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it affords,) forces every thing else to add fresh generalities in nature must be positive, just as support and confirmation; and although more they are found, and in fact not causable, yet, the cogent and abundant instances may exist to the human understanding, incapable of resting, seeks contrary, yet either does not observe or despises for something more intelligible. Thus, however, them, or gets rid of and rejects them by some whilst aiming at further progress, it falls back to distinction, with violent and injurious prejudice, what is actually less advanced, namely, final rather than sacrifice the authority of its first con- causes; for they are clearly more allied to man's clusions. It was well answered by him who was own nature than the system of the universe; shown in a temple the votive tablets suspended and from this source they have wonderfully cor by such as had escaped the peril of shipwreck, rupted philosophy. But he would be an unskiland was pressed as to whether he would then ful and shallow philosopher, who should seek recognise the power of the gods, by an inquiry; for causes in the greatest generalities, and not "But where are the portraits of those who have be anxious to discover them in subordinate obperished in spite of their vows?" All supersti- | jects. tion is much the same, whether it be that of 49. The human understanding resembles not astrology, dreams, omens, retributive judgment, a dry light, but admits a tincture of the will and or the like; in all of which the deluded believers passions, which generate their own system acobserve events which are fulfilled, but neglect cordingly: for man always believes more readily and pass over their failure, though it be much that which he prefers. He, therefore, rejects more common. But this evil insinuates itself difficulties for want of patience in investigation; still more craftily in philosophy and the sciences; sobriety, because it limits his hope; the depths in which a settled maxim vitiates and governs of nature, from superstition; the light of experi every other circumstance, though the latter be ment, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind much more worthy of confidence. Besides, even should appear to be occupied with common and in the absence of that eagerness and want of varying objects; paradoxes, from a fear of the thought, (which we have mentioned,) it is the opinion of the vulgar; in short, his feelings imbue peculiar and perpetual error of the human under- and corrupt his understanding in innumerable and standing to be more moved and excited by affirma- sometimes imperceptible ways. tives than by negatives, whereas it ought duly and regularly to be impartial; nay, in establishing any true axiom, the negative instance is the most powerful.
47. The human understanding is most excited by that which strikes and enters the mind at once and suddenly, and by which the imagination is immediately filled and inflated. It then begins almost imperceptibly to conceive and suppose that every thing is similar to the few objects which have taken possession of the mind; whilst it is very slow and unfit for the transition to the remote and heterogeneous instances, by which axioms are tried as by fire, unless the office be imposed upon it by severe regulations, and a powerful authority.
48. The human understanding is active and cannot halt or rest, but even, though without effect, still presses forward. Thus we cannot conceive of any end or external boundary of the world, and it seems necessarily to occur to us, that there must be something beyond. Nor can we imagine how eternity has flowed on down to the present day, since the usually received distinction of an infinity, a parte ante and a parte post, cannot hold good: for it would thence follow that one infinity is greater than another, and also that infinity is wasting away and tending to an end. There is the same difficulty in considering the infinite divisibility of lines, arising from the weakness of our minds, which weakness interferes to still greater disadvantage with the discovery of causes. For, although the greatest
50. But by far the greatest impediment and aberration of the human understanding proceeds from the dulness, incompetency, and errors of the senses since whatever strikes the senses preponderates over every thing, however superior, which does not immediately strike them. Hence contemplation mostly ceases with sight; and a very scanty, or perhaps no regard is paid to invisible objects. The entire operation, therefore, of spirits enclosed in tangible bodies is concealed and escapes us. All that more delicate change of formation in the parts of coarser substances (vulgarly called alteration, but in fact a change of position in the smallest particles) is equally unknown; and yet, unless the two matters we have mentioned be explored and brought to light, no great effect can be produced in nature. Again, the very nature of common air, and all bodies of less density (of which there are many) is almost unknown. For the senses are weak and erring, nor can instruments be of great use in extending their sphere or acuteness; all the better interpretations of nature are worked out by instances, and fit and apt experiments, where the senses only judge of the experiment, the experiment of nature and the thing itself.
