« AnteriorContinuar »
THE SECOND PART OF THE WORK WHICH IS CALLED
TRUE SUGGESTIONS FOR THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE.
They who have presumed to dogmatize on Nature, as on some well-investigated subject, either from self-conceit or arrogance, and in the professorial style, have inflicted the greatest injury on philosophy and learning. For they have tended to stifle and interrupt inquiry exactly in proportion as they have prevailed in bringing others to their opinion : and their own activity has not counterbalanced the mischief they have occasioned by corrupting and destroying that of others. They again who have entered upon a contrary course, and asserted that nothing whatever can be known, whether they have fallen into this opinion from their hatred of the ancient sophists, or from the hesitation of their minds, or from an exuberance of learning, have certainly adduced reasons for it which are by no means contemptible. They have not, however, derived their opinion from true sources, and, hurried on by their zeal, and some affectation, have certainly exceeded due moderation. But the more ancient Greeks (whose writings have perished) held a more prudent mean, between the arrogance of dogmatism, and the despair of skepticism; and though too frequently intermingling complaints and indignation at the difficulty of inquiry, and the obscurity of things, and champing, as it were, the bit, have still persisted in pressing their point, and pursuing their intercourse with nature: thinking, as it seems, that the better method was not to dispute upon the very point of the possibility of any thing being known, but to put it to the test of experience. Yet they themselves, by only employing the power of the understanding, have not adopted a fixed rule, but have laid their whole stress upon intense meditation, and a continual exercise and perpetual agitation of the mind.
Our method, though difficult in its operation, is easily explained. It consists in determining the degrees of certainty, whilst we, as it were, restore the senses to their former rank, but generally reject that operation of the mind which follows close upon the senses, and open and establish a new and certain course for the mind from the first actual perceptions of the senses themselves. This no doubt was the view taken by those who have assigned so much to logic; showing clearly thereby that they sought some support for the mind, and suspected its natural and spontaneous mode of action. But this is now employed too late as a remedy, when all is clearly lost, and after the mind, by the daily habit and intercourse of life, has become prepossessed with corrupted doctrines, and filled with the vainest idols. The art of logic therefore being (as we have mentioned) too late a precaution, and in no way remedying the matter, has tended more to confirm errors, than to disciose truth. Our only remaining hope and salvation is to begin the whole labour of the mind again; not leaving it to itself, but directing it perpetually from the very first, and attaining our end as it were by mechanical aid. If men, for instance, had attempted mechanical labours with their hands alone, and without the power and aid of instruments, as they have not hesitated to carry on the labours of their understanding with the unaided efforts of their mind, they would have been able to move and overcome but little, though they had exerted their utmost and united powers. And, just to pause a while on this comparison, and look into it as a mirror; let us ask, if any obelisk of a remarkable size were perchance required to be moved, for the purpose of gracing a triumph or any similar pageant, and men were to attempt it with their bare hands, would not any sober spectator avow it to be an act of the greatest madness? And if they should increase the number of workmen, and imagine that they could thus succeed, would be not think so still more? But if they chose to make a selection, and to remove the weak, and only employ the strong and vigorous, thinking by this means, at any rate, to achieve their object, would he not say that they were more fondly deranged? Nay, if, not content with this, they were to determine on consulting the athletic art, and were to give orders for all to appear with their hands, arms, and muscles regularly oiled and prepared, woulo
he not exclaim that they were taking pains to rave by method and design? Yet men are hurried on with the same senseless energy and useless combination in intellectual matters, so long as they expect great results either from the number and agreement, or the excellence and acuteness of their wits; or even strengthen their minds with logic, which may be considered as an athletic preparation, but yet do not desist (if we rightly consider the matter) from applying their own understandings merely with all this zeal and effort. Whilst nothing is more clear, than that in every great work executed by the hand of man without machines or implements, it is impossible for the strength of individuals to be increased, or for that of the multitude to combine.
