« PreviousContinue »
Limus ut hic durescit, et hæc ut cera liquescit,
Uno eodemque igni. Fire is the cause of induration but respective to clay: fire is the cause of colliquation but respective to wax. But fire is no constant cause either of induration or colliquation: so then the physical causes are but the efficient and the matter.
Physic hath three parts, whereof two respect nature united or collected, the third contemplateth nature diffused or distributed.
Nature is collected either into one intire total, or else into the same principles or seeds. So as the first doctrine is touching the contexture or configuration of things, as de mundo, de universitate rerum.
The second is the doctrine concerning the principles or originals of things.
The third is the doctrine concerning all variety and particularity of things; whether it be of the differing substances, or their differing qualities and natures ; whereof there needeth no enumeration, this part being but as a gloss, or paraphrase, that attendeth upon the text of natural history.
Of these three I cannot report any as deficient. In what truth or perfection they are handled, I make not now any judgment: but they are parts of knowledge not deserted by the labour of man.
For Metaphysic, we have assigned unto it the inquiry of formal and final causes; which assignation, as to the former of them, may seem to be nugatory and void, because of the received and inveterate opinion, that the inquisition of man is not competent to find out essential forms, or true differences : of which opinion we will take this hold, that the invention of forms is of all other parts of knowledge the worthiest to be sought, if it be possible to be found.
As for the possibility, they are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but
But it is manifest, that Plato, in his opinion of ideas, as one that had a wit of elevation situate as upon a cliff, did descry, “ That forms were the true object “ of knowledge;" but lost the real fruit of his opinion, by considering of forms as absolutely abstracted from matter, and not confined and determined by matter ; and so turning his opinion upon theology, wherewith all his natural philosophy is infected.
But if any man shall keep a continual watchful and severe eye upon action, operation, and the use of knowledge, he may advise and take notice what are the forms, the disclosures whereof are fruitful and important to the state of man. For as to the forms of substances, man only except, of whom it is said, Formavit hominem de limo terra, et spiravit in faciem ejus spiraculum vita, and not as of all other creatures, Producant aqua, producat terra ; the forms of substances, I say, as they are now by compounding and transplanting multiplied, are so perplexed, as they are not to be inquired; no more than it were either possible or to purpose, to seek in gross the forms of those sounds which make words, which by composition and transposition of letters are infinite.
But, on the other side, to inquire the form of those sounds or voices which make simple letters, is easily comprehensible; and being known, induceth and manifesteth the, forms of all words, which consist and are compounded of them. In the same manner to inquire the form of a lion, of an oak, of gold; nay, of water, of air, is a vain pursuit: but to inquire the forms of sense, of voluntary motion, of vegetation, of colours, of gravity and levity, of density, of tenuity, of heat, of cold, and all other natures and qualities, which, like an alphabet, are not many, and of which the essences, upheld by matter, of all creatures do consist : to inquire, I say, the true forms of these, is that part of metaphysic which we now define of.
Not but that physic doth make inquiry, and take consideration of the same natures : but how? Only as to the material and efficient causes of them, and not as to the forms. For example; if the cause of whiteness in snow or froth be inquired, and it be
rendered thus; that the subtile intermixture of air and water is the cause, it is well rendered; but nevertheless, is this the form of whiteness? No; but it is the
efficient, which is ever but vehiculum forma. Metaphy
This part of metaphysic I do not find laboured and sica, sive de formis performed, whereat I marvel not: because I hold it et finibus not possible to be invented by that course of invention
which hath been used, in regard that men, which is the root of all error, have made too untimely a departure, and too remote a recess from particulars.
But the use of this part of metaphysic which I report as deficient, is of the rest the most excellent in two respects: the one, because it is the duty and virtue of all knowledge to abridge the infinity of individual experience, as much as the conception of truth will permit, and to remedy the complaint of vita brevis, ars longa; which is performed by uniting the notions and conceptions of sciences: for knowledges are as pyramids, whereof history is the basis. So of natural philosophy, the basis is natural history; the stage next the basis is physic; the stage next the vertical point is metaphysic. As for the vertical point, Opus, quod operatur Deus à principio usque ad finem, the summary law of nature, we know not whether man's inquiry can attain unto it. But these three be the true stages of knowledge, and are to them that are depraved no better than the giants hills.
