Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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nature of man doth extremely covet to have somewhat
in his imderstauding fixed and unmoveable, and as a
rest and support of the mind. And therefore as Aris-
totle endeavoureth to prove, that in all motion there
is some point quiescent ; and as he elegantly expound-
eth the ancient fable of Atlas, that stood fixed, and
bare up the heaven from falling, to be meant of the
poles or axle-tree of heaven, whereupon the conver-
sion is accomplished ; so assuredly men have a desire
to have an Atlas or axle-tree within, to keep them
from fluctuation, which is like to a perpetual peril of
falling ; therefore men did hasten to set down some
principles about which tlie variety of their disputa-
tions might turn.

So then this art of judgment is but the reduction
of propositions to principles in a middle term,. The
principles to be agreed by all, and exempted from ar-
gument ilhe midcTle term to be elected at the liberty
of every man's invention : the reduction to be of two
kinds, direct and inverted ; the one when the proposi-
tion is reduced to the principle, which they term a
probation ostensive ; the other, when the contradictory
of the proposition is reduced to the contradictory of
the principle, which is that which they call po' incom-
modiwi, or pressing an absurdity ; the number of mid-
dle terms to be as the proposition standeth degrees
more or less removed from the principle.

But this art hath two several methods of doctrine,
the one by way of direction, the other by way of cau-
tion ; the former frameth and setteth down a true form
of consequence, by the variations and deflections from
which errors and inconsequences may be exactly
judged. Toward the composition and structure of


which form it is iiiciclent to handle the parts thereof,
which are propositions, and the parts of propositions,
which are simple words ; and this is that part of logic
which is comprehended in the analytics.

The second method of doctrine was introduced for
expedite use and assurance sake discovering the more
subtile forms of sophisms and illaqueations, with their
redargutions, which is that which is termed clenches.
For although in the more gross sorts of fallacies it
happeneth, as Seneca maketh the comparison well, as
in juggling feats, which though we know not how they
are done, yet we know well it is not as it seemeth to
be , yet the more subtile sort of them doth not only
put a man besides his answer, bvit doth many times
abuse his judgment.

This part concerning Elenches is excellently han-
dled by Aristotle in precept, but more excellently by
Plato in example ; not only in the persons of the so-
phists, but even in Socrates himself, who professing
to affirm nothing, but to infirm that which was
affirmed by another, hath exactly expressed all the
forms of objection, fallacy, and redargution. And
although we have said that the use of this doctrine
is for redargution ; yet it is manifest, the degenerate
and corrupt use is for caption and contradiction,
which passeth for a great faculty, and no doubt is of
very great advantage, though the diffi2rence be good
which was made between orators and sophisters, that
the one is as the greyhound, which hath liis advan-
tage in the race, and the other as the hare, which hath
her advantage in the turn, so as it is the advantage of
the weaker creature.

But yet farther, this doctrine of Elenches hath a
more ample latitude and extent, than is perceived ;
namely, unto divers parts of knowledge; whereof some
are laboured, and others omitted. For first, I con-
ceive, though it may seem at first somewhat strange,
that that part which is variably referred, sometimes to
logic, sometimes to metaphysic, touching the common
adjuncts of essences, is but an Elcnche ; for the great
sophism of all sophisms being equivocation or ambi-


giiity of words and plirasc, especially of such words as
arc most general and intervene in every inquiry ; it
seemetli to nie that the true and fruitful uses, leaving
vain subtilties and speculations, of the inquiry of ma-
jority, minority, priority, posteriority, identity, diversi-
ty, possibility, act, totality, parts, existence, privation,
and the like, arc but wdse cautions against ambigui-
ties of speech. Ho again, the distribution of things
into certain tribes, which we call categories or predi-
caments, are but cautions against the confusion of de-
finitions and divisions.

Secondly, there is a scducement that worketh by
the strength of the impression, and not by the sub-
tilty of the illaqucation, not so much perplexing the
reason, as over-ruling it by power of the imagination.
But this j)art I think more proper to handle, v;hen I
shall speak of rlietoric.

