To which calendar of doubts or problems I advise be annexed another calendar, as much or more material which is a calendar of popular errors: I mean chiefly in natural history, such as pass in speech and conceit, and are nevertheless apparently detected and convicted of untruth, that man's knowledge be not weakened nor embased by such dross and vanity. As for the doubts or non liquets general or in total, I understand those differences of opinions touching the principles of nature, and the fundamental points of the same, which have caused the diversity of sects, schools, and philosophies, as that of Empedocles, Pythagoras, Democritus, Parmenides, and the rest. For although Aristotle, as though he had been of the race of the Ottomans, thought he could not reign except the first thing he did he killed all his brethren; yet to those that seek truth and not magistrality, it cannot but seem a matter of great profit, to see before them the several opinions touching the foundations of nature. Not for any exact truth that can be expected in those theories; for as the same phenomena in astronomy are satisfied by this received astronomy of the diurnal motion, and the proper motions of the planets, with their eccentrics and epicycles, and likewise by the theory of Copernicus, who supposed the earth to move, and the calculations are indifferently agreeable to both, so the ordinary face and view of experience is many times satisfied by several theories and philosophies; whereas to find the real truth requireth another manner of severity and attention. For as Aristotle saith, that children at the first will call every woman mother, but afterward they come to distinguish according to truth, so experience, if it be in childhood, will call every philosophy mother, but when it cometh to ripeness it will discern the true mother. So as in the meantime it is good to see the several glosses and opinions upon Nature, whereof it may be everyone in some one point hath seen clearer than his fellows, therefore I wish some collection to be made painfully and understandingly de antiquis philosophiis, out of all the possible light which remaineth to us of them: which kind of work I find deficient. But here I must give warning, that it be done distinctly and severedly; the philosophies of everyone throughout by themselves, and not by titles packed and faggoted up together, as hath been done by Plutarch. For it is the harmony of a philosophy in itself, which giveth it light and credence; whereas if it be singled and broken, it will seem more foreign and dissonant. For as when I read in Tacitus the actions of Nero or Claudius, with circumstances of times, inducements, and occasions, I find them not so strange; but when I read them in Suetonius Tranquillus, gathered into titles and bundles and not in order of time, they seem more monstrous and incredible: so is it of any philosophy reported entire, and dismembered by articles. Neither do I exclude opinions of latter times to be likewise represented in this calendar of sects of philosophy, as that of Theophrastus Paracelsus, eloquently reduced into an harmony by the pen of Severinus the Dane; and that of Tilesius, and his scholar Donius, being as a pastoral philosophy, full of sense, but of no great depth; and that of Fracastorius, who, though he pretended not to make any new philosophy, yet did use the absoluteness of his own sense upon the old; and that of Gilbertus our countryman, who revived, with some alterations and demonstrations, the opinions of Xenophanes; and any other worthy to be admitted.

(6) Thus have we now dealt with two of the three beams of man's knowledge; that is radius directus, which is referred to nature, radius refractus, which is referred to God, and cannot report truly because of the inequality of the medium. There resteth radius reflexus, whereby man beholdeth and contemplateth himself.

IX. (1) We come therefore now to that knowledge whereunto the ancient oracle directeth us, which is the knowledge of ourselves; which deserveth the more accurate handling, by how much it toucheth us more nearly.

The Advancement of Learning Page 56

Francis Bacon

16th Century Literature

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Francis Bacon
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book