Page images
PDF
EPUB

III. For the imparting of truth, or Information of the mind, we must minister to the Sense, the Memory, and the Reason.

The Sense-as it cannot well perceive causes, but only motions, alterations, and results-is apt to form wrong notions, classifying together phenomena outwardly similar but essentially dissimilar. For the witness of the senses is always proportional to man's prejudices (ex analogia hominis). It must (i.) be rectified by being brought into proportion with the Universe (ad analogiam Mundi reducatur et rectificetur). We must not speak of "fire," for example, as an element, or use "humidity" as a scientific notion. The Sense must also (ii.) be strengthened so as to perceive processes at present imperceptible owing to their minuteness; and (iii.) must be supplied with stores of facts as materials to work on.

These then are the three Ministrations to Sense, (i.) Rectification for its deviations; (ii) Substitutes for its weaknesses; (iii) Natural History and Experiment to supply it with materials.

1

The Ministration to the Memory (it being assumed that all investigations must be conducted with the aid of writing and tables of particulars) requires (i.) a statement of the points to be inquired into ; (ii.) a Provisional Table showing the order in which the several points are to be investigated; (iii.) since no first Table is likely to hit at once the track of any Universal Law (sequatur rei venam quae ex analogia universi sit) and yet we must make an order—for Truth emerges sooner from wrong order than no order -it is necessary to show in the third place the method of transposing the old Tentative Tables into the New Tables, and the method of renewing (instaurandi) the investigation.

The Ministration to Reason (since one kind of Reason, i.e. Theoretical, or Contemplative, discovers all the causes of anything, and another, i.e. Practical or Active, selects such causes as are in our power) includes the Ministration (i.) to Contemplative, (ii.) to Active Reason.

(i.) It is the part of the Contemplative Reason to erect on the ground-plan of a Simple Notion (previously obtained by the ministrations to Sense and Memory) the solid structure of an Axiom (haec enim est veritatis portio solida, cum simplex notio instar superficiei videri possit). Such an Axiom must be obtained, not by the old, illegitimate, precarious, and enumerative Induction, but by the new and legitimate Induction, which by means of exclusions and rejections arrives at conclusions. To this Induction we give the name of Formula of Interpretation.

Under the Ministrations to Contemplative Reason come also, first, the art of continuing the investigation by using the discovered Axiom for the purpose of eliciting still higher and more general Axioms, which higher Axioms must be verified by reference to the experiences from which we started; secondly, we must vary our investigations to suit the varieties of the

1 Compare Essays, xxv. 59: "The proceeding upon somewhat conceived in writing doth for the most part facilitate dispatch. For though it should be wholly rejected, yet that negative is more pregnant of direction than an indefinite; as ashes are more generative than dust.'

1

nature under consideration: and after following out a varied and adapted investigation of Forms, we shall then investigate material and efficient causes; thirdly, we must contract our investigation by selecting instances, pointing out the Prerogative of Instance and the Prerogative of Investigation, i.e. those instances or experiments which have as it were a paramount or "Prerogative" vote, affording more light than the rest, so that a few of these excel a multitude of others."

(ii.) The Ministration to the Active Reason sets forth (1) the peculiar method to be used when we are not seeking an Axiom or Cause but the accomplishment of some work (for in seeking Axioms we have to rise from particulars to generals; but in seeking works we must descend from generals to particulars); (2) the method of making general Tables fitted for practice, whereby all kinds of work may be speedily accomplished; (3) a method of proceeding from experiment to experiment (without the previous establishment of an Axiom) a path slippery and unsafe but not to be entirely ignored.

Such is the outline of our Second Book, whereby we trust we have constructed a bridal chamber for the union of the Mind of Man with the Universe. Toward the conclusion we shall add some remarks about cooperation and succession in labour. For men will not learn their full strength until they learn division of labour.

