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the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature, as for the use of man's life.
And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words should stand; and not consuls to give advice; the damage is infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause that hath kept them low, at a stay, without growth or advancement. For hence it hath come, that in arts mechanical, the first deviser comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth: but in sciences, the first author goeth farthest, and time loseth and corrupteth. So we see, artillery, sailing, printing, and the like, were grossly managed at the first, and by time accommodated and refined but contrariwise the philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato, Democritus, Hippocrates, Euclides, Archimedes, of most vigour at the first, and by time degenerate and embased; whereof the reason is no other, but that in the former many wits and industries have contributed in one; and in the latter, many wits and industries have been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have rather depraved than illus trated. For as water will not ascend higher than the level of the first spring-head from whence it descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the knowledge of Aristotle. therefore although the position be good, Oportet discentem credere; yet it must be coupled with this, Oportet edoctum judicare: for disciples do owe unto masters only a temporary belief, and a suspension of their own judgment till they be fully instructed, and not an absolute resignation, or perpetual captivity: and therefore, to conclude this point, I will say no more; but so let great authors have their due, as time, which is the author of authors, be not deprived of his due, which is, farther and farther to discover truth. Thus I have gone over these three
diseases of learning; besides the which, there are some other rather peccant humours than formed diseases, which nevertheless are not so secret and intrinsic, but that they fall under a popular observation and traducement, and therefore are not to be passed over.
The first of these is the extreme affecting of two extremities: the one antiquity, the other novelty; wherein it seemeth the children of time do take after the nature and malice of the father. For as he devoureth his children, so one of them seeketh to devour and suppress the other, while antiquity envieth there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add, but it must deface; surely, the advice of the prophet is the true direction in this matter, State super vias antiquas, et videte quænam sit via recta, et bona, et ambulate in ea. Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stand thereupon, and discover what is the best way; but when the discovery is well taken, then to make progression. And to speak truly, Antiquitas seculi, juventus mundi. These times are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient ordine retrogrado, by a computation backward from ourselves.
Another error, induced by the former, is a distrust that any thing should be now to be found out, which the world should have missed and passed over so long time; as if the same objection were to be made to time, that Lucian maketh to Jupiter, and other the heathen gods, of which he wondereth that they begot so many children in old time, and begot none in his time; and asketh whether they were become septuagenary, or whether the law Papia, made against old mens marriages, had restrained them. So it seemeth men doubt, lest time is become past children and generation; wherein, contrariwise, we see commonly the levity and unconstancy of mens judgments, which, till a matter be done, wonder that it can be done; and, as soon as it is done, wonder again that it was no sooner done; as we see in the
expedition of Alexander into Asia, which at first was prejudged as a vast and impossible enterprise and yet afterwards it pleaseth Livy to make no more of it than this; Nil aliud, quam bene ausus est vana contemnere: and the same happened to Columbus in the western navigation. But in intellectual matters, it is much more common; as may be seen in most of the propositions of Euclid, which till they be demonstrated, they seem strange to our assent; but being demonstrated, our mind accepteth of them by a kind of relation, as the lawyers speak, as if we had known them before.
Another error that hath also some affinity with the former, is a conceit, that of former opinions or sects, after variety and examination, the best hath still prevailed, and suppressed the rest: so as, if a man should begin the labour of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest, for the multitude's sake, were not ready to give passage, rather to that which is popular and superficial, than to that which is substantial and profound: for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
Another error, of a diverse nature from all the former, is the over-early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a farther stature: so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be farther polished and illustrated, and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.
Another error which doth succeed that which we last mentioned, is, that after the distribution of par
ticular arts and sciences, men have abandoned universality, or philosophia prima; which cannot but cease, and stop all progression. For no perfect discovery can be made upon a flat or a level: neither is it possible to discover the more remote, and deeper parts of any science, if you stand but upon the level of the same science, and ascend not to a higher science.
Another error hath proceeded from too great a reverence, and a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man: by means whereof, men have withdrawn themselves too much from the contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon these intellectualists, which are, notwithstanding, commonly taken for the most sublime and divine philosophers, Heraclitus gave a just censure, saying, "Men sought truth in their own "little worlds, and not in the great and common "world;" for they disdain to spell, and so by degrees to read in the volume of God's works; and contrariwise, by continual meditation and agitation of wit, do urge and as it were invocate their own spirits to divine, and give oracles unto them, whereby they are deservedly deluded.
Another error that hath some connexion with this latter, is, that men have used to infect their meditations, opinions, and doctrines, with soine conceits which they have most admired, or some sciences which they have most applied; and given all things else a tincture according to them, utterly untrue and unproper. So hath Plato intermingled his philosophy with theology, and Aristotle with logic; and the second school of Plato, Proclus, and the rest, with the mathematics. For these were the arts which had a kind of primogeniture with them severally. So have the alchemists made a philosophy out of a few experiments of the furnace; and Gilbertus, our countryman, hath made a philosophy out of the observations of a loadstone. So Cicero, when, reciting the several opinions of the nature of the soul,
he found a musician, that held the soul was but a harmony, saith pleasantly, Hic ab arte sua non recessit, etc. But of these conceits Aristotle speaketh seriously and wisely, when he saith, Qui respiciunt ad pauca, de facili pronuntiant.
Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action, commonly spoken of by the ancients: the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even so it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Another error is in the manner of the tradition and delivery of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory; and not ingenuous and faithful, in a sort, as may be soonest believed; and not easiliest examined. It is true, that in compendious treatises for practice, that form is not to be disallowed. But in the true handling of knowledge, men ought not to fall either, on the one side, into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean: Nil tam metuens, quam ne dubitare aliqua de re videretur: nor, on the other side, into Socrates his ironical doubting of all things; but to propound things sincerely, with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a man's own judgment proved more or less.
Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavours for whereas the more constant and devote kind of professors of any science ought to propound to themselves to make some additions to their science, they convert their labours to aspire to certain second prizes; as to be a profound interpreter, or commentator; to be a sharp champion or defender; to be a methodical compounder or abridger; and so the patrimony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom augmented.