But lastly, there is yet a much more important and
profound kind of fallacies in the mind of man, which
1 find not observed or inquired at all, and think good
to place here, as that which of all others appertaineth
most to rectify judgment : the force whereof is such,
as it doth not dazzle or snare the understanding in
some particulars, but doth more generally and in-
wardly infect and corrupt the state thereof. For the
mind of man is far from the nature of a clgai'-and
equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect
according to their true incidence ; nay, it is rather
like an inchanted glass, full of superstition and im-
posture, if rtHbciiot delivered and reduced. For this
purpose, let us consider the false appearances that are
imposed upon us by the general nature of the mind,
beholding them in an example or two ; as first in that
instance which is the root of all superstition, namely,
that to the nature of the mind of all men it is conso-
nant for the affirmative or active to effect, more than
the negative or privative. So that a few times hit-
ting, or presence, countervails oft-times failing, or
absence ; as was well answered by Diagoras to him
that showed him, in Neptune's temple, the great
number of pictures of such as had escaped shipwreck,


and had paid their vows to Neptune, saying, " Ad-
vise now, you that think it folly to invocate Neptune
in tempest. Yea, but, saith Diagoras, where are they
painted that are drowned ? " Let us behold it in an-
other instance, namely. That the spirit of man, be-
ing of an equal .and uniform substance, doth usually
suppose and feign in nature a greater equality and
uniformity than is in truth." Hence it cometh, that
the mathematicians cannot satisfy themselves, except
they reduce the motions of the celestial bodies to per-
fect circles, rejecting spiral lines, and labouring to
be discharged of eccentrics. Hence it cometh, that
whereas there are many things in nature, as it were,
monodica, sui juris ; yet the cogitations of man do
feign unto them relatives, parallels, and conjugates,
whereas no such thing is ; as they have feigned an
element of fire to keep square with earth, water, and
air, and the like ; nay, it is not credible, till it be
opened, what a number of fictions and fantasies, the
similitude of human actions and arts, together with
the making of man co)nmunis mensura^ have brought
into natural philosophy, not much better than the he-
resy of the Anthropomorphites, bred in the cells of
gross and solitary monks, and the opinion of Epicurus,
answerable to the same in heathenism, who supjiosed
the gods to be of human shape. And therefore Velleius
the Epicurean needed not to have asked, why God
should have adorned the heavens with stars, as if he
had been an iEdilis ; one that should have set forth
some magnificent shows or plays. For if that great
work-master had been of an human disposition, he
would have cast the stars into some pleasant and beau-
tiful works and orders, like the frets in the roofs of
houses; whereas one can scarce find a posture in square,
or triangle, or straight line, amongst such an infinite
number ; so differing an harmony there is between the
spirit of man, and the spirit of nature.

Let us consider, again, the false appearances imposed
upon us by every man's own individual nature and cus-
tom, in that feigned supposition that Plato maketh
of the cave ; for certainly, if a child were continued


in a grot or cave under the earth until maturity of age,
and came suddenly abroad, he would have strange and
absurd imaginations. So in like manner, although
our persons live in the view of heaven, yet our spirits
are included in the caves of our own complexions and
customs, which minister unto us infinite errors and vain
opinions, if they be not recalled to examination. But
hereof we have given many examples in one of the
errors, or peccant humours, which we ran briefly over
in our first book.

And lastly, let us consider the false appearances that
are imposed upon us by words, which are framed and
applied according to the conceit and capacities of the
vulgar sort ; and although we think we govern our
words, and prescribe it well, " Loquendum ut vulgus,
sentiendum ut sapientes ;" yet certain it is, that words,
as a Tartar's bow, do shoot back upon the understand-
ing of the wisest, and mightily intangle and pervert
the judgment ; so as it is almost necessary in all con-
troversies and disputations, to imitate the wisdom of
the mathematics, in setting down in the very begin-
ning the definitions of our very words and terms, that
others may know how we accept and understand them,
and whether they concur with us or no. For it cometh
to pass, for want of this, that we are sure to end there
where we ought to have begun, which is in questions
and differences about words. To conclude therefore, Eicndii
it must be confessed that it is not possible to clivorce XTde
ourselves fmm these fallacies and false appearances, idpii* ani-
because they are inseparable from our nature and con- ""tivirct'
dition of life ; so yet nevertheless the caution of them, advcmitiis.
for all clenches, as was said, are but cautions, doth
extremely import the true conduct of human judg-
ment. The particular clenches or cautions against
these three false appearances, I find altogether de-