51. The human understanding is, by its own nature, prone to abstraction, and supposes that which is fluctuating to be fixed. But it is better to dissect than abstract nature; such was the method employed by the school of Democritus, which made greater progress in penetrating nature than the rest. It is best to consider matter, its
The notion for inloumed site legt a
conformation, and the changes of that conformation, its own action, and the law of this action or motion, for forms are a mere fiction of the human mind, unless you will call the laws of action by that name. Such are the idols of the tribe, which arise either from the uniformity of the constitution of man's spirit, or its prejudices, or its limited faculties, or restless agitation, or from the interference of the passions, or the incompetency of the senses, or the mode of their impressions.
53. The idols of the den derive their origin from the peculiar nature of each individual's mind and body; and also from education, habit, and accident. And although they be various and manifold, yet we will treat of some that require the greatest caution, and exert the greatest power in polluting the understanding.
54. Some men become attached to particular sciences and contemplations, either from supposing themselves the authors and inventors of them, or from having bestowed the greatest pains upon such subjects, and thus become most habituated to them. If men of this description apply themselves to philosophy and contemplations of an universal nature, they wrest and corrupt them by their preconceived fancies; of which Aristotle affords us a signal instance, who made his natural philosophy completely subservient to his logic, and thus rendered it little more than useless and disputatious. The chymists, again, have formed a fanciful philosophy with the most confined views, from a few experiments of the furnace. Gilbert, too, having employed himself most assiduously in the consideration of the magnet, immediately established a system of philosophy to coincide with his favourite pursuit.
55. The greatest, and, perhaps, radical distinction between different men's dispositions for philosophy and the sciences is this; that some are more vigorous and active in observing the differences of things, others in observing their resemblances. For a steady and acute disposition can fix its thoughts, and dwell upon, and adhere to a point, through all the refinements of differences; but those that are sublime and discursive recognise and compare even the most delicate and general resemblances. Each of them readily falls into excess, by catching either at nice distinctions or shadows of resemblance.
56. Some dispositions evince an unbounded admiration of antiquity, others eagerly embrace novelty; and but few can preserve the just medium, so as neither to tear up what the ancients have correctly laid down, nor to despise the just innovations of the moderns. But this is very prejudicial to the sciences and philosophy, and, instead of a correct judgment, we have but the factions of the ancients and moderns. Truth is not to be sought in the good fortune of any parti
Hence to Aphorism 59, treats of the idols of the den.
cular conjuncture of time, which is uncertain, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal. Such factions, therefore, are to be abjured, and the understanding must not allow them to hurry it on to assent.
57. The contemplation of nature and of bodies in their individual form distracts and weakens the understanding: but the contemplation of nature and of bodies in their general composition and formation stupifies and relaxes it. We have a good instance of this in the school of Leucippus and Democritus compared with others: for they applied themselves so much to particulars as almost to neglect the general structure of things, whilst the others were so astounded whilst gazing on the structure, that they did not penetrate the simplicity of nature. These two species of contemplation must therefore be interchanged, and each employed in its turn, in order to render the understanding at once penetrating and capacious, and to avoid the inconveniences we have mentioned, and the idols that result from them.
58. Let such, therefore, be our precautions in contemplation, that we may ward off and expel the idols of the den: which mostly owe their birth either to some predominant pursuit; or, secondly, to an excess in synthesis and analysis; or, thirdly, to a party zeal in favour of certain ages; or, fourthly, to the extent or narrowness of the subject. In general, he who contemplates nature should suspect whatever particularly takes and fixes his understanding, and should use so much the more caution to preserve it equable and unprejudiced.
59. The idols* of the market are the most troublesome of all, those, namely, which have entwined themselves round the understanding from the associations of words and names. For men imagine that their reason governs words, whilst, in fact, words react upon the understanding; and this has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive. Words are generally formed in a popular sense, and define things by those broad lines which are most obvious to the vulgar mind; but when a more acute understanding, or more diligent observation is anxious to vary those lines, and to adapt them more accurately to nature, words oppose it. Hence the great and solemn disputes of learned men often terminate in controversies about words and names, in regard to which it would be better (imitating the caution of mathematicians) to proceed more advisedly in the first instance, and to bring such disputes to a regular issue by definitions. Such definitions, however, cannot remedy the evil in natural and material objects, because they con sist themselves of words, and these words pro duce others; so that we must necessarily have recourse to particular instances, and their regula
Hence to Aphorism 61, treats of the idols of the market.
series and arrangement, as we shall mention when depraved rules of demonstration. To attempt. we come to the mode and scheme of determining however, or undertake their confutation, would notions and axioms. not be consistent with our declarations. For, since we neither agree in our principles nor our demonstrations, all argument is out of the question. And it is fortunate that the ancients are left in possession of their honours. We detract nothing from them, seeing our whole doctrine relates only to the path to be pursued. The lame (as they say) in the path outstrip the swift, who wander from it, and it is clear that the very skill and swiftness of him who runs not in the right direction, must increase his aberration.
