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OF SUCH A NATURAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HISTORY AS SHALL BE SUFFICIENT AND SUITABLY ARRANGED FOR FORMING THE BASIS AND FOUNDATION OF A TRUE PHILOSOPHY.
OUR motive for publishing our Instauration in parts was that we might make sure of something. A similar reason induces us to subjoin, even now, another small portion of the work, and to publish it with that which has been completed above. It is a Description and Delineation of such a Natural and Experimental History, as should be arranged for the completing our philosophy, and should comprehend genuine and copious materials, properly adapted to the work of the interpreter, who is next to make his appearance. The proper place for this would have been that where we treat of Preparations in the regular course of our inquiry. Yet does it appear better to anticipate, rather than wait for this proper place, since the history which we design, and will presently describe, is a matter of great magnitude, and not to be effected without vast labour and expense, requiring the combined assistance of many, and being (to use our former expression), as it were, a royal work. It occurred, therefore, that it might be worth while to see if any others would undertake it, so that whilst we orderly pursue our design, this complicated and laborious portion of it may, by the joint application of others, be set in order and prepared even in our lifetime, should it so please God; especially since our own unassisted strength appears scarcely adequate to so great a sphere. For we may, perhaps, by our own power overcome all that is the actual work of the understanding, but the materials on which it is to work are so scattered, that they should be sought after and imported from all quarters by factors and merchants. We consider it, moreover, as scarcely worthy of our undertaking ourselves to waste time in that which is open to the industry of almost all. We will, however, perform the principal part, that of laying down, with diligence and accuracy, a
model and sketch of such a history as will satisfy our intention, lest, for want of caution, others should waste their time, and direct their efforts by the example of such natural histories as are now in use, thus wandering far from our proposal. In the mean time that which we have often said. must here be specially repeated, namely, that if all the talents of every age had concurred, or shall hereafter concur, if the whole human race had applied, or shall apply itself to philosophy, and the whole globe had consisted, or shall consist of academies, and colleges, and schools of the learned, yet, without such a natural and experimental history as we shall now recommend, it were impossible that any progress worthy of mankind should have been, or should hereafter be made in philosophy and the sciences. But on the other hand, when it has once been prepared and drawn up, with the addition of such auxiliary and instructive experiments as will occur or be searched out in the course of interpretation, the investigation of nature and of all the sciences will be a work of many years. This, therefore, must be done, or the whole work must be abandoned, for by this method only can the foundation be laid of a genuine and active philosophy; and men will at once perceive, as if roused from a profound sleep, what a difference exists between the dogmatism and fictions of man's wit, and a genuine and active philosophy, and what it is to consult nature herself about nature.
In the first place then we will give general precepts as to completing such a history, and will then set a particluar species of it before men's eyes, alluding occasionally to the end to which the inquiry must be adapted and referred, as well as to the subject matter of investigation itself; in order that the intention being well understood and known beforehand, it may suggest other points that may have escaped us. To this history we are wont to give the name of First, or Mother History.
ON THE FORMATION OF THE FIRST HISTORY.
1. NATURE is placed in three situations, and subject to a threefold government. For she is either free, and left to unfold herself in a regular course, or she is driven from her position by the obstinacy and resistance of matter, and the violence of obstacles, or she is constrained and moulded by human art and labour. The first state applies to the specific nature of bodies; the second to monsters; the third to artificial productions, in which she submits to the yoke imposed on her by man, for without the hand of man they would not have been produced. But from the labour and contrivance of man an entirely new appearance of bodies takes its rise, forming, as it were, another universe or theatre. Natural history then is threefold, and treats either of the liberty, the wanderings, or the fetters of nature; so that we may aptly divide it into the histories of generation, præter-generation, and arts; the latter of which divisions we are also wont to call mechanic or experimental. Yet would we not direct these three to be carried on separately, for why should not the history of monstrosities in every species be combined with that of the species itself? So also artificial subjects may sometimes properly enough be treated of together with certain natural species, though, at other times, it is better to separate them. Circumstances, therefore, must guide us, for too rigid a method admits of repetitions and prolixity as much as no method.
II. Natural history being, as we have observed, threefold, relative to its subject, is twofold in its application. For it is employed either as a means of arriving at the knowledge of the matters themselves, which are consigned to it, or as the elementary material for philosophy, and as the stock or forest, as it were, from which to furnish forth genuine in
duction. The latter is its present application; its present one, I observe, for it was never before so applied. For neither Aristotle, nor Theophrastus, nor Dioscorides, nor Pliny, nor much less the moderns, ever proposed this as the object of natural history. And the principal point to be attended to is this, that those who shall henceforth take charge of natural history, do perpetually reflect, and impress upon their minds, that they ought not to be subservient to the pleasure or even benefit which may, at this present time, be derived from their narrative, but that they must collect and prepare such and so varied a supply of things, as may be sufficient for the forming of genuine axioms. If they thus reflect, they will themselves lay down their own method for such a history, for the end governs the means.
III. But by as much as this is a matter requiring great pains and labour, by so much the less should it be unnecessarily burthened. There are three points then upon which men should be warned to employ but scanty labour, in as much as they infinitely increase the bulk of the work, and add but little or nothing to its value.
First, then, let them dismiss antiquity and quotations, or the suffrages of authors, all disputes, controversies, and discordant opinions, and, lastly, all philological disquisitions. Let no author be quoted except on doubtful points, nor controversies entered into except on matter of great importance, and as for the ornaments of language, and comparisons, and the whole treasury of eloquence, and the like puerilities, let them be wholly renounced. Nay, let all which is admitted be propounded briefly and concisely, so as to be nothing less than words. For no one, who is preparing and laying by materials for building houses or ships, or the like, takes the trouble, as they would in shops, of arranging them elegantly and showing them off to advantage, but rather attends only to their being strong and good, and to their taking up as little room as possible in his warehouse. Let the like be done here.
Secondly, there is not much real use in the lavish abundance of descriptions, painted representations of species, and collections of their varieties with which natural history is adorned. These trifling varieties are the mere sport and wantonness of nature, and approximate to merely individual characteristics, affording a pleasant digression, but a mean and superfluous sort of information as regards science.
Thirdly, we must reject all superstitious narratives (I do