There remaineth one part of judgment of great
excellency, which to mine understanding is so slightly
touched, as I may report that also deficient ; which is,
the application of the differing kinds of proofs to the
differing khids of siibjects ; for there being' but four


De ana- \ kinds of dcmoiistrations,that is, by the immediate con-
moZiT^' I sent of the mind or sense, hy indiiction_, by sytlogism,
tioiium. I and by^eongruity ; which is that which Aristotle call-
^ etir^emonstration in orb, or circle, and not a notiori-
bus ; every of these Jiath certain subjects in the. mat-
ter ^f sciences, in which respectively they hay cchief-
est use ; and certain others, from which respectively
they ought to be excluded, and the rigour and curio-
sity in requiring the more severe proofs in some things,
and chiefly the facility in contenting ourselves with
the more remiss proofs in others, hath been amongst
the greatest causes of detriment and hindrance to know-
ledge. The distributions and assignations of demon-
strations, according to the analogy of sciences, I note
as deficient.

Tlie custody or retaining of knowledge is either in
writing or memory ; whereof writing hath tW(T~pni*ts,
the nature of the character, and the order of the entry:
for the art of characters, or other visible notes of words
or things, it hath nearest conjugation with grammar;
and therefore I refer it to the due place : for the dis-
position and collocation of that knowledge which we
preserve in writing, it consisteth in a good digest of
common-places wherein I am not ignorant of the pre-
judice imputed to the use of common-place books, as
causing a retardation of reading, and some sloth or re-
laxation of memory. But because it is but a counter-
feit thing in knowledges to be forward and pregnant,
except a man be deep and full, I hold the entry of
common-places to be a matter of great use and essence
in studying, as that which assureth copy of invention,
and contracteth judgment to a strength. But this is
true, that of the methods of common-places that I
have seen, there is none of any sufficient worth, all of
them carrying merely the face of a school, and not of
a world, and referring to vulgar matters, and pedan-
tical divisions, without all life, or respect to action.

For tlie other principal part of the custody of know-
ledge, which is memory, I find that facility in my
judgment weakly inquired of An art there is extant
of it ; but it scemcth to me that there are better pre-


cepts than that art, and hcttcr practices of that art,
than those received. It is certain the art, as it is, may
be raised to points of ostentation prodigious : but iu
use, as it is now managed, it is barren, not burden-
some, nor dangerous to naturaTnicmory, as is imagined,
but barren ; that is, not dexterous to be applied to the
serious use of business and occasions. And therefore
I make no more estimation of repeating a great num-
ber of names or words upon once hearing, or the pour-
ing forth of a number of verses or rhimes ej: tempore,
or the making of a satirical simile of every thing, or
the turning of every thing to a jest, or the falsifying
or contradicting of every thing by cavil, or the like,
whereof in the faculties of the mind there is great
copia, and such as by device and practice may be ex-
alted to an extreme degree of wonder, than I do of the
tricks of tumblers, funambuloes, baladines ; the one
being the same in the mind, that the other is in the
body ; matters of strangeness without worthiness.

This art of memory is but built upou two intentions;
the one prenotion, the otlier emblem. Prenotion dis-
chargeth the indefinite seeking of that we would re-
meiiiTjgf^and directeth us to seek in a narrow compass ;
that is, somewhat that hath congruity with our place
of memory. Emblem reduceth conceits intellectual
to images seusiblej, which strike the memory more ;
out of which axioms may be drawn much better prac-
tic than that in use : and besides which axioms, there
are divers more touching help of memory, not inferior
to them. But I did in the beginning distinguish,
not to report those things deficient, which are but only
ill managed.

There remaineth the fourth kind of rational know- ^\
ledge, which is transitive, concerning the expressing
or transferri^ig^our knowledge to others, which I will
term byTTie general name of tradition or delivery.
Tradition hatli tbree parts : the first concerning the
^ organ of tradition ; the second, concerning the method
of tradition ; and the third, concerning the illustra-
tion of tradition.