60. The idols imposed upon the understanding by words are of two kinds. They are either the names of things which have no existence, (for, as some objects are from inattention left without a name, so names are formed by fanciful imaginations which are without an object,) or they are the names of actual objects, but confused, badly defined, and hastily and irregularly abstracted from things. Fortune, the primum mobile, the planetary orbits, the element of fire, and the like fictions, which owe their birth to futile and false Our method of discovering the sciences is such theories, are instances of the first kind. And this as to leave little to the acuteness and strength of species of idols is removed with greater facility, wit, and indeed rather to level wit and intellect. because it can be exterminated by the constant For, as in the drawing of a straight line or accurefutation or the desuetude of the theories them-rate circle by the hand, much depends upon its selves. The others, which are created by vicious steadiness and practice, but if a ruler or compass and unskilful abstraction, are intricate and deeply rooted. Take some word for instance, as moist; and let us examine how far the different significations of this word are consistent. It will be found that the word moist is nothing but a confused sign of different actions, admitting of no settled and defined uniformity. For it means that which easily diffuses itself over another body; that which is indeterminable and cannot be brought to a consistency; that which yields easily in every direction; that which is easily divided and dispersed ; that which is easily united and collected; that which easily flows and is put in motion; that which easily adheres to and wets another body; that which is easily reduced to a liquid state, though previously solid. When, therefore, you come to predicate or impose this name, in one sense flame is moist, in another air is not moist, in another fine powder is moist, in another glass is moist; so that it is quite clear that this notion is hastily abstracted from water only, and common, ordinary liquors, without any due verification of it.
be employed there is little occasion for either; so it is with our method. Although, however, we enter into no individual confutations, yet a little must be said, first, of the sects and general divisions of these species of theories; secondly, something further to show that there are external signs of their weakness, and, lastly, we must consider the causes of so great a misfortune, and so long and general a unanimity in error, that we may thus render the access to truth less difficult, and that the human understanding may the more readily be purified, and brought to dismiss its idols.
62. The idols of the theatre or of theories are numerous, and may and perhaps will be still more so. For, unless men's minds had been now occupied for many ages in religious and theological considerations, and civil governments (especially monarchies) had been averse to novelties of that nature, even in theory, (so that men must apply to them with some risk and injury to their own fortunes, and not only without reward, but subject to contumely and envy,) there is no There are, however, different degrees of distor-doubt that many other sects of philosophers and tion and mistake in words. One of the least theorists would have been introduced, like those faulty classes is that of the names of substances, which formerly flourished in such diversified particularly of the less abstract and more defined abundance amongst the Greeks. For, as many species; (those then of chalk and mud are good, of imaginary theories of the heavens can be deduced earth, bad;) words signifying actions are more from the phenomena of the sky, so it is even faulty, as to generate, to corrupt, to change; but more easy to found many dogmas upon the phethe most faulty are those denoting qualities, (ex-nomena of philosophy; and the plot of this our cept the immediate objects of sense,) as heavy, light, rare, dense. Yet in all of these there must be some notions a little better than others, in proportion as a greater or less number of things come before the senses.
61 The idols of the theatre* are not innate, nor do they introduce themselves secretly into the understanding; but they are manifestly instilled and cherished by the fictions of theories and
theatre resembles those of the poetical, where the plots which are invented for the stage are more consistent, elegant, and pleasurable than those taken from real history.
In general, men take for the groundwork of their philosophy either too much from a few to pics, or too little from many; in either case their philosophy is founded on too narrow a basis of experiment and natural history, and decides on too scanty grounds. For the theoretic philosopher • Hence to Aphorism 68, treats of the idols of the theatre. seizes various common circumstances by experi
ment, without reducing them to certainty, or examining and frequently considering them, and relies for the rest upon meditation and the activity of his wit.
