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one, the novelty or strangeness of terms, the other the strictness of positions, which of necessity doth induce oppositions, and so questions and altercations”-he proceeds-"Surely like as many substances in nature which are solid, do putrify and corrupt into worms: so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to putrify and dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and (as I may term them) vermiculate questions; which have indeed a kind of quickness and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the school-men, who having sharp and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading; but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors (chiefly Aristotle their dictator) as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges, and knowing little history, either of nature or time, did out of no great quantity of matter, and infinite agitation of wit, spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning, which are extant in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, worketh according to the stuff, and is limited thereby: but if it work upon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admi
rable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit."
And a little further on, he adds" Notwithstanding, certain it is, that if those school-men to their great thirst of truth and unwearied travel of wit, had joined variety and universality of reading and contemplation, they had proved excellent lights, to the great advancement of all learning and knowledge; but as they are, they are great undertakers indeed, and fierce with dark keeping. But as in the inquiry of the divine truth, their pride inclined to leave the oracle of God's word, and to varnish in the mixture of their own inventions; so in the inquisition of nature, they ever left the oracle of God's works, and adored the deceiving and deformed images, which the unequal mirror of their own minds, or a few received authors or principles did represent unto them.”
One of his acutest (I might have said profoundest) remarks relates to the near connection between deceiving and being deceived. Volumes might be written in explanation of it. “ This vice therefore,” he says, “ brancheth itself into two sorts; delight in deceiving, and aptness to be deceived, imposture and credulity; which although they appear to be of a diverse nature, the one seeming to proceed of cunning, and the other of simplicity, yet certainly they do for the most part concur. For as the verse noteth Percontatorem fugito, nam garrulus idem est; an inquisitive man is a prattler: so upon the like reason, a credulous man is a deceiver; as we see it in fame, that he that will easily believe rumours, will as easily augment rumours, and add somewhat to them of his own, which Tacitus wisely noteth, when he saith, Fingunt simul creduntque, so great an affinity hath fiction and belief.”
I proceed to his account of the causes of error, and directions for the conduct of the understanding, which are admirable both for their speculative ingenuity and practical use.
“ The first of these,” says Lord Bacon," is the extreme affection 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 respect, "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 take progression. And to speak truly," he adds, “ Antiquitas seculi juventus mundi. These times are the ancient times when the world is ancient; and not those
which we count ancient ordine retrogrado, by a computation backwards 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 makes to Jupiter and other the Heathen Gods, of which he wondereth that they begot so many children in old age, and begot none in his time, and asketh whether they were become septuagenary, or whether the law Papia made against old men's marriages had restrained them. So it seemeth meu doubt, lest time was become past children and generation: wherein contrary-wise, we see commonly the levity and unconstancy of men's 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 done no sooner, 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 vana contemnere. And the same happened to Columbus in his western navigation. But in intellectual matters, it is much more common; as may be seen in most of the propositions in Euclid, which till they be demonstrate, they seem strange to our assent, but being demonstrate, our mind accepteth of them by a kind of relation (as the lawyers speak) as if we had known them before.
“ Another 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 iu 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 or delivery of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory, and not ingenuous and faithful; in a sort, as inay 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.”
Lord Bacon in this part declares, “ that it is not his purpose to enter into a laudative of learning or to make a Hymn to the Muses,” yet he has
gone near to do this in the following observations on the dignity of knowledge. He says, after speaking of rulers and conquerors:
“ But the commandment of knowledge is yet higher than the commandment over the will; for it is a commandment over the reason, belief, and understanding of man, which is the highest part of the mind, and giveth law to the will itself. For there is no power on earth which setteth a throne or chair of estate in the spirits and souls of men, and in their cogitations, imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and learning. And therefore we see the detestable and extreme pleasure that arch- heretics and false prophets and impostors are transported with, when they once find in themselves that they have a superiority in the faith and conscience of men: so great, as if they have once tasted of it, it is seldom seen that any torture or persecution can make them relinquish or abandon it. But as this is that which the air thor of the Revelations calls the depth or profoundness of