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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it differeth in end and purpose, to sort together those
things which are next in nature, and those things
which are next in use; for if a secretary of estate should
sort his papers, it is like in his study, or general cabi-
net, he would sort together things of a nature, as trea-
ties, instructions, etc. but in his boxes, or particular
cabinet, he would sort together those that he were like
to use together, though of several natures ; so in this


general cabinet of knowledge it was necessary for me
to follow the divisions of the nature of things; whereas
if myself had been to handle any particular knowledge
I w^ould have respected the divisions fittest for use.
The other, because the bringing in of the deficiencies
did by consequence alter the partitions of the rest : for
let the knowledge extant, for demonstration sake, be
fifteen, let the knowledge with the deficiencies be twenty,
the parts of fifteen are not the parts of twenty, for the
parts of fifteen are three and five, the parts of twenty
are two, four, five and ten ; so as these things are with-
out contradiction, and could not otherwise be.

We proceed now to that knowledge which consi-
dereth of the Appetite and Will of^ Ian, whereof Solo-
mon saith, " Ante omnia, iili, custodi cor tuum, nam
inde procedunt actiones vitse." In the handling of this
science, those which have written seem to me to have
done as if a man that professed to teach to write, did
only exhibit fair copies of alphabets, and letters joined,
without giving any precepts or directions for the car-
riage of the hand and framing of the letters ; so have
they made _gQycuLand fair £xemplars and copies, carry-^
ing the draughts and portraitures of good, virtue, duty,
felicity ; propounding them well describ^ed as tHeTrue
objects and scopes of man's will and desire s ; but how
to attahi J;licse_cxcellciit. ixuirks^an.d how to lFame and,
; subc[uc the will of man to become true and conform-
I able to these jmrsuits^ they pass it over altogetlierToF
1 slightly and unprofitably ; for it is not the disputing
that moral virtues arc in the mind of man by habit
and not by nature, or the distinguishing that generous
spirits are won by doctrines and persuasions, and the
vulgar sort by reward and punishment, and the like
scattered glances and touches, that can excuse the
absence of this jiart.

The reason of this omission I suppose to be that
liidden rock whereupon botli this and many other barks
of knowledge have been cast away ; which is, that men
have despised to be conversant in ordinary and common
matters, tlie judicious direction whereof nevertheless


is the wisest doctrine ; for life consisteth not in novel-
ties nor subtilities : but contrariwise they have com-
pounded sciences chiefly of a certain resplendent or
lustrous mass of matter, chosen to give glory either to
the subtlety of disputations, or to the eloquence of dis-
courses. But 8eneca givetli an excellent check to elo-
quence : " Nocet illis eloquentia, quibus non rerum
cupiditatem facit, sed sui." Doctrine should be such
as should make men in lo^e with Tlie lesson, and ijdt
with fITeteac'lier, being directed to the auditor's benefit,
and not to the author's commendation ; and therefore
those are of the right kind which may be concluded as
Demosthenes concludes his counsel, " Qua? si feceritis,
non oratorem duntaxat in praesentia laudabitis, sed
vosmctipsos etiam, non ita multo post statu rerum
vestrarum meliore." Neither needed men of so excel-
lent parts to have despaired of a fortune, which the
poet Virgil promised himself, and indeed obtained,
who got as much glory of eloquence, wit, and learning
in the expressing of the observations of husbandry, as
of the heroical acts of iEneas :

Nee sum animi dubius, verbis ea vincere magnum
Quam sit, et angustis hunc addere rebus honorem.

Georg. iii. 289.

And surely if the purpose be in good earnest not to
write at leisure that which men may read at leisure,
but really to instruct and suborn action and active life, /

these gcorgics of the mind concerning the husbandry
and tillage thereof, arc no less worthy than the heroical
descriptions of virtue, duty, and felicity. Wherefore
the main and primitive division of moral knowledge
seemetlTto Be into the Exemplar or Platform of Good,
and the Regiment or Culture of the Mind; the one ^n )
describing the nature of good, the other prcscribiiig"
rules how to subdue, apply, and accommodate the wiir^ '
of man tliereunto.