Having premised so much, we lay down two points on which we would admonish mankind, lest they should fail to see or to observe them. The first of these is: that it is our good fortune, (as we consider it,) for the sake of extinguishing and removing contradiction and irritation of mind, to leave the honour and reverence due to the ancients untouched and undiminished, so that we can perform our intended work, and yet enjoy the benefit of our respectful moderation. For if we should profess to offer something better than the ancients, and yet should pursue the same course as they have done, we could never, by any artifice, contrive to avoid the imputation of having engaged in a contest or rivairy as to our respective wits, excellences, or talents; which, though neither inadmissible or new, (for why should we not blame and point out any thing that is imperfectly discovered or laid down hy them, of our own right, a right common to all,) yet, however just and allowable, would perhaps he scarcely an equal match, on account of the disproportion of our strength. But, since our present plan leads us to open an entirely different course to the understanding, and one unattempted and unknown to them, the case is altered. There is an end to party zeal, and we only take upon ourselves the character of a guide, which requires a moderate share of authority and good fortune, rather than talents and excellence. This first admonition relates to persons, the next to things.
We make no attempt to disturb the system of philosophy that now prevails, or any other which may or will exist, either more correct or more complete. For we deny not that the received system of philosophy, and others of a similar nature, encourage discussion, embellish barangues, are em ployed and are of service in the duties of the professor, and the affairs of civil life. Nay, we openly express and declare that the philosophy we offer will not be very useful in such respects. It is not obvious, nor to be understood in a cursory view, nor does it flatter the mind in its preconceived notions, nor will it descend to the level of the generality of mankind, unless by its advantages and effects.
Let there exist then (and may it be of advantage to both) two sources, and two distributions of learning, and in like manner two tribes, and as it were kindred families of contemplators or philosophers, withrrit any hostility or alienation between them; but rather allied and united by mutual assistance. Let there be, in short, one method of cultivating the sciences, and another of discovering thein. And as for those who prefer and more readily receive the former, on account of their haste, or from motives arising from their ordinary life, or because they are unable from weakness of mind to comprehend and embrace the other, (which must necessarily be the case with by far the greater number,) let us wish that they may prosper as they desire in their undertaking, and attain what they pursue. But if any individual desire and is anxious not merely to adhere to and make use of present discoveries, but to penetrate still further, and not to overcome his adversaries in disputes, but nature by labour, not, in short, to give elegant and specious opinions, but to know to a certainty and demonstration, let him, as a true son of science, (if such be his wish,) join with us; that when he has left the antechambers of nature trodden by the multitude, an entrance at last may be discovered to her inner apartments. And, in order to be better understood, and to render our meaning inore familiar by assigning determinate names, we have accustomed ourselves to call the one method the anticipation of the mind, and the other the interpretation of nature.
We have still one request left. We have at least reflected and taken pains in order to render our propositions not only true, but of easy and familiar access to men's minds, however wonderfully prepossessed and limited. Yet it is but just that we should obtain this favour from mankind, (espe. cially in so great a restoration of learning and the sciences,) that whosoever may be desirous of torming any determination upon an opinion of this our work, either from his own perceptions, or the crowd of authorities, or the forms of demonstrations, he will not expect to be able to do so in a cursory manner, and whilst attending to other matters; but in order to have a thorough knowledge of the subject, will himself by degrees attempt the course which we describe and maintain; will trecome accustomed to the subtilty of things which is manifested by experience; and will correct ide depraved and deeply rooted habits of his mind by a seasonable and as it were just hesitation: and then finally (if he will) use his judgment when he has begun to be master of himself.
SUMMARY OF THE SECOND PART,
DIGESTED IN APHORISMS.
