Page images

Man to discover: hence thofe Notions as to Operations, that the Heat of the Sun is a Thing abfolutely different from the Heat of Fire; left Men fhould think they might produce by Fire, fome Things like the Productions of Nature. And hence proceeds the Notion, that Compofition only was the Work of Man, and Mixture the Work of Nature; to keep Men from expecting any artificial Generation, or Transformation of natural Bodies f. And thus Men are easily perfuaded, by this false Colour, not to risk their Fortunes, and their Labours, in Things not only condemned, but already given up to Despair .


7. We must not omit that other Sign; viz. the great Difagreement The Diffention among the ancient Philofophers, and the Differences of their Schools; of Profeffors. which fufficiently fhews, that their Way from Senfe to the Understanding was not well guarded; whilst one and the fame Subject of Philofophy, the Nature of Things, was rent and fplit into fo many, and fuch wild Errors. And altho', at prefent, the Diffentions and Difagreements of Opinions, as to firft Principles, and entire Philofophies, are in a manner extinct; yet fuch innumerable Queftions and Controverfies ftill remain among us, as make it plainly appear, that there is nothing fix'd and stable, either in our prefent Philofophies, or the manner of our De monstrations i


8. Men have an Opinion of a general Confent in the Philofophy of (5.) The Argu Ariftotle; as if, after that was once published, the more ancient Phi- ment of general Confent, lofophies ceafed, and grew into Difufe; and that nothing better was fallacious. discover'd in the fucceeding Ages; this being fo well founded, as to


f The Author has a great Regard to the abolishing of thefe falfe Imaginations, in all the Parts of his Inftauration. See his Sylva Sylvarum, paffim; and the Second Part of the pre

fent Piece.

This seems to be a grand Obstruction to the Improvement of Philofophy and Arts; and extremely difficult to remove; as having not only Mens natural Indolence to ftruggle with; but alfo their artificial and learned Defpondency; in which, fober and intelligent Perfons generally think they fhew their Judgment. And hence new Improvements in Mechanics, Medicine, &c. meet with a flow Reception, by thofe efteem'd for Sobriety and Judgment. And tho' this Slownefs may often be well placed; yet, in general, it appears to proceed from a want of knowing the Powers of Man and Nature; or from an inveterate Prejudice against the Poffibility of doing Things not done, or not believed to have been done before. The following fifth and fixth Sections are directly levell'd at reforming this Error.

As chiefly agreeing in the Peripatetic Doctrine.

i The Uncertainty of the common Demonftrations might give Occafion to the introducing of mathematical ones into Phyfics: and these being the moft certain, if they could be univerfally applied, Men would then differ in Philofophy as little as they do now in Mathematics: but it may deserve a serious Confideration, whether Mathematical Demonftrations, applied to Matter, are fuited to the Purpose; or do not, like the common Syllogifm, let Nature flip through; and leave the Demonftration an empty Thing.

draw both former and latter Times into it: But the Whole is a Fallacy. 、 For (1.) the Works of the more ancient Philofophers were in being to the Times of Cicero, and the following Ages; till the Inundation of the Barbarians upon the Roman Empire; when the Philofophies of Aristotle and Plato were faved from the general Shipwreck of human Learning; as light Planks, fupported by the Waves of Time. And (2.) that alone can be juftly called Confent, which confifts in a Freedom of Judgment agreeing in the fame Thing, after due Examination: but far the greater Number of those who confent in Ariftotle's Philofophy, are enflaved to it by the Prejudice and Authority of others; fo that 'tis rather an Obje quioufness than a Confent. But tho' it were a free and general Confent; yet Confent ought to be fo far from paffing for any real Authority, as to give a violent Sufpicion of the contrary: for of all Characteristicks, that is the worst which Men take from Confent, in Matters of the Underftanding except fuch as concern Religion and Politicks, which properly go by Voices. For nothing can please the Many, but what strikes the Imagination; or binds the Understanding with the Cords of vulgar Notions *. So that the Thought of Phocion', may be justly transferr'd from Morals to Intellectuals; for Men ought directly to examine themselves, wherein they have err'd, or done amifs; when the Multitude confents, and applauds them. This Sign, therefore, of general Confent, is one of the most unfavourable that a Philofophy can have ". And thus much for the falfe Characterifticks of the Philofophies and the Sciences, in ufe; whether taken (1.) from their Origins; (2.) their Fruits; (3.) their Progrefs; (4.) the Confeffions of their own Authors; or (5.) from Confent ".