The doctrine touching the Platform or Nature of
Gooil cpnsidereth it either siinpTc'or compared, either
the kinds of good, or the degrees of good ; in the lat-
ter whereof those infinite disputations which were touch-


ing the supreme degree thereof, which they term feli-
city, beatitude, or the highest good, the doctrines con-
cerning which were as the heathen divinity, are by the
Christian faith discharged. And, as Aristotle saith,
" That young men may be happy, but not otherwise
but by hope ; " so we must all acknowledge our mino-
rity, and embrace the felicity which is by hope of the
future world.

Freed therefore, and delivered from this doctrine of
the philosophers heaven , whereby they feigned an higher
elevation of man's nature than was, for we see in what
an height of stile Seneca writeth, " Vere magnum,
habere fragilitatem hominis, securitatem Dei," we may
with more sobriety and truth receive the rest of their
inquiries and labours ; wherein for the nature of good,
positive or simple, they have seFit down exc ellen tly,
in describing the forms of virtue and duty with their
situations and postures, in distributing them into their
kinds, parts, provinces, actions, and administrations,
and the like : nay farther, they have commended them
to man's nature and spirit, with great quickness of
argument and beauty of persuasions ; yea, and forti-
fied and intrenched them, as much as discourse can do,
against corrupt and popular opinions. Again, for the
degrees and comparative nature of good, they "liave
also excellently handled it in their triplicity of good,
in the comparison between a contemplative and an ac-
tive life, in the distinction between virtue with reluc-
tation, and virtue secured, in their encounters between
honesty and profit, in their balancing of virtue with
virtue, and the like ; so as this part descrveth to be
reported for excellently laboured.

Notwitlistanding, if })eforc they had come to the po-
pular and received iiotions of virtue and vice, pleasure
and pain, and the rest, they had s.tciyccLa littlc-Ionger
upon tlie inquiry concerning the roots of good and evil,
and tlie strings of tliose roots, they had given, iivmy
opinion, a gi*eat light to that which followed ; and
specially if they had consulted with nature, they had
made tlieir doctrines less prolix and more proiound :
which being by them in part omitted and in part


handled with much confusion, wc will endeavour to
resume and open in a more clear manner.

There is formed in everyjthhig a double nature jQf
good,.Jthe one as every thing is a total or substantive
hi itself, the other as it is a part or member of a greater
body ; whereof the latter is iu degree the greater and
the worthier, because it tendeth to the conservation of
a more general form : therefore we see the iron in par-
ticular sympathy moveth to the loadstone, but yet if it
exceed a certain quantity, it forsaketh the affection to
the loadstone, and like a good patriot moveth to the
earth, which is the region and country of massy bodies;
so may we go forward and see that water and massy
bodies move to the centre of the earth, but rather than
to suffer a divulsion in the continuance of nature they
will move ujiwards from the centre of the earth, for-
saking their duty to the earth in regard of their dutv to
the world. This double nature of good and the com-
parative thereof is much more engraven upon man, if
he degenerate not, unto wliom the conservation of duty y
to the public oiight to be much more precious than the
conservation of life and being ; according to that me-
morable~s]5eccli of Pompeius Magnus, when being in
commission of purveyance for a famine at Rome, and
being dissuaded with great vehemency and instance by
his friends about him, that he should not hazard him-
self to sea in an extremity of weather, he said only to
them " Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam : " but it '
may be truly affirmed that there was never any philo-
sophy, religion, or other discipline, whicli did so plainly '^Jo^
and highly exalt tlie good which is communicative, and •"
depress the good which is private and particular, as
the holy faith : well declaring, that it was the same
God that gave the Christian law to men, who gave
those laws of nature to inanimate creatures that we
spake of before ; for we read that the elected saints of
God have wished themselves anathematized and razed
out of the book of life, in an extasy of charity, and in-
finite feeling of communion.