APUORISMS ON THE INTERPRETATION
10. The subtilty of nature is far beyond that OF NATURE AND THE EMPIRE OF MAN. of sense or of the understanding: so that the
1. Man, as the minister and interpreter of na- specious meditations, speculations, and theories ture, does and understands as much as his obser- of mankind, are but a kind of insanity, only there
1 vations on the order of nature, either with regard is no one to stand by and observe it. to things or the mind, permit him, and neither 11. As the present sciences are useless for the knows nor is capable of more.
discovery of effects, so the present system of 2, The unassisted hand, and the understanding logic is useless for the discovery of the sciences. left to itself, possess but little power. Effects 12. The present system of logic rather assists are produced by the means of instruments and in confirming and rendering inveterate the errors helps, which the understanding requires no less founded on vulgar notions, than in searching than the hand. And as instruments either pro- after truth; and is therefore more hurtful than mote or regulate the motion of the hand, so those useful. that are applied to the mind prompt or protect the 13. The syllogism is not applied to the princiunderstanding.
ples of the sciences, and is of no avail in inter3. Knowledge and human power are synony- mediate axioms, as being very unequal to the mous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates subtilty of nature. It forces assent, therefore, the effect. For nature is only subdued by sub- and not things. mission, and that which in contemplative philo- 14. The syllogism consists of propositions, sophy corresponds with the cause, in practical propositions of words, words are the signs of science becomes the rule.
notions. If, therefore, the notions (which form 4. Man, whilst operating, can only apply or the basis of the whole) be confused and carelesswithdraw natural bodies; nature, internally, per- ly abstracted from things, there is no solidity in forms the rest.
the superstructure. Our only hope, then, is in 5. Those who become practically versed in genuine induction. nature, are the mechanic, the mathematician, the 15. We have no sound notions either in logic physician, the alchymist, and the magician; but or physics; substance, quality, action, passion, all (as matters now stand) with faint efforts and and existence are not clear notions; much less, meagre success,
weight, levity, density, tenuity, moisture, dryness, 6. It would be madness, and inconsistency, to generation, corruption, attraction, repulsion, elesuppose that things which have never yet been ment, matter, form, and the like. They are all performed, can be performed without employing fantastical and ill defined. some hitherto untried means.
16. The notions of less abstract natures, as 7. The creations of the mind and hand appear man, dog, dove; and the immediate perceptions very numerous, if we judge by books and manu- of sense, as heat, cold, white, black, do not defactures: but all that variety consists of an ceive us materially, yet even these are sometimes excessive refinement, and of deductions from a confused by the mutability of maiter and the infew well known matters; not of a number of termixture of things. All the rest, which men axioms.
have hitherto employed, are errors; and impro8. Even the effects already discovered are due perly abstracted and deduced from things. to chance and experiment, rather than to the 17. There is the same degree of licentiousness sciences. For our present sciences are nothing and error in forming axioms, as in abstracting nomore than peculiar arrangements of matters al- tions: and that in the first principles, which deready discovered, and not methods for discovery, pend on common induction. Still more is this or plans for new operations.
the case in axioms and inferior propositions de9. The sole cause and root of almost every rived from syllogisms. defect in the sciences is this; that whilst we 18. The present discoveries in science are such falsely admire and extol the powers of the human as lie immediately beneath the surface of common mind, we do not search for its real helps. notions. It is necessary, however, to penetrale Vol. III.-44
the more secret and remote parts of nature, in to call that human reasoning which we apply to order to abstract both notions and axioms from nature, the anticipation of nature, (as being rash things, by a more certain and guarded method. and premature ;) and that which is properly de
19. There are and can exist but two ways of duced from things, the interpretation of nature. investigating and discovering truth. The one 27. Anticipations are sufficiently powerful in hurries on rapidly from the senses and particulars producing unanimity, for if men were all to be to the most general axioms; and from them as come even uniformly mad, they might agree principles and their supposed indisputable truth tolerably well with each other. derives and discovers the intermediate axioms. 28. Anticipations again will be assented to This is the way now in use. The other con- much more readily than interpretations; because, structs its axioms from the senses and particulars, being deduced from a few instances, and these by ascending continually and gradually, till it principally of familiar occurrence, they immedi
finally arrives at the most general axioms, which ately hit the understanding, and satisfy the i is the true but unattempted way.