* This Aphorifm requires a ftrict Attention; and unless the Mind be thoroughly convinced of the Truth and Certainty thereof, the Reader will, on many Occafions, be apt to conceive, that in what follows, the Author is delivering a kind of laborious, learned Dream, instead of a solid useful Work.

1 Phocion being once highly applauded by the Multitude; turn'd round to his Friends, and ask'd what Abfurdity he had committed. if kpophthegms.

Becaufe, if the Confent be general, the Vulgar alfo must be admitted Judges; and we all know what Judges they are, or what the Things must be that please the Multitude.

See Aph. 71-77.


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]


E next proceed to the numerous and prevalent Caufes of Errors, The Caufes and their Continuance thro' fo many Ages; that Men may no why all the longer wonder, how the Things we advance have hitherto been hid from former PhiloJophies have them; and this alone remain the Surprize, how they should now come erred. into any one's Mind: which, however, in our Judgment, is owing to a Felicity, and not to any Excellence of Talent; fo as rather to appear the Product of Time, than the Product of Genius.

2. And (1.) fo many Ages, if juftly confider'd, fhrink to a fmall Com- Viz.(1.) Want pafs; for of twenty-five Centuries, wherein the Memory and Learning of Times fuited of Mankind have been exercised, scarce fix can be cull'd out as fertile in to Learning. Sciences, or fuitable to their Improvement: for Times, as well as Countries, have their Waftes and Defarts. There can be properly reckon'd but three Periods and Revolutions of Learning; one among the Greeks, another among the Romans, and the third among our felves, or the Western Nations of Europe; to each whereof scarce two Centuries can be fairly attributed. The middle Ages of the World were unhappy, as to any plentiful Harvest of the Sciences. Nor need we mention any thing either of the Arabians, or the School-men; who, in the intermediate Times, rather ground down the Sciences by numerous Treatifes, than added to their Weight.

• In reading the Author's Works, this feems to be the general Stumbling Stone: How should be be able to do more than Plato, Ariftotle, and all the Ancients put together? Shall be only be in the Right, and every Body else in the Wrong? Such a Conceit of a Man's own Ability is monstrous, focking, and intolerable. This is Reafoning by Anticipation; or in the common Way of Men. But when the Fury is over; the Question to be calmly confider'd is, What has be done? But to conquer Prejudice, and bring the Mind better prepared to confider of this Question, the Author here endeavours to account for the Strangeness of the Thing; and to pacify and reconcile the Mind, before he informs it.

Weight. And therefore, the first Caufe of fo little Progrefs in Knowledge, is, properly, a Scantinefs of Times well fuited for it.


(2.) Little La- 3. (2.) A fecond Caufe, of very great Moment, is, that thro' all thofe bour bestow'd Ages, where in Men of Genius and Learning principally, or even modeupon Natural rately, flourish'd; the fmalleft Part of human Industry has been spent upon Philofophy. Natural Philofophy; tho' this ought to be esteem'd as the great Mother of the Sciences for all the reft, if torn from this Root, may perhaps be polish'd, and form'd for Ufe; but can receive little Increafe. And, 'tis manifeft, after the Christian Religion was receiv'd, and gain'd Ground, that much the greater Part of the fine Genius's bent themselves to Theology; whereto both the nobleft Rewards were annex'd, and all Kinds of Affiftance liberally afforded. And this Study chiefly employ'd the third Period of Time amongst the Western Europeans; the more, as Learning then began to flourish, and Controverfies about Religion to arife. But, in the preceding Age, during the fecond Period, the principal Study and Labour of the Philofophers, among the Romans, were beftow'd upon Morality; which, to the Heathens, was inftead of Theology. Befides, the greatest Genius's of those Times chiefly applied themselves to Politics; the large Extent of the Roman Empire requiring large Affiftance. But that Time wherein Natural Philofophy feem'd principally to flourish among the Greeks, was of fhort Duration; and, in the ftill earlier Ages, the feven Wife Men, as they were call'd, all, except Thales, applied themfelves to Moral Philofophy, and Politics: and when Socrates afterwards brought down Philofophy from the Heavens to Earth, the Study of Morality prevailed ftill more; and turn'd the Minds of Men from Natural Philofophy.