There are other philosophers who have diligently and accurately attended to a few experiments, and have thence presumed to deduce and invent systems of philosophy, forming every thing to conformity with them.
A third set, from their faith and religious veneration, introduce theology and traditions; the absurdity of some amongst them having proceeded so far as to seek and derive the sciences from spirits and genii. There are, therefore, three sources of error and three species of false philosophy; the sophistic, empiric, and superstitious.
poor and superficial, is yet in a manner universal and of a general tendency,) but in the confined obscurity of a few experiments. Hence this species of philosophy appears probable and almost certain to those who are daily practised in such experiments, and have thus corrupted their imagination, but incredible and futile to others. We have a strong instance of this in the alchymists and their dogmas; it would be difficult to find another in this age, unless, perhaps, in the philosophy of Gilbert.* We could not, however, neglect to caution others against this school, because we already foresee and augur, that if men be hereafter induced by our exhortations to apply seriously to experiments, (bidding farewell to the sophistic doctrines,) there will then be imminent danger from empirics, owing to the premature and forward haste of the understanding, and its jumping or flying to generalities and the principles of things. We ought, therefore, already to meet the evil.
63. Aristotle affords the most eminent instance of the first; for he corrupted natural philosophy by logic: thus, he formed the world of categories, assigned to the human soul, the noblest of substances, a genus determined by words of 65. The corruption of philosophy by the mixing secondary operation, treated of density and rarity of it up with superstition and theology is of a much (by which bodies occupy a greater or lesser space) wider extent, and is most injurious to it, both as a by the frigid distinctions of action and power, whole and in parts. For the human understanding asserted that there was a peculiar and proper mo- is no less exposed to the impressions of fancy, than tion in all bodies, and that if they shared in any to those of vulgar notions. The disputatious and other motion, it was owing to an external moving sophistic school entraps the understanding, whilst cause, and imposed innumerable arbitrary dis- the fanciful, bombastic, and, as it were, poetical tinctions upon the nature of things; being every-school rather flatters it. There is a clear example where more anxious as to definitions in teaching, of this among the Greeks, especially in Pythagoand the accuracy of the wording of his propositions, than the internal truth of things. And this is best shown by a comparison of his philosophy with the others of greatest repute among the Greeks. For the similar parts of Anaxagoras, the atoms of Leucippus and Democritus, the heaven and earth of Parmenides, the discord and concord of Empedocles, the resolution of bodies into the common nature of fire, and their condensation, according to Heraclitus, exhibit some sprinkling of natural philosophy, the nature of things, and experiment, whilst Aristotle's physics are mere logical terms, and he remodelled the same subject in his metaphysics under a more imposing title, and more as a realist than a nominalist. Nor is much stress to be laid on his frequent recourse to experiment in his books on animals, his problems, and other treatises; for he had already decided, without having properly consulted experience as the basis of his decisions and axioms, and after having so decided, he drags experiment along, as a captive constrained to accommodate herself to his decisions; so that he is even more to be blamed than his modern followers, (of the scholastic school,) who have deserted her altogether.
ras, where, however, the superstition is coarse and overcharged, but it is more dangerous and refined in Plato and his school. This evil is found also in some branches of other systems of philosophy, where it introduces abstracted forms, final and first causes, omitting frequently the intermediate, and the like. Against it we must use the greatest caution; for the apotheosis of error is the greatest evil of all, and when folly is worshipped, it is, as it were, a plague-spot upon the understanding. Yet, some of the moderns have indulged this folly, with such consummate inconsiderateness, that they have endeavoured to build a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis, the book of Job, and other parts of Scripture; seeking thus the dead amongst the living. And this folly is the more to be prevented and restrained, because not only fantastical philosophy but heretical religion spring from the absurd mixture of matters divine and human. It is, therefore, most wise soberly to render unto faith the things that are faith's.
66. Having spoken of the vicious authority of the systems founded either on vulgar notions, or on a few experiments, or on superstition, we must now consider the faulty subjects for contemplation, especially in natural philosophy.
64. The empiric school produces dogmas of a more deformed and monstrous nature than the sophistic or theoretic school: not being founded in the light of common notions, (which, however of hasty generalization.
