Billeder på siden

this contrary effect and operation, that they add authority to error, and destroy the authority of that which is well invented: for question is an honour and preferment to falsehood, as on the other side it is a repulse to truth.'

From this account, imperfect as it is, of the treatise on the ‘Proficiency and Advancement of Learning,' the reader will be enabled to form some notion, at least, of the vast grasp of Bacon's mind, and the wonderful extent and variety of knowledge which he possessed. The greatest objects did not confound him, nor the minutest escape him. His classification of the sciences, so magnificent in its design-so able in its execution, is the only one of which modern philosophy has yet to boast; and the united talents of D'Alembert and of Diderot, aided by all the lights of the eighteenth century, have been able, says Dugald Stewart, to add but little to what Bacon performed. *

* Preliin. Diss. to Ency. Brit., p. 8.

II. Novum Organum, sive Indicia de Interpretatione Nature.

The survey of the sciences which Bacon executed in the first part of the Instauration was justly considered by him to be an undertaking so important, that on the successful accomplishment of it depended, in a great degree, the further advancement of knowledge. Men pent up in some favourite pursuit,- living, as it were, in an island of their own,--are prone to imagine that theirs is the 'celestial empire,'—theirs the only country wherein any thing can be learned deserving the attention of mankind. It was to explode this error; it was to awaken and stimulate the desire for further inquiry;—to show that there were other countries worthy of being explored,-some which had been only casually visited, others not colonised at all, that Bacon delineated that intellectual chart which we have attempted to describe.

To execute so vast a design in so complete a way, with such comprehensiveness and yet minuteness,-illustrated, too, with all that is graceful in classic literature, or that the brightest fancy could bestow, was an effort of genius truly wonderful.

But the great Advancer of Knowledge did not stop here. He saw plainly that if we had not other and better principles of procedure than those which then guided the inquiries of philosophers, his map of the world of science would be of little avail; that as Columbus could never have made those maritime discoveries which immortalized his name, without the aid of the magnetic needle; so, in philosophy, we should still be mere coasters -so to speak—confined to our own native shores, unless possessed of some instrument that would direct us to those undiscovered regions of knowledge which lay beyond our ken.

With the philosophy of Aristotle, Bacon had long been dissatisfied; and even at college, when only about sixteen years of age, (as he assured Dr. Rawley,) he fell into a dislike of that system, finding it barren of works beneficial to man, and fruitful only in logomachy; in which mind, says Rawley, he continued to his dying day. To propound a better method of discovery,-one that would purge philosophy from its errors, and enrich it with new truths,—had long been a favourite and fixed purpose with Bacon;* and having, after much meditation, matured and methodized his thoughts, he proposed his plan in the Novum Organum, (which forms the second part of his Instauration,) 'with so much strength of argument,' says one of his most distinguished disciples, †

* In his letter to Father Fulgentio concerning the Instauration, (written before the publication of his Novum Organum,) Bacon says, “I remember that about forty years ago I composed a juvenile work about these things, which with great confidence and a pompous title, I called TEMPORIS PARTUM MAXIMUM.'-Bacon's Works, vol. 12, p. 205. See also his letter to lord Burleigh, ante, p. 22.

# Maclaurin's Account of Sir Isaac Newton's Discoveries, p. 59.


[ocr errors]

and so just a zeal, as renders that admirable work the delight of all who have a taste for solid learning.' The grand and fruitful principle propounded by Bacon—and which is as universally * applicable as the Aristotelian dictum De omni et nullo, and without which that dictum would be a barren and useless abstraction—is the principle of INDUCTION. To unfold this principleto teach mankind that the only method of inquiry which can conduct to any useful result is that which, taking facts and not opinions experience, not hypothesis, for its basis, proceeds, by means of rejections and conclusions, (i. e., in the way of analysis,) to decompose the phenomena of nature; so as to elicit those axioms or general laws, (i. e., generalized facts,) from which we may synthetically

* Novum Organum, lib. 1, aph. 127.–Works, vol. 9, p. 278. This aphorism must have escaped the recollection or attention of Dr. Copleston, when he asserted that the Organum of Bacon is confined to the department of physical science.'—Second Reply to the Edinburgh Review, p. 22.

« ForrigeFortsæt »