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the great English teacher. We can almost forgive all the faults of Bacon's life, when we read that singularly graceful and dignified passage: "Ego certe, ut de me ipso, quod res est, loquar, et in iis quæ nunc edo, et in iis quæ in posterum meditor, dignitatem ingenii et nominis mei, si qua sit, sæpius sciens et volens projicio, dum commodis humanis inserviam; quique architectus fortasse in philosophia et scientiis esse debeam, etiam operarius et bajulus, et quidvis demum fio, cum haud pauca qua omnino fieri necesse sit, alii autem ob innatam superbiam subterfugiant, ipse sustineam et exsequar." This philanthropia, which, as he said, in one of the most remarkable of his early letters," was so fixed in his mind as it could not be removed," this majestic humility, this persuasion that nothing can be too insignificant for the attention of the wisest, which is not too insignificant to give pleasure or pain to the meanest, is the great characteristical distinction, the essential spirit of the Baconian philosophy. We trace it in all that Bacon has written on Physics, on Laws, on Morals. And we conceive that from this peculiarity all the other peculiarities of his system directly and almost necessarily sprang.
forced to own ourselves disappointed. We
• De Augmentis, Lib. 7, Cap. 1.
Novum Organum, Lib. 1, Aph. 71,79. De Augmentis, Lib 3. Cap. 4. De principiis atque originibus. Cogitata viss Redargutio philosophiarum.
We readily acknowledge that some of the teachers of this unfruitful wisdom were among the greatest men that the world had ever seen. If we admit the justice of Bacon's censure, we admit it with regret, similar to that which Dante felt when he learned the fate of those illustrious heathens who were doomed to the first circles of hell.
"Gran duol mi prese al cuor quando lo'ntesi,
Conobbi che'n quel limbo eran sospesi."
But in truth the very admiration which we feel for the eminent philosophers of antiquity, forces us to adopt the opinion that their powers were systematically misdirected. For how else could it be that such powers should effect so little for mankind? A pedestrian may show as much muscular vigour on a treadmill as on the highway road. But on the road his The spirit which appears in the passage of vigour will assuredly carry him forward; and Seneca to which we have referred, tainted the on the treadmill he will not advance an inch. whole body of the ancient philosophy from the The ancient philosophy was a treadmill, not a time of Socrates downwards; and took pos-path. It was made up of revolving questions session of intellects with which that of Seneca of controversies which were always begincannot, for a moment, be compared. It per-ning again. It was a contrivance for having vades the dialogues of Plato. It may be dis- much exertion and no progress. We must tinctly traced in many parts of the works of acknowledge that more than once, while conAristotle. Bacon has dropped hints from templating the doctrines of the Academy and which it may be inferred that in his opinion the Portico, even as they appear in the trans the prevalence of this feeling was in a great parent splendour of Cicero's incomparable measure to be attributed to the influence of diction, we have been tempted to mutter with Socrates. Our great countryman evidently the surly centurion in Persius, "Cur quis non did not consider the revolution which Socrates prandeat hoc est ?" What is the highest good, effected in philosophy as a happy event; and whether pain be an evil, whether all things be he constantly maintained that the earlier fated, whether we can be certain of any thing, Greek speculators, Democritus in particular, whether we can be certain that we are certain were, on the whole, superior to their more of nothing, whether a wise man can be unhap celebrated successors.† py, whether all departures from right be equalreprehensible-these, and other questions of the same sort, occupied the brains, the tongues, and the pens of the ablest men in the civilized world during several centuries. This sort of philosophy, it is evident, could not be progressive. It might, indeed, sharpen and invigorate the minds of those who devoted themselves to it; and so might the disputes of the orthodox Lilliputians, and the heretical Blefuscudians, about the big ends and the lit the ends of eggs. But such disputes could add nothing to the stock of knowledge. The hu man mind accordingly, instead of marching, merely marked time. It took as much trouble as would have sufficed to carry it forward: and yet remained on the same spot. There was no accumulation of truth, no heritage of truth acquired by the labour of one generation and bequeathed to another, to be again transaremitted with large additions to a third. Where this philosophy was in the time of Cicero, there it continued to be it. the time of Seneca, and there it continued to be in the time of Fa
Assuredly, if the tree which Socrates plant-ly ed, and Plato watered, is to be judged of by its flowers and leaves, it is the noblest of trees. But if we take the homely test of Bacon, if we judge of the tree by its fruits, our opinion of it may perhaps be less favourable. When we sum up all the useful truths which we owe to that philosophy, to what do they amount? We find, indeed, abundant proofs that some of those who cultivated it were men of the first order of intellect. We find among their writings incomparable specimens both of dialectical and rhetorical art. We have no doubt that the ancient controversies were of use in so far as they served to exercise the faculties of the disputants, for there is no controversy so idle that it may not be of use in this way. But, when we look for something more-for something which adds to the comforts or alleviates the calamities of the human race—we
* Novum Organum. Lib 1, Aph. 73.