For the. organ of tradition, it is cither speech or "^


writing: for Aristotle saith well, "Words arcthe images
of cogitations, and letters are the images of words;"
but yet it is not of necessity that cogitations be ex-
pressed by the medium of words. For whatsoever is
capable of sufficient differences, and those perceptible
by the sense, is in nature competent to express cogi-
tations. And therefore we see in the commerce of
barbarous people, that understand not one another's
language, and in the practice of divers that are dumb
and deaf, that mens minds are expressed in gestures,
though not exactly, yet to serve the turn. And we
understand farther, that it is the use of China, and
the kingdoms of the high Levant, to write in charac-
ters real, which express neither letters nor words in
gross, but things or notions ; insomuch as countries and
provinces, which understand not one another's lan-
guage, can nevertheless read one another's writings,
because the characters are accepted more generally than
the languages do extend ; and therefore they have a
vast multitude of characters, as many, I suppose, as
radical words.

These notes of cogitations are of two sorts ; the one
when the note hath some similitude or congruity with
the notion ; the other ad placiturn, having force only
by contract or acceptation. Of the former sort are hicro;
glyphics and gestures. For as to hieroglypliics, things
of ancient use, and embraced chiefly by the Egyptians,
one of the most ancient nations, they are but as con-
tinued impresses and emblems. And as for gestures,
they are as transitory hieroglyphics, and are to hiero-
glyphics as words spoken are to words written, in that
they abide not : but they have evermore, as well as
the other, an affinity with tlie things signified ; as
Periander, being consulted with, how to preserve a
tyranny newly usurped, bid the messenger attend and
report wliat he saw him do, and went into his garden
and topped all the highest flowers ; signifying, that it
consisted in the cutting off and keeping low of the nobi-
lity and grandees. Ad placitum arc the characters
real before mentioned, and words : altliough some have
been willing by curious inquiry, or rather hy apt feign-
ing, to have derived imposition of names from reason


and iiitcndinciit ; a speculation elegant, and, by reason
it scarchcth into antiquity, reverent ; but sparingly
mixed vvitli trutli, and of small fruit. This portion of ^'^ ""*'"
knowledge, touching the notes of things, and cogita-
tions m general^ I find not inquired, but deficient.
And although it may seem of no great use, consider-
ing that words and writings by letters do far excel all
the other ways ; yet because this part concerneth, as
it were, the mint of knowledge, for words arc the to-
kens current and accepted for conceits, as moneys arc
for values, and that it is fit men be not ignorant that
moneys may be of another kind than gold and silver,
I thought to propound it to better inquiry.

Concerning speech and words, the consideration of
them hath produced the science of Grammar ; for man
still strivcth to reintegrate himself in those benedic-
tions, from which by his fault he hath been deprived ;
and as he hath striven against the first general curse,
by the invention of all other arts ; so hath he sought
to come forth of the second general curse, which was
the confusion of tongues, by the art of grammar, whereof
the use in a mother tongue is small ; in a foreign tongue
more ; but most in such foreign tongues as have ceased
to be vidgar tongues, and are turned only to learned
tongues. The duty of it is of two natures; the one
popular, which is for the speedy and perfect attaining
languages, as well for intercourse of speech, as for un-
derstanding of authors ; the other philosophical, ex-
amining the power and nature of words, as they are
the footsteps and prints of reason : which kind of ana-
logy between words and reason is handled sparsim,
brokenly, though not entirely ; and therefore I cannot
report it deficient, though I think it very worthy to be
reduced into a science by itself.

Unto Grammar also belongeth, as an appendix, the con-
sideration of the accidents of words, which are measure,
sound, and elevation or accent, and the sweetness and
harshness of them : whence hath issued some curious
observations in rhetoric, butchieflypoesy,as we consider
it, in respect of the verse, and not of the argument ;
wherein though men in learned tongues do tie them-
selves to the ancient measures, yet in modern Ian-


guages it seemeth to me, as free to make new measures
of verses as of dances ; for a dance is a measm'ed pace,
as a verse is a measured speech. In these things the
sense is better judge than the art ;

CcEiise fercula nostrse,
Malleni convivis, quam placuisse cocis.