This being set down and strongly planted, doth judge
and determine most of the controversies wherein moral


philosophy is conversant. For first, it decideth. the
question touching the preferment of the contemplative
or active life, and decideth it against Aristotiei-^ all
the reasons which he bringeth for the contemplative,
/ are private, and respecting the pleasure and dignity of
a man's self, in which respects, no question, the con-
templative life hath the pre-eminence ; not much un-
like to that comparison, which Pythagoras made for the
gracing and magnifying of philosophy and contempla-
tion ; who being asked what he was, answered, " That
if Hiero were ever at the Olympian games, he knew
the manner, that some came to try their fortune for
the prizes, and some came as merchants to utter their
commodities, and some came to make good cheer and
meet their friends, and some came to look on, and that
he was one of them that came to look on." But men
must know, that in this theatre of man's life, it is re-
served only for God and angels to be lookers on : nei-
ther could the like question ever have been received in
the Church, notwithstanding their " Pretiosa in oculis
Domini mors sanctorum ejus ; " by which place they
would exalt their civil death and regular professions,
but upon this defence, that the monastical life is not
simply contemplative, but performeth the duty either
of incessant prayers and supplications, which hath been
truly esteemed as an office in the Church, or else of writ-
ing or taking instructions for writing concerning the
law of God; as Moses did when he abode so long in the
mount. And so we see Enoch the seventh from Adam,
who was the first contemplative, and walked with God ;
yet did also endow the (Jhurch with prophecy, which
St. Jude citeth. But for contemplation which shoukl
/ be finished in itself, without casting beams upon -so-

ciety, assuredly divinity knowctli it not.

It decideth also the controversies between Zeno and
Socrates, and their schools and successions on the one
side, who placed felicity in virtue simply or attended ;
the actions and exercises wliereof do chiefly embrace
and concern society ; and on the other side, the (^yre-
naics and Epicureans, who placed it in })leasure, and
made virtue, as it is used in some comedies of errors.


wherein the mistress and the maid change hahits, to be
but as a servant, without which pleasure cannot be
served and attended : and tlie reformed school of the
Epicureans, which placed it in serenity of mind and
freedom from perturbation ; as if they would have
deposed Jupiter again, and restored Saturn and the
first age, when there was no summer nor winter, spring
nor autumn, but all after one air and season ; and
Herillus, who placed felicity in extinguishment of the
disputes of the mind, making no fixed nature of good
and evil, esteeming things according to the clearness
of the desires, or the reluctation ; which opinion was
revived in the heresy of the Anabaptists, measuring
things according to the motions of the spirit, and the
constancy or wavering of belief: all which are mani-
fest to tend to private repose and contentment, and not
to point of society.

It censureth also the philosophy of Epictetus, which
presupposeth that felicity must be placed in those
things which are in our power, lest we be liable to
fortune and disturbance ; as if it were not a thing-
much more happy to fail in good and virtuous ends for
the public, than to obtain all that we can wish to our-
selves in our proper fortune ; as Consalvo said to his
soldiers, shewing them Naples, and protesting. " He
had rather die one foot forwards, than to have his life
secured for long, by one foot of retreat." Whereunto
the wisdom of that heavenly leader hath signed, who
hath affirmed " that a good conscience is a continual
feast ; " shewing plainly, that the conscience of good
intentions, howsoever succeeding, is a more continual
joy to nature, than all the provision which can be made
for security and repose.

It censureth likewise that abuse of pliilosophy,
which grew general about the time of Epictetus, in
converting it into an occupation or profession ; as if the
purpose had been not to resist and extinguish pertur-
bations, but to fly and avoid the causes of them, and to
shape a particular kind and course of life to that end,
introducing such an health of mind, as was that health
of body, of which Aristotle speaketh of Herodicus, who

VOT,. I. M


(lid nothing all his life long but intend his health :
whereas if men refer themselves to duties of society, as
that health of body is best, which is ablest to endure
all alterations and extremities ; so likewise that health
of mind is most proper, which can go through the
greatest temptations and perturbations. 80 as Dio-
genes's opinion is to be accepted, who commended not
them which abstained, but them whicli sustained, and
could refrain their mind in prcBcipitio, and could
give unto the mind, as is used in horsemanship, the
shortest stop or turn.

Lastly, it censureth the tenderness and want of ap-
plication in some of the most ancient and reverend
philosophers and philosophical men, that did retire too
easily from civil business, for avoiding of indignities
and perturbations ; whereas the resolution of men truly
moral, ought to be such as the same Consalvo said
the honour of a soldier should be, e tela crassiore,
and not so fine, as that every thing should catch in it
and endanger it.

To resume private or particular good, it falletli into
the division of good active and passive : for tliis dif-
ference of good, not unlike to tliat which amongst
the Romans was expressed in the familiar or household
terms of Promu^- and Condus, is formed also in all
things, and is best disclosed in the two several appetites
in creatures ; the one to preserve or continue them-
selves, and the other to dilate or multiply themselves;
whereof the latter seemeth to be the worthier ; for in
nature the heavens, which are the more worthy, are the
agent ; and the earth, which is the less worthy, is the
patient : in the pleasures of living creatures, that of
generation is greater than that of food : in divine doc-
trine, " Beatius est dare, quam accipere : " and in life
there is no man's spirit so soft, but esteemeth the
effecting of somewhat that he hath fixed in his desire,
more than sensuality. Whicli priority of the active
good is much upheld by the consideration of our estate
to be mortal and exposed to fortiuie : for if we might
iiave a perpetuity and certainty in our pleasures, the
state of them would advance tlieir price ; but when


wc see it is but " Magni aestimamus mori tardius,'"
and " Ne glorieris de crastino, nescis partum diei," it
maketh us to desire to have somewhat secured and
exempted from time, which are only our deeds and
works; as it is said " Opera eorum sequuntur eos." The
pre-eminence likewise of this active good is u))held by
the affection which is natural in man towards variety
and proceeding, which in the pleasures of the sense,
which is the principal part of ])assive good, can have no
great latitude. " (-ogita quamdiu eadem feceris: cibus,
somnus, Indus per hunc circulum curritur ; mori velle
non tantum fortis, aut miser, aut prudens, sed etiam
fastidiosus potest." But in enterprises, pursuits, and
purposes of life, there is much variety, whereof men
are sensible wdth pleasure in their inceptions, progres-
sions, recoils, re-integrations, approaches and attain-
ings to their ends. So as it was well said, " Vita sine
proposito languida et vaga est." Neither hath this active
good any identity with the good of society, though
in some case it hath an incidence into it: for although K'

it do many times bring forth acts of beneficence, yet ,
it is with a respect private to a man's own power, glory, '
amplification, continuance ; as appeareth plainly, when
it findeth a contrary subject. For that gigantine state
of mind which possesseth the troublers of the world,
such as was Lucius Sylla, and infinite other in smaller
model, who would have all men happy or unhappy as
they were their friends or enemies, and would give
form to the world according to their own humours,
which is the true theomachy, pretendeth, and aspireth
to active good, though it recedeth farthest from good
of society, which we have determined to be the greater.
To resume passive good, it receiveth a subdivision
of conservative and perfective. For let us take a brief
review of that which we have said ; we have sjioken
first of the good of society, the intention whereof em-
braceth the form of human nature, whereof we are
members and portions, and not our own proper and
individual form ; we have spokeii of active good, and
supposed it as a part of private and particular good.
And rightly, for there is impressed upon all things a



triple desire or appetite proceeding from love to them-
selves ; one of preserving and continuing their form ;
another of advancing and perfecting their form ; and
a third of multiplying and extending their form upon
other things ; whereof the multiplying or signature of
it upon other things, is that which we handled hy the
name of active good. 80 as there remaineth the con-
serving of it, and perfecting or raising of it; which latter
is the highest degree of passive good. For to preserve
in state is the less, to preserve witli advancement is
the greater. So in man,