vorinus. The same sects were still battling, with the same unsatisfactory arguments, about the same interminable questions. There had been no want of ingenuity, of zeal, of industry. Every trace of intellectual cultivation was there except a harvest. There had been plenty of ploughing, harrowing, reaping, thrashing. But the garners contained only smut and stub
The ancient philosophers did not neglect natural science; but they did not cultivate it for the purpose of increasing the power and ameliorating the condition of man. The taint of barrenness had spread from ethical to physical speculations. Seneca wrote largely on natural philosophy, and magnified the importance of that study. But why? Not because it tended to assuage suffering, to multiply the conveniences of life, to extend the empire of man over the material world; but solely because it tended to raise the mind above low cares, to separate it from the body, to exercise its subtlety in the solution of very obscure questions. Thus natural philosophy was considered in the light merely of a mental exercise. It was made subsidiary to the art of disputation; and it consequently proved altogether barren of useful discoveries.
There was one sect, which, however absurd and pernicious some of its doctrines may have been, ought, it should seem, to have merited an exception from the general censures which Bacon has pronounced on the ancient schools of wisdom. The Epicurean, who referred all happiness to bodily pleasure, and all evil to bodily pain, might have been expected to exert himself for the purpose of bettering his own physical condition and that of his neighbours. But the thought seems never to have occurred to any member of that school. Indeed, their notion, as reported by their great poet, was that no more improvements were to be expected in the arts which conduce to the comfort of life,
"Ad victum quæ flagitat usus Omnia jam ferme mortalibus esse parata."
This contented despondency-this disposi tion to admire what has been done, and to ex
pect that nothing more will be done-is strong ly characteristic of all the schools which preceded the school of Fruit and Progress. Widely as the Epicurean and the Stoic differed on most points, they seem to have quite agreed in their contempt for pursuits so vulgar as to be useful. The philosophy of both was a gar rulous, declaiming, canting, wrangling philosophy. Century after century they continued to repeat their hostile war-cries-Virtue and Pleasure; and in the end it appeared the Epicurcan had added as little to the quantity of pleasure as the Stoic to the quantity of virtue. It is on the pedestal of Bacon, not on that of Epicurus, that those noble lines ought to be inscribed:
Christianity. The Church was now victorious and corrupt. The rites of the Pantheon had passed into her worship; the subtleties of the Academy into her creed. In an evil day, sayı Bacon, though with great pomp and solemnity, was the ill-starred alliance stricken betweenthe old philosophy and the new faith.* Questions widely different from those which had employed the ingenuity of Pyrrho and Carneades, but just as subtle, just as interminable, and just as unprofitable, exercised the minds of the lively and voluble Greeks. When learning began to revive in the West, similar trifles occupied the sharp and vigorous intellects of the Schoolmen. There was another sowing of the wind, and another reaping of the whirlwind. The great work of improving the condition of the human race was still considered as unworthy of a man of learning. Those who undertook that task, if what they effected could be readily comprehended, were despised as mechanics; if not, they were in danger of being burned as conjurors.
There can be no strenger proof of the degree in which the human mind had been misdirected, than the history of the two greatest events which took place during the middle ages. We speak of the invention of gunpowder, and of the invention of printing. The dates of both are unknown. The authors of both are unknown. Nor was this be cause men were too rude and ignorant to value intellectual superiority. The inventor of gunpowder appears to have been contemporary with Petrarch and Boccaccio. The inventor of printing was contemporary with Nicholas the Fifth, with Cosmo de' Medici, and with a crowd of distinguished scholars. But the human mind still retained that fatal bent which it had received two thousand years earlier. George of Trebisond and Marsillio Ficino would not easily have been brought to believe that the inventor of the printing-press had done more for mankind than themselves; or than those ancient writers of whom they were the enthusiastic votaries.
At length the time arrived when the barren philosophy which had, during so many ages, employed the faculties of the ablest men, was destined to fall. It had worn many shapes. It had mingled itself with many creeds. It had survived revolutions, in which empires, religions, languages, races, had perished. Driven from its ancient haunts, it had taken sanctuary in that church which it had persecuted; and had, like the daring fiends of the poet, placed its seat
"next the seat of God, And with its darkness dared affront his light." Words and mere words, and nothing b words, had been all the fruit of all the toil, of all the most renowned sages of sixty genera tions. But the days of this sterile exuberance were numbered.
Many causes predisposed the public mind to a change. The study of a great variety of ancient writers, though it did not give a right
• Cogitata et visa
direction to philosophical research, did much towards destroying that blind reverence for authority which had prevailed when Aristotle ruled alone. The rise of the Florentine sect of Platonists, a ect to which belonged some of the finest minds of the fifteenth century, was not an unimportant event. The mere substitution of the Academic for the Peripatetic philosophy would indeed have done little good. But any thing was better than the old habit of unreasoning servility. It was some thing to have a choice of tyrants. "A spark of freedom," as Gibbon has justly remarked, "was produced by this collision of adverse servitude."
Other causes might be mentioned. But it is chiefly to the great reformation of religion that we owe the great reformation of philosophy. The alliance between the schools and the Vatican had for ages been so close, that those who threw off the dominion of the Vatican could not continue to recognise the authority of the schools. Most of the great reformers treated the Peripatetic philosophy with contempt; and spoke of Aristotle as if Aristotle had been answerable for all the dog-leader capable of conducting them. mas of Thomas Aquinas. "Nulla apud Lutheranos philosophiam esse in pretio,' was a reproach which the defenders of the Church of Rome loudly repeated, and which many of the Protestant leaders considered as a compliment. Scarcely any text was more frequently cited by them than that in which St. Paul cautions the Colossians not to let any man spoil them by philosophy. Luther, almost at the outset of his career, went so far as to declare that no man could be at once a proficient in the school of Aristotle and in that of Christ Zwingle, Bucer, Peter Martyr, Calvin, had similar language. In some of the Scotch universities, the Aristotelian system was discarded for that of Ramus. Thus, before the birth of Bacon, the empire of the scholastic philosophy had been shaken to its foundations. There was in the intellectual world an anarchy resembling that which in the political world often follows the overthrow of an old and deeply rooted government. Antiquity, prescription, the sound of great names, had ceased to awe mankind. The dynasty which had reigned for ages was at an end; and the vacant throne was left to be struggled for by pretenders.
The first effect of this great revolution was, as Bacon most justly observed,† to give for a time an undue importance to the mere graces of style. The new breed of scholars, the Aschams and Buchanans, nourished with the finest compositions of the Augustan age, regarded with loathing the dry, crabbed, and barbarous diction of respondents and opponents. They were far less studious about the matter of their works than about the manner. They succeeded in reforming Latinity; but they never even aspired to effect a reform in philosophy.
