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when founded upon a hasty examination of a few particulars;—and superstitious, when philosophy is unwisely blended with theology.
Such is a brief sketch of the account which Bacon has given of those prejudices of the mind which he expressively termed the idols of the human understanding. 'In point of practical utility,' says Dugald Stewart, “it is at least equal to any thing on that head to be found in Locke, of whom it is impossible to forbear remarking, as a circumstance not easily explicable, that he should have resumed this important discussion without once mentioning the name of his great predecessor.' * In the study of nature and its laws, these idols or prejudices must be resolutely rejected, and the mind completely purified; for we can no more, says Bacon, enter into the kingdom of man, which is founded on the sciences, than into the kingdom of heaven, unless we be first converted to the truth, "and become as little children."*
* Prelim. Diss. to Ency. Brit.
Lord Bacon then proceeds to offer some further observations on the false systems of philosophy, and the causes which had so long hindered the progress of true knowledge; urging, however, various grounds of encouragement and hope for its future adyancement.
Here, as in various other parts of the Novum Organum, he reprobates the prejudice which philosophy had received from the inductive and syllogistic methods of logicians; condemning the one, because it proceeded (as before observed t) by simple
* Novum Organum, lib. 1, aph. 68; St. Matthew, chap. xviii., 3. For some valuable remarks on this subject, see sir John Herschel's Discourse on Natural Philosophy, pp. 79—84, and the introd. to his Treat. on Astronomy. † Ante, p. 149.
enumeration, without proper rejections and exclusions, leading only to uncertainty and error; and repudiating the other, (i. e., the syllogistic method,) because its discoveries are not those of first principles, but only of what seems to agree with them. If, there. fore, the leading axioms be hastily abstracted or ill-defined, the whole falls to the ground. Accordingly, says Bacon, we reject the syllogism, and make use of genuine induction both for our major and minor propositions. Hence, he continues, the order of demonstration is reversed; for instead of flying forthwith from a few particulars to the highest abstractions, which are the pivots of controversy;
and thence intermediately deducing all the rest, by a short way, it is true, but abrupt; impassable to nature, though accessible and suited to dispute;—our method, on the contrary, is to raise up axioms in gradual succession; from the less general to the more general; so that the ultimate generalization is not merely notional, but recognised by nature as her own.*
The sciences which existed in Bacon's time were principally derived from the Greeks;-a people, acute and subtle above all others; but aiming rather at founding sects than finding truth; so that their doctrines, says Bacon, resembled the talk of idle old men to ignorant youths. From so corrupt a source, therefore, little or no true knowledge could be derived. Neither did Bacon augur more favourably of the existing systems of philosophy from the ages in which they took their rise; for then the world had been but partially explored; countries, where nature wantons in all her luxuriance and teems with wonders, were then unknown, or heard of only from tradition; and even history, limited as it was, told little more than those fabulous stories which ignorance
* Novum Organum, lib. 1, aph. 12, 69, 82, 104, 125; and vol. 9, pp. 166, 167.
and credulity had imposed upon the minds of men.
In adverting to the causes which had obstructed the progress of philosophy, Bacon mentions, among others, that blind attachment which men have to antiquity and the authority of great names; truly observing, that those 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 obstacle to the progress of knowledge is superstition, and a misdirected zeal in matters of religion. Among the Greeks, those who first attempted to assign the physical causes of thunder and storms, were condemned as guilty of impiety. Nor did the early Fathers of the Church, says Bacon, treat those much better, who showed, upon the most conclusive evidence, that the earth is a sphere; and, consequently, that there are antipodes. It was the same blind zeal which condemned Galileo Galilei, (Bacon's