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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 nevertheless 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 ; but 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
98 411 : 9 h 21, OW, LET * The profound, the subtile, the marvellous, the indefatigable, the irrefragable, the angelic, the seraphic, the fountain of life, light of the world, etc,
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penetrated far into the mysteries of nature, and made so many new discoveries in astronomy and perspective, in mechanics and chemistry, that the most sober writers even now cannot mention them without some marks of emotion and wonder. It is Dr. Freind's observation, that he was almost the only astronomer of his age: and the reformation of the calendar, by him attempted and in a manner perfected, is a noble proof of his skill in that science. The construction of spectacles, of telescopes, of all sorts of glasses that magnify or diminish objects, the composition of powder (which Bartholdus Swartz is thought to have first hit upon almost a century later) are some of the many inventions with justice ascribed to him. For all which, he was in his life-time calumniated, imprisoned, oppressed: and after his death wounded in his good name, as a magician who had dealt in arts, infernal and abominable. He tells us, that there were but four persons then in Europe who had made any progress in the mathematics; and in chemistry yet fewer: that those who undertook to translate Aristotle were every way unequal to the task ; and that his writings, which, rightly understood, Bacon considered as the fountain of all knowledge, had been lately condemned and burned, in a synod held at Paris.
The works of that celebrated ancient have, in truth, more exercised the hatred and admiration of man
kind, than those of all the other philosophers togeLib. de ther : Launoy enumerates no less than thirty-seven varia Arist. fathers of the Church who have stigmatized his name, fortuna, Tom. IV. and endeavoured to reprobate his doctrines. Mor
hoff has reckoned up a still greater number of his Polyhistor. commentators, who were at the same time implicitly Toin. 11. his disciples: and yet both these authors are far from
having given a complete list either of his friends or enemies. In his life-time he was suspected of irreligion, and, by the pagan priesthood, marked out for destruction: the successors of those very men were his partizans and admirers. His works met with much the same treatment from the Christian
clergy : sometimes proscribed for heretical; some-
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 Bacon's justly compares them to the Olympic wrestlers, who Apophtheg.
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 Evtedrysra 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 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 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,