At this time Bacon appeared. It is alto
gether incorrect to say, as has often been said, that he was the first man who rose up against the Aristotelian philosophy when in the height of its power. The authority of that philosophy had, as we have shown, received a fatal blow long before he was born. Several speculators, among whom Ramus was the best known, had recently attempted to form new sects. Bacon's own expressions about the state of public opinion in the time of Luther, are clear and strong: "Accedebat," says he, "odium et contemptus, illis ipsis temporibus ortus erga scholasticos." And again, "Scholasticorum doctrina despectui prorsus haberi cœpit tanquam aspera et barbara." The part which Bacon played in this great change was the part, not of Robespierre, but of Bonaparte. When he came forward the ancient order of things had been subverted. Some bigots still cherished with devoted loyalty the remembrance of the fallen monarchy, and exerted themselves to effect a restoration. But the majority had no such feeling. Freed, yet not knowing how to use their freedom, they pursued no determinate course, and had found no
We quote, on the authority of Bayle, from Melchior
That leader at length arose. The philosophy which he taught was essentially new. It differed from that of the celebrated ancient teachers, not merely in method but in object. Its object was the good of mankind, in the sense in which the mass of mankind always have understood, and always will understand, the word good. "Meditor," said Bacon, "instaurationem philosophiæ ejusmodi quæ nihil inanis aut abstracti habeat, quæque vitæ hu manæ conditiones in melius provehat."†
The difference between the philosophy of Bacon and that of his predecessors cannot, we think, be better illustrated than by comparing his views on some important subjects with those of Plato. We select Plato, because we conceive that he did more than any other person towards giving to the minds of speculative men that bent, which they retained till they received from Bacon a new impulse in a diametrically opposite direction.
It is curious to observe how differently these great men estimated the value of every kind of knowledge. Take arithmetic for example. Plato, after speaking slightly of the convenience of being able to reckon and compute in the ordinary transactions of life, passes to what he considers as a far more important advantage. The study of the properties of numbers, he tells us, habituates the mind to the contemplation of pure truth, and raises it above the material universe. He would have his disciples apply themselves to this studynot that they may be able to buy or sell-not that they may qualify themselves to be shopkeepers or travelling merchants-but that they may learn to withdraw their minds from the ever-shifting spectacle of this visible and tar.. gible world, and to fix them on the immutable essence of things.#
*Both these passages are in the first book of the De Augmentis.
Plato's Republic, Book 7.
Bacon, on the other hand, valued this branch | views underwent a change. When, nearly of knowledge only on account of its uses with reference to that visible and tangible world which Plato so much despised. He speaks with scorn of the mystical arithmetic of the later Platonists; and laments the propensity of mankind to employ, on mere matters of curiosity, powers, the whole exertion of which s required for purposes of solid advantage. He advises arithmeticians to leave their trifles, and to employ themselves in framing convenient expressions, which may be of use in physical researches.
The same reasons which led Plato to re-matical science, he says, is the handmaid of commend the study of arithmetic led him to re-natural philosophy; she ought to demean hercommend also the study of mathematics. The self as such; and he declares that he cannot vulgar crowd of geometricians, he says, will conceive by what ill chance it has happened not understand him. They have practice always that she presumes to claim precedence over in view. They do not know that the real use of her mistress. He predicts-a prediction which the science is to lead men to the knowledge would have made Plato shudder-that as more of abstract, essential, eternal truth. Indeed, and more discoveries are made in physics, if we are to believe Plutarch, Plato carried this there will be more and more branches of feeling so far, that he considered geometry as mixed mathematics. Of that collateral advandegraded by being applied to any purpose of tage, the value of which, twenty years before, vulgar utility. Archytas, it seems, had framed he rated so highly, he says not one word. This machines of extraordinary power, on mathe- omission cannot have been the effect of mere matical principles. Plato remonstrated with inadvertence. His own treatise was before his friend; and declared that this was to de- him. From that treatise he deliberately exgrade a noble intellectual exercise into a low punged whatever was favourable to the study craft, fit only for carpenters and wheelwrights. of pure mathematics, and inserted several keen The office of geometry, he said, was to dis-reflections on the ardent votaries of that study. cipline the mind, not to minister to the base This fact, in our opinion, admits of only one wants of the body. His interference was explanation. Bacon's love of those pursuits successful; and from that time, according to which directly tend to improve the condition Plutarch, the science of mechanics was con-of mankind, and his jealousy of all pursuits sidered as unworthy of the attention of a merely curious, had grown upon him, and had, philosopher. it may be, become immoderate. He was afraid of using any expression which might have the effect of inducing any man of talents to employ speculations, useful only to the mind of the speculator, a single hour which might be employed in extending the empire o man over matter. If Bacon erred here, we must acknowledge that we greatly prefer his error to the opposite error of Plato. We have no patience with a philosophy which, like those Roman matrons who swallowed abortives in order to preserve their shapes, takes pains to be barren for fear of being homely.