The Times, at

4. Nay, that very Period of Time, wherein natural Enquiries most beft, unfavour- prevail'd, was corrupted, and render'd ufelefs by Cavils; and the able to Natu- Oftentation of new Opinions. And therefore, as thro' these three Peral Philoforiods, Natural Philofophy was either greatly neglected, or greatly obftructed; 'tis no Wonder if Mankind made little Progrefs in it, whilft their Minds were wholly bent another Way.

[ocr errors]


P As repeating the fame Matter over and over again; and new modelling and dividing it, without making any confiderable Addition thereto.

Natural Philofophy, that is, a Knowledge of Nature, appears to be the great Mother of the Sciences; becaufe neither the Arts of Speech, Logic, Medicine, Civil Policy, Morality, Religion, &c. can be advantagiously exercifed, improved, understood, or inftituted without it: and all the mechanical Arts depend upon it.

See Aph. 78.

Let Care be taken to verify or falfify this Account from History as much as poffible; whereever it may be required.


to Natural

5. Add to this, that Natural Philofophy fcarce ever found one, among (3) Few enthose who study'd it, that gave himfelf wholly up thereto; efpecially in thefe latter Times; unless we fhould here and there except a Monk in Philofophy. his Cell, or a ftudious Gentleman at his Country-Seat: whence this Philofophy has always been but as a Paffage, and Introduction, to other Things. And thus the great Mother of the Sciences is, with furprizing Indignity, degraded to the Office of a Handmaid; adminiftring to the Occafions of Medicine or Mathematics, and tending the unripe Capacities of Youth; or giving them their firft Tincture, for the more commodious and fuccefsful Attainment of other Kinds of Learning.

6. But let none expect any great Promotion of the Sciences, efpecially in their effective Part, unlefs Natural Philofophy be drawn out to particular Sciences; and again, unless these particular Sciences be brought back to Natural Philofophy. From this Defect it is, that Aftronomy, Optics, Mufic, many Mechanic Arts, Medicine itfelf; and, what seems stranger, even Moral and Civil Philofophy, and Logics, rife but little above their Foundations, and only skim over the Surfaces and Varieties of Things; viz. because, after thefe particular Sciences are divided off, and form'd, they are no longer nourish'd by Natural Philofophy; which might give them new Strength and Increase as from the Caufes and genuine Confideration of Motions, Light, Sounds, the Texture and Structure of Bodies, the Affections, and intellectual Apprehenfions. And, therefore, no Wonder if the Sciences thrive not, whilft they are feparated from their Roots'.


7. Another great Reafon of the flow Progrefs of the Sciences, is this; (4) The End that 'tis impoffible to proceed well in a Courfe, where the End is not of the Sciences rightly fix'd and defined. Now the true and genuine End of the Sci-wrong fixed. ences, is no other, than to enrich human Life with new Inventions, and new Powers; but much the greater Number of the Sciences produce nothing in this Kind; being mere Hirelings, and profefforial: unlefs fometimes, by Accident, an ingenious Artificer, thro' Defire of Glory, endeavours after fome new Invention; which he generally purfues to his own. Lofs; whilft the Bulk of Mankind are fo far from propofing to enlarge the Mass of Arts and Sciences, that they only take from the prefent Collection, or covet fo much as they can convert to the Ufe of their Profeffion; their own Advantage, Reputation, or fome fuch narrow and inferior Purpofe ". But if any one of the Number does ingenuously

This coincides with Aph. 79.

" Does not this remain the general Case still? VOL. II.

Cc c


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »