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understood, and cultivated with uncommon success; but the attachment of those doctors was to a name,
not to truth, or valuable science: and our author very Bacon's justly compares them to the Olympic wrestlers, who Apophtheg. abstained from necessary labours, that they might be fit for such as were not so.
Under their management, it was a philosophy of words and notions, that seemed to exclude the study of nature; that, instead of inquiring into the properties of bodies, into the laws of motion by which all effects are produced, was conversant only in logical definitions, distinctions, and abstractions, utterly barren and unproductive of any advantage to mankind. The great aim of those solemn triflers was rather to perplex a dispute, than to clear up any point of useful disquisition; to triumph over an enemy, than to enlarge the knowledge, or better the morals of their followers. So that this captious philosophy was a real obstacle to all advances in sound learning, human and divine. After it had been adopted into the Christian theology, far from being of use to explain and ascertain mysteries, it served to darken and render doubtful the most necessary truths ; by the chicanery of argumentation with which it supplied each sect, in defence of their peculiar and favourite illusions. To so extravagant a height did they carry their idolatry of Aristotle, that some of them discovered, or imagined they discovered in his writings, the doctrine of the Trinity ; that others published formal dissertations to prove the certainty of his salvation, though a heathen: and that a patriarch of Venice is said to have called up the devil expressly
in order to learn from him the meaning of a hard Bayle, art. word in Aristotle's Physics. But the crafty demon, BARBARO. who perhaps did not understand it himself, answered
in a voice so low and inarticulate, that the good prelate knew not a word he said. This was the famous Hermolaus Barbaro: and the Greek word, that occasioned his taking so extraordinary a step, is the Entelechia of the Peripatetics; from whence the schoolmen raised their substantial forms, and which, Leibnitz, towards the end of the last century, attempted to revive in his theory of motion.
The reformation itself, that diffused a new light over Europe, that set men upon inquiring into errors and prepossessions of every kind, served only to confirm the dominion of this philosophy: protestants as well as papists entrenching themselves behind the authority of Aristotle, and defending their several tenets by the weapons with which he furnished them. This unnatural alliance of theology with the peripatetic doctrines rendered his opinions not only venerable but sacred : they were reckoned as the land marks of both faith and reason, which to pull up or remove would be daring and impious. Innovations in philosophy, it was imagined, would gradually sap the very foundations of religion, and in the end lead to downright atheism. If that veil of awful obscurity, which then covered the face of nature, should be once drawn; the rash curiosity of mankind would lead them to account for all appearances in the visible world, by second causes, by the powers of matter and mechanism : and thus they might come insensibly to forget or neglect the great original cause of all. This kind of reasoning convinced the multitude, over-awed the wiser few, and effectually put a stop to the progress of useful knowledge.
Such, in general, were the dispositions of mankind when Sir Francis Bacon came into the world ; whom we will not consider as the founder of a new sect, but as the great assertor of human liberty; as one who rescued reason and truth from the slavery in which all sects alike had, till then, held them. plausible hypothesis, a shining theory, are more amusing to the imagination, and a shorter way to fame, than the patient and humble method of experimenting, of pursuing nature through all her labyrinths by fact and observation; a philosophy built on this principle, could not, at first, make any sudden or general revolution in the learned world. But its progress, like that of time, quiet, slow, and sure,
has in the end been mighty and universal. He was not however the first among the moderns who ventured to dissent from Aristotle. Ramus, Patricius, Bruno, Severinus, to name no more, had already attacked the authority of that tyrant in learning, who had long reigned as absolutely over the opinions of men, as his restless pupil had of old affected to do over their persons. But these writers invented little that was valuable themselves, however justly they might reprehend many things in him. And as to the real improvements made in some parts of natural knowledge before our author appeared, by Gilbert, Harvey, Copernicus, father Paul, and some few others, they are well known, and have been deservedly celebrated. · Yet there was still wanting one great and comprehensive plan, that might embrace the almost infinite varieties of science, and guide our inquiries aright in all. This Sir Francis Bacon first conceived, in its utmost extent; to his own lasting honour, and to the general utility of mankind. If we stand surprised at the happy imagination of such a system, our surprise redoubles upon us when we reflect, that he invented and methodized this system, perfected so much, and sketched out so much more of it, amidst the drudgery of business and the civil tumults of a court. Nature seems to have intended him peculiarly for this province, by bestowing on him with a liberal hand all the qualities requisite: a fancy voluble and prompt to discover the similitudes of things; a judgment steady and intent to note their subtlest differences; a love of meditation and inquiry; a patience in doubting; a slowness and diffidence in affirming; a facility of retracting ; a careful anxiety to plan and dispose. A mind of such a cast, that neither affected novelty, nor idolized antiquity, that was an enemy to all imposture, must have had a certain congeniality and relation to truth. These characters, which, with a
noble confidence, he has applied to himself, are obvip. 98, 29, ous and eminent in his Instauration of the Sciences
a work by him designed, not as a monument to his
own. fame, but a perpetual legacy to the common benefit of others. He has divided the whole of it into six capital parts; with a short account of which we shall close this imperfect relation of his life and writings.