Let us pass to astronomy. This was one of the sciences which Plato exhorted his disciples to learn, but for reasons far removed from common habits of thinking. "Shall we set down astronomy," says Socrates, " among the subjects of study?" "I think so," answers his young friend Glauco: "to know something about the seasons, about the months and the years, is of use for military purposes, as well as for agriculture, and navigation." "It amuses me," says Socrates," to see how afraid you are lest the common herd of people should accuse you of recommending useless studies." He then proceeds in that pure and magnificent diction, which, as Cicero said, Ju piter would use if Jupiter spoke Greek, to ex
Archimedes in a later age imitated and surpassed Archytas. But even Archimedes was not free from the prevailing notion, that geo-in metry was degraded by being employed to produce any thing useful. It was with difficulty that he was induced to stoop from speculation to practice. He was half ashamed of those inventions which were the wonder of hostile nations; and always spoke of them slightingly as mere amusements-as trifles in which a mathematician might be suffered to relax his mind after intense application to the higher parts of his science.
The opinion of Bacon on this subject was diametrically opposed to that of the ancient philosophers. He valued geometry chiefly, if not solely, on account of those uses which to Plato appeared so base. And it is remarkable that the longer he lived the stronger this feeling became. When, in 1605, he wrote the two books on the "Advancement of Learning," he dwelt on the advantages which mankind derived from mixed mathematics; but he at the same time admitted, that the beneficial effect produced by mathematical study on the ntellect, though a collateral advantage, was "no less worthy than that which was principal and intended." But it is evident that his
• De Augmentis, Lib. 3, Cap. 6. + Plato's Republic, Book 7.
twenty years later, he published the De Augmentis, which is the treatise on the "Advancement of Learning" greatly expanded and carefully corrected, he made important alterations in the part which related to mathematics. He condemned with severity the high pretensions of the mathematicians, "delicias et fastum mathematicorum." Assuming the well-being of the human race to be the end of knowledge, he pronounced that mathematical science could claim no higher rank than that of an appendage, or an auxiliary to other sciences. Mathe
Plutarch, Sympos. viii., and Life of Marcellus. The machines of Archytas are also mentioned by Aulus Gellius and Diogenes Laertius.
* Usui et commodis hominum consulimus.
+ Compare the passage relating to mathematics in the Second Book of the Advancement of Learning with the De Augmentis, Lib. 3, Cap. 6.
Plato's Republic, Book 7.
plain, that the use of astronomy is not to add to the vulgar comforts of life, but to assist in raising the mind to the contemplation of things which are to be perceived by the pure intellect alone. The knowledge of the actual motions of the heavenly bodies he considers as of little value. The appearances which make the sky beautiful at night are, he tells us, like the figures which a geometrician draws on the sand, mere examples, mere helps to feeble minds. We must get beyond them; we must neglect them; we must attain to an astronomy which is as independent of the actual stars as geometrical truth is independent of the lines of an ill-drawn diagram. This is, we imagine, very nearly, if not exactly, the astronomy which Bacon compared to the ox of Prometheus--a sleek, well-shaped hide, stuffed with rubbish, goodly to look at, but containing nothing to eat. He complained that astronomy had, to its great injury, been separated from natural philosophy, of which it was one of the noblest provinces, and annexed to the domain of mathematics. The world stood in need, he said, of a very different astronomy-of a living astronomy, of an astronomy which should set; forth the nature, the motion, and the influences of the heavenly bodies, as they really are.
Bacon's views, as may easily be supposed, were widely different. The powers of the memory, he observes, without the help of writing, can do little towards the advancement of any useful science. He acknowledges that the memory may be disciplined to such a point as
to be able to perform very extraordinary feats. But on such feats he sets little value. The habits of his mind, he tells us, are such that he is not disposed to rate highly any accomplishment, however rare, which is of no practical use to mankind. As to these prodigious achievements of the memory, he ranks them with the exhibitions of rope-dancers and tum. blers. "The two performances," he says, “are of much the same sort. The one is an abuse of the powers of the body; the other is an abuse of the powers of the mind. Both may perhaps excite our wonder; but neither is en titled to our respect."
On the greatest and most useful of all in-said, to be tolerated so far as that art may ventions, the invention of alphabetical writing, serve to cure the occasional distempers of men Plato did not look with much complacency. whose constitutions are good. As to those He seems to have thought that the use of letters who have bad constitutions, let them die; and had operated on the human mind as the use of the sooner the better. Such men are unfit for the go-cart in learning to walk, or of corks in war, for magistracy, for the management of learning to swim, is said to operate on the hu- their domestic affairs. That, however, is comman body. It was a support which soon be- paratively of little consequence. But they are came indispensable to those who used it, which incapable of study and speculation. If they made vigorous exertion first unnecessary, and engage in any severe mental exercise, they are then impossible. The powers of the intellect troubled with giddiness and fulness of the would, he conceived, have been more fully de-head; all which they lay to the account of phiveloped without this delusive aid. Men would losophy. The best thing that can happen to have been compelled to exercise the under- such wretches is to have done with life at standing and the memory; and, by deep and once. He quotes mythical authority in supassiduous meditation, to make truth thoroughly port of this doctrine; and reminds his disci their own. Now, on the contrary, much know- ples that the practice of the sons of Esculapius, ledge is traced on paper, but little is engraved as described by Homer, extended only to the on the soul. A man is certain that he can find cure of external injuries. information at a moment's notice when he wants it. He therefore suffers it to fade from his mind. Such a man cannot in strictness be said to know any thing. He has the show without the reality of wisdom. These opinions Plato has put into the mouth of an ancient king of Egypt. But it is evident from the context that they were his own; and so they were understood to be by Quintilian. Indeed, they are in perfect accordance with the whole Platonic system.
De Augmentis, Lib. 3, Cap. 4. + Astronomia viva. "Que substantiam et motum et influxum cœlestium, prout re vera sunt, proponat." Compare this language
Plato's “ra d'ev Tw ovparw caogμer."
To Plato, the science of medicine appeared one of very disputable advantage. He did not indeed object to quick cures for acute dis orders, or for injuries produced by accidents. But the art which resists the slow sap of a chronic disease, which repairs frames enervated by lust, swollen by gluttony, or inflamed by wine, which encourages sensuality, by mitigating the natural punishment of the sensualist, and prolongs existence when the intellect has ceased to retain its entire energy, had no share of his esteem. Alife protracted by medical skill he pronounced to be a long death. The exercise of the art of medicine ought, he
Far different was the philosophy of Bacon. Of all the sciences, that which he seems to have regarded with the greatest interest was the science which, in Plato's opinion, would not be tolerated in a well-regulated community. To make men perfect was no part of Bacon's plan. His humble aim was to make imperfect men comfortable. The beneficence of his phi losophy resembled the beneficence of the com mon Father, whose sun rises on the evil and the good, whose rain descends for the just and the unjust. In Plato's opinion man was made for philosophy; in Bacon's opinion philosophy was made for man; it was a means to an end; and that end was to increase the pleasures, and to mitigate the pains of millions who are not and cannot be philosophers. That a valetudinarian who took great pleasure in being wheel ed along his, terrace, who relished his boiled chicken and his weak wine and water, and who enjoyed a hearty laugh over the Queen of Na
Plato's Republic, Book 3.