imagination ; whilst, on the contrary, interpreta20. The understanding when left to itself pro- tions, being deduced from various subjects, and ceeds by the same way as that which it would these widely dispersed, cannot suddenly strike have adopted under the guidance of logic, name the understanding; so that, in common estima. ly, the first. For the mind is fond of starting off tion, they must appear difficult and discordant, to generalities, that it may avoid labour, and after and almost like the mysteries of faith. dwelling a little on a subject is fatigued by expe- 29. In sciences founded on opinions and dogriment. But these evils are augmented by logic, mas, it is right to make use of anticipations and for the sake of the ostentation of dispute. logic, if you wish to force assent rather than
21. The understanding when left to itself in a things. man of a steady, patient, and reflecting disposition, 30. If all the capacities of all ages should unite (especially when unimpeded by received doc- and combine and transmit their labours, no great trines,) makes some attempt in the right way, progress will be made in learning by anticipabut with little effect; since the understanding, tions; because the radical errors, and those which undirected and unassisted, is unequal to and unfit occur in the first process of the mind, are not for the task of vanquishing the obscurity of cured by the excellence of subsequent means and things.
remedies. 22. Each of these two ways begins from the 31. It is in vain to expect any great progress senses and particulars, and ends in the greatest in the sciences by the superinducing or engrafting generalities. But they are immeasurably differ- new matters upon old. An instauration must be ent; for the one merely touches cursorily the made from the very foundations, if we do not limits of experiment, and particulars, whilst the wish to revolve forever in a circle, making only other runs duly and regularly through them; the some slight and contemptible progress. one from the very outset lays down some abstract 32. The ancient authors, and all others, are left and useless generalities, the other gradually rises in undisputed possession of their honours. For to those principles which are really the most we enter into no comparison of capacity or talent, common in nature.
but of method; and assume the part of a guide, 23. There is no small difference between the rather than of a critic. idols of the human mind, and the ideas of the 33. To speak plainly, no correct judgment can divine mind; that is to say, between certain idle be formed, either of our method, or its discovedogmas, and the real stamp and impression of ries, by those anticipations which are now in created objects, as they are found in nature. common use; for it is not to be required of us to
21. Axioms determined upon in argument can submit ourselves to the judgment of the very never assist in the discovery of new effects : for method we ourselves arraign. the subtilty of nature is vastly superior to that of 31. Nor is it an easy matter to deliver and ex. argument. But axioms properly and regularly plain our sentiments : for those things which are abstracted from particulars, easily point out and in themselves new can yet be only understood define new particulars, and therefore impart ac- from some analogy to what is old. tivity to the sciences.
35. Alexander Borgia said of the expedition of 25. The axioms now in use are derived from a the French into Italy, that they came with chalk scanty handful, as it were, of experience, and a in their hands to mark up their lodgings, and not lew particulars of frequent occurrence, whence with weapons to force their passage. Even so do they are of much the same dimensions or extent we wish our philosophy to make its war quietly into as their origin. And if any neglected or unknown those minds that are fit for it, and of good capaciinstance occurs, the axiom is saved by some fri- ty. For we have no need of contention where volous distinction, when it would be more con- we differ in first principles, and our very notions, sistent with truth to amend it.