1. The first part of this Instauration proposes a De auggeneral survey of human knowledge: and this he mentis
scientiaexecuted in that admirable treatise entitled, The Ad- rum. vancement of Learning. As he intended to raise a new and lasting structure of philosophy, founded not in arbitrary opinions or specious conjectures, but in truth and experience; it was absolutely necessary to his design, first to review accurately the state of learning as it then stood, through all its provinces and divisions. To do this effectually required, with an uncommon measure of knowledge, a discernment not only exquisite but universal: the whole intellectual world was subjected to its examination and censure. That he might not lose himself on a subject so vast and of such variety; he has, according to the three faculties of the soul, memory, fancy, understanding, ranged the numerous train of arts under three great classes, history, poetry, philosophy. These may be considered as the principal trunks from which shoot forth, in prodigious diversity, the lesser parts and branches of science. Whatever is deficient, erroneous, or still wanting in each, he has pointed out at large: together with the properest means for amending the defects, for rectifying the errors, and for supplying the omissions in all. Upon the whole, he was not only well acquainted with every thing that had been discovered in books before his time, and able to pronounce critically on those discoveries: he saw clearly, and at the end of this treatise has marked out in one general chart, the several tracts of science that lay still neglected or unknown. And to say truth, some of the most valuable improvements since made have grown out of the hints and notices scattered through this work: from which the moderns have selected, each according to his fancy, one or more plants to cultivate and bring to perfection.
2. The design of the Novum Organon, which Organon.
stands as the second part to his Instauration, and may be reckoned the most considerable, was to raise and enlarge the powers of the mind, by a more useful application of its reasoning faculty to all the different objects that philosophy considers. In this place, our author offers to the world a new and better logic; calculated not to supply arguments for controversy, but arts for the use of mankind; not to triumph over an enemy by the sophistry of disputation, but to subdue nature itself by experiment and inquiry. As it differs from the vulgar logic in its aim, it varies no less from that captious art in the form of demonstrating: for it generally rejects syllogism, as an instrument rather hurtful than serviceable to the investigation of nature, and uses in its stead a severe and genuine induction. Not the trivial method of the schools, that, proceeding on a simple and superficial enumeration, pronounces at once from a few particulars, exposed to the danger of contradictory instances: but an induction that examines scrupulously the experiment in question, views it in all possible lights, rejects and excludes whatever does not necessarily belong to the subject; then, and not till then, concluding from the affirmatives left. A crowd of instances might be brought to shew how greatly this method of inquiry has prospered in the hands of the moderns; and how fruitful it has been of new discoveries, unknown and unimagined by antiquity. But I'will only mention one that may stand in place of many; the Optics of our immortal Newton: where, in a variety of experiments, he has analysed the nature and properties of light itself, of the most subtile of all bodies, with an accuracy, a precision, that could hardly have been expected from examining the grossest and most palpable. From whence, by the method of induction, he has raised the noblest theory that any age or country can shew.
3. It has been the fate of almost every considerauniversi
. ble scheme for the good of mankind to be treated,