The reader should carefully notice the order of the steps to be taken in the Delineatio, and in particular the statement in the last paragraph but four, that an Axiom is to be erected on the ground-plan of a Simple Notion previously obtained by the ministrations to Sense and Memory. We shall presently find Bacon departing from this order in the Novum Organum; and it is on the impossibility of obtaining "a Simple Notion" that his philosophy will make shipwreck.3

[merged small][ocr errors]

In June, 1607, Sir Francis Bacon was made Solicitor-General; and about this time (possibly in the following vacation) he bethought himself that as time was slipping away and he was now "entangled more than he could have desired in civil business he ought not to wait for the completion of the

1 For the meaning of "Form," see note on p. 384, below.

2 On Prerogative Instances, see below, p. 396.

3 See below, p. 392.

Spedding, Works, iii. 589-620.

proposed work on the Interpretation of Nature, but to publish at once some particular Investigation ("Tables of Invention," or "Formulæ of Legitimate Investigation") to serve as specimens of his general work, and to excite in their readers a curiosity for the Key of Interpretation. Accordingly he composed, about this time, some Tables called a Legitimate Investigation of Motion. As an introduction to the Tables, he wrote a treatise entitled Thoughts and Judgments concerning the Interpretation of Nature, or concerning Operative Science (Cogitata et Visa De Interpretatione Naturae, sive De Scientia Operativa).1

When (1606-7) he wrote the Delineatio (described in the last section) he did not purpose to set forth his method by means of an example; on the contrary, the three ministrations to the Sense, to the Memory, and to the Reason (of which the last is the new method of Induction) were to be set forth in order and didactically. . . . . Thus it appears that after Bacon had not only decided on writing a great work on the reform of philosophy, but had also determined on dividing it into parts (of which the Second was to contain the exposition of his new method), he in some measure changed his plan, and resolved to set forth the essential and operative part of his system chiefly by means of an example. This change of plan appears to be marked by the Cogitata et Visa-a circumstance which makes this tract one of the most interesting of the precursors of the Novum Organum.2 The Legitimate Investigation would have covered the ground which the second book of the Novum Organum was meant to occupy; the Cogitata covers most of the ground actually covered by the first book of the Novum Organum.

Science, as now existing, attains neither to certainty nor to magnitude. Medicine, Alchemy, Magic, all alike fail. The art of Mechanics slowly weaves its petty web of experience, instead of seeking light from Philosophy. Chance is the only inventor. Men have never understood that the apparent complexity of the language of Nature is based upon a simple Alphabet. The multitude has never sought truth, save for amusement, and has been content to accept in its stead the dogmas of philosophers. The absorption of men's attention by Theology and Moral Philosophy, the fears and hostility of superstition, the devotion of the Universities to narrow and stationary studies, the prejudice and wilful despair of mankind, the

1 Spedding, Works, i. 78, iii. 619.

2 Mr. Ellis's Introduction, Spedding, Works, i. p. 79.

vagueness of words, the quackery of impostors, and a contempt for works and experiments as being beneath the dignity of human nature-all these obstacles have stood in the way of Science.

The philosophies of the later Greeks, and especially of Aristotle, have been like stage-plays, fictions fairer than truth. And even so in modern times, Telesius, Frascastorius, Carden, and Gilbert, forming conclusions from a few instances, have but as it were touched Nature with the tip of their fingers. Taking a few well-known effects, they connect them in a kind of network of theory made to fit these known effects; but they do not demonstrate the existence of causes that will enable them to produce hitherto unheard-of effects. As for the philosophy of the earlier Greeks, the Author knew that it would not have been difficult for him to palm off his new discoveries as the rediscovered inventions of those ancient philosophers. But he relied on evidence alone and refused every kind of imposture.