and even in our forms of demonstration. 26. We are wont, for the sake of distinction, 36. We have but one simple method of deliver
ing our sentiments : namely, we must bring men tuated by chance; and Heraclitus said well that to particulars, and their regular series and order, men search for knowledge in lesser worlds, and and they must for a while renounce their notions not in the greater or common world. and begin to form an acquaintance with things. 43. There are also idols formed by the recipro
37. Our method and that of the skeptics agree cal intercourse and society of man with man, in some respects at first setting out: but differ which we call idols of the market, from the commost widely and are completely opposed to each merce and association of men with each other. other in their conclusion. For they roundly For men converse by means of language; but assert that nothing can be known; we, that but words are formed at the will of the generality; a small part of nature can be known by the pre- and there arises from a bad and unapt formation sent method. Their next step, however, is to de- of words a wonderful obstruction to the mind. stroy the authority of the senses and understand- Nor can the definitions and explanations, with ing, whilst we invent and supply them with which learned men are wont to guard and protect assistance.
themselves in some instances, afford a complete 38. The idols and false notions which have remedy: words still manifestly force the underalready preoccupied the human understanding, standing, throw every thing into confusion, and and are deeply rooted in it, not only to beset lead mankind into vain and innumerable contromen's minds, that they become difficult of access, versies and fallacies. but, even when access is obtained, will again 44. Lastly, there are idols which have crept meet and trouble us in the instauration of the into men's minds from the various dogmas of sciences, unless mankind, when forewarned, peculiar systems of philosophy, and also from the guard themselves with all possible care against perverted rules of demonstration, and these we thein.
denominate idols of the theatre. For we regard 39. Four species of idols beset the human all the systems of philosophy hitherto received or mind : to which (for distinction's sake) we have imagined, as so many plays brought out and perassigned names: calling the first idols of the formed, creating fictitious and theatrical worlds. tribe; the second idols of the den; the third Nor do we speak only of the present systems, or idols of the market; the fourth idols of the of the philosophy and seets of the ancients, since theatre,
numerous other plays of a similar nature can be 40. The formation of notions and axioms on still composed and made to agree with each other, the foundation of true induction, is the only fitting the causes of the most opposite errors being genereinedy, by which we can ward off and expel rally the same. Nor, again, do we allude merely these idols. It is, however, of great service to to general systems, but also to many elements point them out. For the doctrine of idols bears and axioms of sciences, which have become inthe same relation to the interpretation of nature, veterate by tradition, implicit credence, and negas that of confutation of sophisms does to com- lect. We must, however, discuss each species mon logic.
of idols more fully and distinctly, in order to guard 41. The idols of the tribe are inherent in hu- the human understanding against them. man nature, and the very tribe or race of man. 45.* The human understanding, from its pecuFor man's sense is falsely asserted to be the liar nature, easily supposes a greater degree of standard of things. On the contrary, all the per- order and equality in things than it really finds; ceptions, both of the senses and the mind, bear and although many things in nature be sui genereference to man, and not to the universe, and the ris, and most irregular, will yet invent parallels human mind resembles those uneven mirrors, and conjugates, and relatives, where no such thing which impart their own properties to different is. Hence the fiction, that all celestial bodies objects, from which rays are emitted, and distort were in perfect circles, thus rejecting entirely and dissigure them.
spiral and serpentine lines, (except as explanatory 42. The idols of the den are those of each terms.) Hence, also, the element of fire is inindividual. For everybody (in addition to the troduced with its peculiar orbit, to keep square errors common to the race of man) has his own with those other three which are objects of our individual den or cavern, which intercepts and senses. The relative rarity of the elements (as corrupts the light of nature ; either from his own they are called) is arbitrarily made to vary in tenpeculiar and singular disposition, or from his fold progression, with many other dreams of education and intercourse with others, or from the like nature. Nor is this folly confined to his reading, and the authority acquired by those theories, but it is to be met with even in simple whom he reverences and admires, or from the notions. different impressions produced on the mind, as it 46. The human understanding, when any prnhappens to be preoccupied and predisposed, or position has been once laid down, (either from equable and tranquil, and the like: so that the general admission and belief, or from the pleasure spirit of man (according to its several dispositions) is variable, confused, and as it were ac
Hence to Aphorism 53 treats of the idols of the tribe