Ter sunt conati imponere Pelio Ossam Scilicet, atque Ossæ frondosum involvereOlympum. But to those which refer all things to the glory of God, they are as the three acclamations, Sancte, sancte, sancte ; holy in the description, or dilatation of his works; holy in the connection or concatenation of them; and holy in the union of them in a perpetual and uniform law.
And therefore the speculation was excellent in Parmenides and Plato, although but a speculation in them, that all things by scale did ascend to unity. So then always that knowledge is worthiest, which is charged with least multiplicity; which appeareth to be metaphysic, as that which considereth the simple forms or differences of things, which are few
in number, and the degrees and co-ordinations whereof make all this variety.
The second respect which valueth and commendeth this part of metaphysic, is, that it doth enfranchise the power of man unto the greatest liberty and possibility of works and effects. For physic carrieth men in narrow and restrained ways, subject to many accidents of impediments, imitating the ordinary flexuous courses of nature; but lata undique sunt sapientibus via: to sapience, which was anciently defined to be rerum divinarum et humanarum scientia, there is ever choice of means: for physical causes give light to new invention in simili materia. But whosoever knoweth any form, knoweth the utmost possibility of super-inducing that nature upon any variety of matter, and so is less restrained in operation, either to the basis of the matter, or the condition of the efficient : which kind of knowledge Solomon likewise, though in a more divine sense, elegantly describeth; Non arctabuntur gressus tui, et currens non habebis offendiculum. The ways of sapience are not much liable either to particularity or chance.
The second part of metaphysic is the inquiry of final causes, which I am moved to report, not as omitted, but as misplaced ; and yet if it were but a fault in order, I would not speak of it: for order is matter of illustration, but pertaineth not to the substance of sciences. But this misplacing hath caused a deficience, or at least a great improficience in the sciences themselves. For the handling of final causes, mixed with the rest in physical inquiries, hath intercepted the severe and diligent inquiry of all real and physical causes, and given men the occasion to stay upon these satisfactory and specious causes, to the great arrest and prejudice of farther discovery.
For this I find done not only by Plato, who ever anchoreth upon that shore, but by Aristotle, Galen, and others, which do usually likewise fall upon these flats of discoursing causes. For to say that the hairs of the eyelids are for a quickset and fence about the sight; or, that the firmness of the skins and hides of living creatures is to defend them from the extremities of heat or cold; or, that the bones are for the columns or beams, whereupon the frame of the bodies of living creatures are built; or, that the leaves of trees are for protecting of the fruit; or, that the clouds are for watering of the earth; or, that the solidness of the earth is for the station and mansion of living creatures, and the like, is well inquired and collected in metaphysic; but in physic they are impertinent. Nay, they are indeed but remoras and hinderances to stay and slug the ship from farther sailing, and have brought this to pass, that the search of the physical causes hath been neglected, and passed in silence.
And therefore the natural philosophy of Democritus, and some others, who did not suppose a mind or reason in the frame of things, but attributed the form thereof, able to maintain itself, to infinite essays or proofs of nature, which they term fortune; seemeth to me, as far as I can judge by the recital and fragments which remain unto us, in particularities of physical causes, more real and better inquired than that of Aristotle and Plato; whereof both intermingled final causes, the one as a part of theology, and the other as a part of logic, which were the favourite studies respectively of both those persons. Not because those final causes are not true, and worthy to be inquired, being kept within their own province; but because their excursions into the limits of physical causes hath bred a vastness and solitude in that track. For, otherwise, keeping their precincts and borders, men are extremely deceived if they think there is an enmity or repugnancy at all between them. For, the cause rendered, that the hairs about the eye-lids are for the safe-guard of the sight, doth not impugn the cause rendered, that pilosity is incident to orifices of moisture; Muscosi fontes, etc. Nor the cause rendered, that the firmness of hides is for the armour of the body against extremities of heat or cold, doth not impugn the cause rendered, that contraction of pores is incident