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Englishman, was properly the father of the schoolmen: and that to him the sect of the Nominalists owed its rise and credit. He adds, that it revived afterwards in the person of Occam, another of our countrymen, and the perpetual antagonist of Duns Scotus, who had declared for the Realists, and was reckoned their ablest champion. The learned reader needs not be told, that the scholastic doctors were all distinguished into these two sects; formidable party-names, which are now as little known or mentioned as the controversies that once occasioned them. It is sufficient to say, that, like all other parties, they hated each other heartily; treated each other as heretics in logic and that their disputes were often sharp and bloody; ending not only in the metaphorical destruction of common sense and language, but in the real mutilation and death of the combatants. For, to the disgrace of human reason, mankind in all their controversies, whether about a notion or a thing, a predicament or a province, have made their last appeal to brute force and violence. The titles* with which these leaders were honoured by their followers, on account of the sublime reveries they taught, are at once magnificent and absurd: and prove rather the superlative ignorance of those times, than any transcendent merit in the men to whom they were applied. From this censure we ought never'theless to except one, who was a prodigy of knowledge for the age he lived in, and is acknowledged as such by the age to which I am writing. I mean the renowned frier Bacon, who shone forth singly through the profound darkness of those times; hut rather dazzled than enlightened the weaker eyes of his cotemporaries. As if the name of Bacon were auspicious to philosophy, this man, not only without assistance or encouragement, but insulted and persecuted, by the unconquerable force of his genius
*The profound, the subtile, the marvellous, the indefatigable, the irrefragable, the angelic, the seraphic, the fountain of life, light of the world, etc. Mantson ylenowaerte novewod
penetrated far into the mysteries of nature, and made
there were but four persons then in Europe who had
The works of that celebrated ancient have, in truth, more exercised the hatred and admiration of mankind, than those of all the other philosophers together Launoy enumerates no less than thirty-seven varia Arist. fathers of the Church who have stigmatized his name, Tom. IV. and endeavoured to reprobate his doctrines. Morhoff has reckoned up a still greater number of his Polyhistor, commentators, who were at the same time implicitly Tom. II. his disciples: and yet both these authors are far from
having given a complete list either of his friends or
clergy: sometimes proscribed for heretical; sometimes triumphant and acknowledged the great bulwark of orthodoxy. Launoy has written a particular treatise on the subject, and mentioned eight different revolutions in the fortune and reputation of Aristotle's philosophy. To pass over the intermediate changes, I will just mention two, that make a full and ridiculous contrast. In the above-mentioned council held at Paris about the year 1209, the bishops there censured Launoii, ubi supra. his writings, without discrimination, as the pestilent sources of error and heresy; condemned them to the flames, and commanded all persons, on pain of excommunication, not to read, transcribe, or keep any copies of them. They went farther, and delivered over to the secular arm no less than ten persons, who were burned alive, for certain tenets, drawn, as those learned prelates had heard, from the pernicious books in question. In the sixteenth century, those very books were not only read with impunity, but every where taught with applause: and whoever disputed their orthodoxy, I had almost said their infallibility, was persecuted as an infidel and miscreant. Of this the sophister Ramus is a memorable instance. tain animadversions of his on the peripatetic philosophy occasioned a general commotion in the learned world. The university of Paris took the alarm hotly, and cried out against this attempt as destructive of all good learning, and of fatal tendency to religion itself. The affair was brought before the parliament; Launoii, and appeared of so much consequence to Francis the tom. IV. first, that he would needs take it under his own im- P. 206. mediate cognisance. The edict is still extant, which declares Ramus insolent, impudent, and a lyar. His 10th of books are thereby for ever condemned, suppressed, May, An. abolished: and, what is a strain of unexampled severity, the miserable author is solemnly interdicted from transcribing, even from reading his own compositions!
We might from hence be led to imagine, that when the authority of an ancient philosopher was held so sacred, philosophy itself must have been thoroughly
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 justly compares them to the Olympic wrestlers, who 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 favorite 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 Eveysa 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. As a 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,