1

The present demonstrations are inadequate; a defect for which the understanding is responsible. The mind of mankind, like an uneven mirror, reflects the rays of truth unevenly; and the mind of every individual (as the result of education or disposition) has within itself a kind of seductive influence or familiar spirit (daemonem familiarem) which perturbs the understanding with diverse empty spectres. Yet we must not despair. As the most helpless hand with the aid of compasses can draw a perfect circle, so is it with the mind; for which we must seek a compass, not in the syllogism of Deductive Logic-for a syllogism is compounded of words, and therefore dependent upon the truth of pre-existing notions which are often vague or foolish-but in the New Induction.

The Old Induction of Enumeration was applied only to the general principles of Science, while the Middle Propositions were deduced by Syllogistic reasonings. But the Old Induction, compared with the New, is as water compared with wine; the one, a raw and natural product of the intellect; the other, carefully prepared from the Vintage of phenomena, plucked, gathered, pressed, and purified. The old and ordinary methods of discovery by reading, meditation, dialectic experience or experiment, are all casual and inefficient.

Let us stimulate ourselves by thinking of the glory of the Discoverer. For if it is a glory to have discovered single inventions, he who shall discover the one invention that shall include the potency of all inventions will be called the Discoverer of Discoverers, far above all Conquerors, Lawgivers, and Founders of Empires. An invention so fruitful may be truly called the Male Birth of Time. Such a Discovery extends the empire of Man over Nature; for man's power is co-extensive with his knowledge (tantum

1 This is one among many passages which show that the word "Idol" in Bacon's works is used with a kind of play on the theological meaning of the word. See also above, p. 358, where the "ideas" of God are contrasted with the "idols" of man. And elsewhere he says that whosoever has not explored the sources of errors in the motions of the mind, "he will find all things beset with spectres and incantations; unless he can break the charm he can never interpret nature."-Spedding, Works, i. 93.

potest quantum scit). No strength, indeed, can break the chain of natural causes; but by obeying Nature, man can conquer her.

Further, let none despise the mention of works in the New Philosophy. Just as in Religion faith is the essential, and works are needful only as a proof of the presence of living faith, so in Science works are needed, not for themselves, but to prove that the Science which originates them is living. The same Philosophy which endows men with new works will also endow them with new mental power.

As fresh grounds for hope, we must remember that Antiquity should be wiser than youth; and it is the later and modern ages of the world that are really old and truly deserve the title of Antiquity. After the recent enlargement of the Material Globe by the discovery of the New World it would be intolerable that the Intellectual Globe should receive no corresponding enlargement. The prevalent weariness of religious controversy leaves room for scientific study. Lastly, if by mere chance and groping so many inventions have been discovered, how much more may be expected from systematic research!

As regards the practice of the new Art, we must (1) complete a refutation of the past (redargutio rerum praeteritarum); (2) having freed our minds from old theories, opinions, and common notions (communes notiones) we must approach particular phenomena afresh, without bias and with the innocent eye of a child; (3) we must accumulate a "forest" or store of particulars ("particularum sylvam et materiem"; compare Sylva Sylvarum below, p. 406) sufficient for our purposes, partly from natural history, partly (and principally) from experiments; (4) this store must be so tabulated and reduced to order that the Intellect may be able to act on it (for even the divine Word did not act on chaos without order); (5) from these tabulated Particulars we must ascend to general "comprehensions" (communes comprehensiones); (6) here we must avoid the natural but dangerous temptation to pass at once to the highest "comprehensions," the socalled "principles." To these we must gradually ascend by a logical "ladder" (“per scalam veram" 1) beginning from the nearest "comprehensions;" (7) we must discover a form of Induction leading us to a general conclusion in such a way that we may actually demonstrate the impossibility of finding a contradictory instance; (8) no "comprehension" can be received and approved till it has given bail for itself by pointing out for us new particulars beyond and beside those from which it was itself deduced.

The best method of drawing attention to the New Philosophy-regard being had to the prejudice, envy, and sloth of mankind-will be first to set forth a specimen of the New Method, that is to say Tables of Discovery, which may stimulate men to ask for the Key of Discovery.

1 See p. 378, below, for the Ladder of the Understanding (Scala Intellectus)

« PreviousContinue »