« AnteriorContinuar »
THE following fragment was first printed in Stephens's second collection (1734), from a manuscript belonging to Lord Oxford, which is now in the British Museum (Harl. MSS. 6797. fo. 139.) As far as it goes, it agrees so nearly with the Cogitata et Visa that either might be taken for a free translation of the other, with a few additions and omissions. But I think the English was written first; probably at the time when the idea first occurred to Bacon of drawing attention to his doctrine by exhibiting a specimen of the process and the result in one or two particular cases. The Cogitata et Visa professes to be merely a preface framed to prepare the way for an example of a legitimate philosophical investigation proceeding regularly by Tables. Such an example, or at least the plan and skeleton of it, will be found further on, with the title Filum Labyrinthi, sive Inquisitio legitima de Motu; and the title prefixed to this fragment is most easily explained by supposing that a specimen of an Inquisitio legitima was meant to be included in it.
It is here printed from the original MS. which is a fair copy in the hand of one of Bacon's servants, carefully corrected in his own.
SIVE FORMULA INQUISITIONIS.
1. FRANCIS BACON thought in this manner. whereof the world is now possessed, especially that of nature, extendeth not to magnitude and certainty of works. The Physician pronounceth many diseases incurable, and faileth oft in the rest. The Alchemists wax old and die in hopes. The Magicians perform nothing that is permanent and profitable. The Mechanics take small light from natural philosophy, and do but spin on their own little threads. Chance sometimes discovereth inventions; but that worketh not in years, but ages. So he saw well, that the inventions known are very unperfect; and that new are not like to be brought to light but in great length of time; and that those which are, came not to light by philosophy.
2. He thought also this state of knowledge was the worse, because men strive (against themselves) to save the credit of ignorance, and to satisfy themselves in this poverty. For the Physician, besides his cauteles of practice, hath this general cautele of art, that he dischargeth the weakness of his art upon supposed impossibilities: neither can his art be condemned, when itself judgeth. That philosophy also, out of which the knowledge of physic, which now is in use, is hewed, receiveth certain positions and opinions, which (if they be well weighed) induce this persuasion, that no great works are to be expected from art, and the hand of man; as in particular that opinion, that the heat of the sun and fire differ in kind; and that other, that Composition is the work of man, and Mixture is the work of
1 This is written at the top of the page, in the left-hand corner, in Bacon's hand.
nature, and the like; all tending to the circumscription of man's power, and to artificial despair; killing in men, not only the comfort of imagination, but the industry of trial; only upon vain glory to have their art thought perfect, and that all is impossible that is not already found. The Alchemist dischargeth his art upon his own errors, either supposing a misunderstanding of the words of his authors, which maketh him listen after auricular traditions; or else a failing in the true. proportions and scruples of practice, which maketh him renew infinitely his trials; and finding also that he lighteth upon some mean experiments and conclusions by the way, feedeth upon them, and magnifieth them to the most, and supplieth the rest in hopes. The Magician, when he findeth something (as he conceiveth) above nature effected, thinketh, when a breach is once made in nature, that it is all one to perform great things and small; not seeing that they are but subjects of a certain kind, wherein magic and superstition hath played in all times. The Mechanical person, if he can refine an invention, or put two or three observations or practices together in one, or couple things better with their use, or make the work in less or greater volume, taketh himself for an inventor. So he saw well, that men either persuade themselves of new inventions as of impossibilities; or else think they are already extant, but in secret and in few hands; or that they account of those little industries and additions, as of inventions: all which turneth to the averting of their minds from any just and constant labour to invent further in any quantity.
3. He thought also, when men did set before themselves the variety and perfection of works produced by mechanical arts, they are apt rather to admire the provisions of man, than to apprehend his wants; not considering, that the original inventions and conclusions of nature which are the life of all that variety, are not many nor deeply fetched; and that the rest is but the subtile and ruled motion of the instrument and hand; and that the shop therein is not unlike the library, which in such number of books containeth (for the far greater part) nothing but iterations, varied sometimes in form, but not new in substance. So he saw plainly, that opinion of store was a cause of want; and that both works and doctrines appear many and are few.
4. He thought also, that knowledge is uttered to men, in a form as if every thing were finished; for it is reduced into arts and methods, which in their divisions do seem to include all that may be. And how weakly soever the parts are filled, yet they carry the shew and reason of a total; and thereby the writings of some received authors go for the very art: whereas antiquity used to deliver the knowledge which the mind of man had gathered, in observations, aphorisms, or short and dispersed sentences, or small tractates of some parts that they had diligently meditated and laboured; which did invite men, both to ponder that which was invented, and to add and supply further. But now sciences are delivered to be believed and accepted, and not to be examined and further discovered; and the succession is between master and disciple, and not between inventor and continuer or advancer: and therefore sciences stand at a stay, and have done for many ages, and that which is positive is fixed, and that which is question is kept question, so as the columns of no further proceeding are pitched. And therefore he saw plainly, men had cut themselves off from further invention; and that it is no marvel that that is not obtained, which hath not been attempted, but rather shut out and debarred.
5. He thought also, that knowledge is almost generally sought either for delight and satisfaction, or for gain and profession, or for credit and ornament, and that every of these are as Atalanta's balls, which hinder the race of invention. For men are so far in these courses from seeking to increase the mass of knowledge, as of that mass which is they will take no more than will serve their turn: and if any one amongst so many seeketh knowledge for itself, yet he rather seeketh to know the variety of things, than to discern of the truth and causes of them; and if his inquisition be yet more severe, yet it tendeth rather to judgment than to invention; and rather to discover truth in controversy, than new matter; and if his heart be so large as he propoundeth to himself further discovery or invention, yet it is rather of new discourse and speculation of causes, than of effects and operations: and as for those that have so much in their mouths, action and use and practice and the referring of sciences thereunto, they mean it of application of that which is known, and not of a discovery of that which is unknown. So he saw plainly, that this mark,