And of the servile expressing antiquity in an unlike
and imfit subject, it is v^^ell said, " Quod tempore an-
tiquum videtur, id incongruitate est maxime novum."

For ciphers, they are commonly in letters or alpha-
bets, t)iif may be in words. The kinds of ciphers, be-
sides the simple ciphers, with changes, and intermix-
tures of nulls and non-significants, are many, according
to the nature or rule of the infolding : wheel-ciphers,
key-ciphers, doubles, etc. But the virtues of them,
whereby they are to be Preferred, are three ; that they
be not laborious to write and read ; that they be im-
possible to decipher ; and in some cases, that they be
without suspicion. The highest degree whereof is to
write omnia per omnia ; which is undoubtedly possi-
ble with a proportion quincuple at most, of the writing
infolding to the writing infolded, and no other restraint
whatsoever. This art of ciphering hath for relative
an art of deciphering, by supposition unprofitable, but,
as things are, of great use. For suppose that ciphers
were well managed, there be multitudes of them which
exclude the decipherer. But in regard of the rawness
and unskilfulncss of the hands througli which they
pass, the greatest matters are many times carried in
the weakest ciphers.

In the enumeration of these private and retired
arts, it may be thought I seek to make a great mus-
ter-roll of sciences, naming them for shew and osten-
tation, and to little other purpose. But let those
wliich are skilful in them judge, whether I bring them
in only for appearance, or whether in that which I
speak of them, though in few words, there be not
some seed of proficience. And this must be remem-
bered, that as there be many of great account in their
countries and provinces, which when they come up to
the seat of tlie estate, are but of mean rank, and
scarcely regarded ; so these arts being licre placed witli


the principal and supreme sciences, seem petty things ;
yet to sucli as have chosen them to spend their lahours
and studies in them, they seem great matters.

For the method of tradition, I see it hatli moved a
controversy in our time. But as in civil business, if
there be a meeting, and men fall at words, there is com-
monly an end of the matter for that time, and no pro-
ceeding at all : so in learning, where there is much con-
troversy, there is many times little inquiry. For this
part of knowledge of method seemeth to me so
weakly inquired, as I shall report it deficient.

JMethod hath been placed, and that not amiss, in
logic, as a part of judgment : for as the doctrine of
syllogisms comprehendeth the rules of judgment upon
that which is invented, so the doctrine of method con-
taineth the rules of judgment upon that which is to
be delivered; for judgment precedeth delivery, as it
followeth invention. Neither is the method or the na-
tm*e of the tradition material only to the use of know-
ledge, but likewise to the progression of knowledge :
for since the labour and life of one man cannot at-
tain to perfection of knowledge, the wisdom of the
tradition is that which inspireth the "felicity of conti-
nuance and proceeding. And therefore the most real
diversify of method, is of method referred to use, and
method referred to progression, whereof the one may
be termed magistral, and the other of probation.

The latter whereof seemeth tobe'syi^ deserta et iii-
terclusa. For as knowledges are now delivered, there
is a kind of contract oreiTor,' between the deliverer^
and the receiver ; for he that delivereth knowledge,
desireth to deliver it in such form as may be best be-
lieved, and not as may be best examined : and he that
receiveth knowledge, desireth rather present satisfac-
tion, than expectant inquiry : and so rather not to
doubt, than not to err ; glory making the author not to
lay open his weakness, and sloth making the disciple
not to know his strength.

But knowledge, that is delivered as a thread to be
spun on, ought to be delivered and intimated, if it
were possible, in the same method wherein it was in-



vented, and so is it possible of knowledge induced.
But in this same anticipated and prevented know-
ledge, no man knoweth how he came to tlie knowledge
which he hath obtained. But yet nevertheless, aecuti-
dum majiis et minus^ a man may revisit and descend
unto the foundations of his knowledge and consent ;
and so transplant it into another, as it grew in his
own mind. For it is in knowledges, as it is in plants,
if you mean to use the plant, it is no matter for the
roots ; but if you mean to remove it to grow, then it
is more assured to rest upon roots than slips : so the
delivery of knowledges, as it is now used, is as of fair

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 52)