It is thus the Vulcanists and Neptunians have framed their opposite theories in geology. Phrenology is a modern instauce
the affections of bodies, nor the process of their parts, but merely establish a division of that mction, which coarsely exhibits to the senses matter in its varied form. Even when they wish tc point out something relative to the causes of mction, and to establish a division of them, they most absurdly introduce natural and violent motion, which is also a popular notion, since every violent motion is also in fact natural, that is to say, the external efficient puts nature in action in a different manner to that which she had previously employed.
human understanding is perverted by observing | ferent species of it; they merely suggest how far. the power of mechanical arts, in which bodies and not how or whence. For they exhibit neither are very materially changed by composition or separation, and is induced to suppose that something similar takes place in the universal nature of things. Hence the fiction of elements, and their co-operation in forming natural bodies. Again, when man reflects upon the entire liberty of nature, he meets with particular species of things, as animals, plants, minerals, and is thence easily led to imagine that there exist in nature certain primary forms which she strives to produce, and that all variation from them arises from some impediment or error which she is exposed to in completing her work, or from the collision or metamorphosis of different species. The first hypothesis has produced the doctrine of element ary properties, the second that of occult properties and specific powers: and both lead to trifling courses of reflection, in which the mind acquiesces, and is thus diverted from more important subjects. But physicians exercise a much more useful labour in the consideration of the secondary qualities of things, and the operations of attraction, repulsion, attenuation, inspissation, dilatation, astringency, separation, maturation, and the like; and would do still more if they would not corrupt these proper observations by the two systems I have alluded to, of elementary qualities and specific powers, by which they either reduce the secondary to first qualities, and their subtile and immeasurable composition, or at any rate neg-systems and contemplations bestow their labour lect to advance by greater and more diligent observation to the third and fourth qualities, thus terminating their contemplation prematurely. Nor are these powers (or the like) to be investigated only among the medicines of the human body, but also in all changes of other natural bodies.
But if, neglecting these, any one were for instance to observe, that there is in bodies a tendency of adhesion, so as not to suffer the unity of nature to be completely separated or broken, and a vacuum to be formed; or that they have a tendency to return to their natural dimensions or tension, so that, if compressed or extended within or beyond it, they immediately strive to recover themselves, and resume their former volume and extent; or that they have a tendency to congregate into masses with similar bodies, the dense, for instance, towards the circumference of the earth, the thin and rare towards that of the heavens, these and the like are true physical genera of motions, but the others are clearly logical and scholastic, as appears plainly from a comparison of the two. Another considerable evil is, that men in their
upon the investigation and discussion of the principles of things and the extreme limits of nature, although all utility and means of action consist in the intermediate objects. Hence men cease not to abstract nature till they arrive at potential and shapeless matter, and still persist in their dissection, till they arrive at atoms; and yet, were all this true, it would be of little use to advance man's estate.
67. The understanding must also be cautioned against the intemperance of systems, so far as regards its giving or withholding its assent; for such intemperance appears to fix and perpetuate idols, so as to leave no means of removing them.
A greater evil arises from the contemplation and investigation rather of the stationary principles of things, from which, than of the active, by which things themselves are created. For the former only serve for discussion, the latter for practice. Nor is any value to be set on those common differences of motion which are observed in the received system of natural philosophy, as These excesses are of two kinds. The first is generation, corruption, augmentation, diminution, seen in those who decide hastily, and render the alteration, and translation. For this is their sciences positive and dictatorial. The other in meaning: if a body, unchanged in other respects, those who have introduced skepticism, and vague, is moved from its place, this is translation; if the unbounded inquiry. The former subdues, the place and species be given, but the quantity latter enervates the understanding. The Aristcchanged, it is alteration; but if, from such a telian philosophy, after destroying other systems change, the mass and quantity of the body do not (as the Ottomans do their brethren) by its dispucontinue the same, this is the motion of augmentations, confutations, decided upon every thing, tation and diminution; if the change be continued and Aristotle himself then raises up questions at so as to vary the species and substance, and trans- will, in order to settle them; so that every thing fuse them to others, this is generation and corrup- should be certain and decided, a method now ir tion. All this is merely popular, and by no use among his successors. ineans penetrates into nature; and these are but the measures and bounds of motion, and not dif
The school of Plato introduced skepticism, first, as it were, in joke and irony, from their dislike