But the mechanic of which I now treat is that which has been handled by Aristotle promiscuously, by Hero in spirituals, by Georgius Agricola, a modern writer, very diligently in minerals, and by many other writers in particular subjects; so that I have no omissions to mark in this part, except that promiscuous mechanics, after the manner of Aristotle, ought to have been more diligently continued by the moderns, especially with selection of those whereof either the causes are more obscure, or the effects more noble. But they who pursue these studies do but creep as it were along the shore,

premendo litus iniquum.' For it seems to me there can hardly be discovered any radical or fundamental alterations and innovations of nature, either by accidents or essays of experiments, or from the light and direction of physical causes; but only by the discovery of forms. If then I have set down that part of metaphysic which treats of forms as deficient, it must follow that I do the like of natural magic, which has relation thereunto. But I must here stipulate that magic, which has long been used in a bad sense, be again restored to its ancient and honourable meaning. For among the Persians magic was taken for a sublime wisdom, and the knowledge of the universal consents of things; and so the three kings who came from the east to worship Christ were called by the name of Magi. I however understand it as the science

a

| Hor. Od. ii. 10.:

- hugging the coast.

For as

which applies the knowledge of hidden forms to the production of wonderful operations; and by uniting (as they say) actives with passives, displays the wonderful works of nature. for that natural magic which flutters about so many books, embracing certain credulous and superstitious traditions and observations concerning sympathies and antipathies, and hidden and specific properties, with experiments for the most part frivolous, and wonderful rather for the skill with which the thing is concealed and masked than for the thing itself; it will not be wrong to say that it is as far differing in truth of nature from such a knowledge as we require, as the story of King Arthur of Britain, or Hugh of Bordeaux, and such like imaginary heroes, differs from Cæsar's Commentaries in truth of story. For it is manifest that Cæsar did greater things in reality than those imaginary heroes were feigned to do, but he did them not in that fabulous manner. Of this kind of learning the fable of Ixion was a figure; who designing to embrace Juno, the Goddess of Power, had intercourse with a fleeting cloud; out of which he begot Centaurs and Chimæras. So they who are carried away by insane and uncontrollable passion after things which they only fancy they see through the clouds and vapours of imagination, shall in place of works beget nothing else but empty hopes and hideous and monstrous spectres. But this popular and degenerate natural magic has the same kind of effect on men as some soporific drugs, which not only lull to sleep, but also during sleep instil gentle and pleasing dreams. For first it lays the understanding asleep by singing of specific properties and bidden virtues, sent as from heaven and only to be learned from the whispers of tradition; which makes men no longer alive and awake for the pursuit and inquiry of real causes, but to rest content with these slothful and credulous opinions; and then it insinuates innumerable fictions, pleasant to the mind, and such as one would most desire, - like so many dreams. And it is worth while to note that in these sciences which hold too much of imagination and belief (such as that light Magic of which I now speak, Alchemy, Astrology, and others the like) the means and theory are ever more monstrous than the end and action at which they aim. The conversion of silver, quicksilver, or any other metal into gold, is a thing difficult to believe; yet it is far more probable that a man who knows clearly the natures of weight, of the colour of

« AnteriorContinuar »