Igneus est ollis vigor, et coelestis origo.
His approach or assumption to divine or angelical na-
tm'e is the perfection of his form ; the error or false
imitation of which good, is that which is the tempest
of human life, while man, upon the instinct of an
advancement formal and essential, is carried to seek an
advancement local. For as those which are sick, and
find no remedy, do tumble up and down and change
place, as if by a remove local they could obtain a re-
move internal : so is it with men in ambition, when
failing of the means to exalt their nature, they are in
a perpetual estuation to exalt their place. 80 then
passive good is, as was said, either conservative or per-

To resume the good of conservation or comfort, whicli
consisteth in the fruition of that which is agreeable to
our natures; it seemeth to be the most pure and natu-
ral of pleasures, but yet the softest and the lowest.
And this also rccciveth a difference, which hath neither
been well judged of, nor well inquired. For the good
of fruition or contentment, is placed either in the sin-
cereness of the fruition, or in the quickness and vigour
of it : the one superinduced by equality, the other by
vicissitude ; the one having less mixture of evil, the
other more impression of good. Whether of these is
the greater good, is a question controverted ; but whe-
ther man's nature may not be capable of both, is a
question not inquired.

The former question being debated between So-
crates and a sophist, Socrates placing felicity in an


equal and constant peace of mind, and the sophist in
much desiring and much enjoying, they fell from argu-
ment to ill words: the sophist saying that Socrates's fe-
licity was the felicity of a hlock or stone ; and Socrates
saying that the sophist's felicity was the felicity of one
that had the itch/,vho did nothing but itch and scratch.
And both these opinions do not want their supports :
for the opinion of Socrates is much upheld by the ge-
neral consent even of the Epicures themselves, that
virtue beareth a great part in felicity : and if so, certain
it is, that virtue hath more use in clearing perturba-
tions, than in compassing desires. The sophist's opi-
nion is much favoured by the assertion we last spake
of, that good of advancement is greater than good of
simple preservation ; because every obtaining a desire
hath a shew of advancement, as motion though in a
circle hath a shew of progression.

But the second question decided the true way
maketh the former superfluous : for can it be doubted
but that there are some who take more pleasure in
enjoying pleasures, than some other, and yet never-
theless are less troubled with the loss or leaving of
them : so as this same, " Non uti, ut non appetas ; non
appetere, ut non nietuas ; sunt animi pusilli et diffi-
dentis." And it seemeth to me that most of the doc-
trines of the philosophers are more fearful and caution-
ary than the nature of things requireth : so have they
increased the fear of death in offering to cure it : for
when they would have a man's whole life to be but a
discipline or preparation to die, they must needs make
men think that it is a terrible enemy against whom
there is no end of preparing:. Better saith the poet.

Qui finem vitae extremum inter munera ponat
Naturae :

So have they sought to make mens minds too uniform
and harmonical, by not breaking them sufficiently to
contrary motions : the reason whereof I suppose to be,
because they themselves were men dedicated to a pri-
vate, free, and unapplied course of life. For as we see,
upon the lute or like instrument, a ground, though it
be sweet and have shew of many changes, yet break-


eth not the hand to such strange and hard stops and
passages, as a set song or voluntary : much after the
same manner was the diversity between a philosophi-
cal and a civil life. And therefore men are to imitate
the wisdom of jewellers, who if there be a grain, or a
cloud, or an ice which may be ground forth without
taking too much of the stone, they help it ; but if it
should lessen and abate the stone too much, they will
not meddle with it ; so ought men so to procure sere-
• nity, as they destroy not magnanimity.

Having therefore deduced the good of man, which
is private and particular, as far as seem eth lit, we will
now return to that good of man which rcspecteth and
beholdeth Society, which we may term duty ; because
the term of duty is more proper to a mind well framed
and disj)osed towards others, as the term of virtue4e
applied to a mind well formed and composed in itself;
though neither can a man understand virtue without^
some relation to society, nor duty without an inward
disposition. This part may seem at first to pertain to
science civil and politic, but not if it be well observed ;
for it concerneth the regiment and government of every
man over himself, and not over others. And as in
architecture the direction of the framing the posts,
beams, and other parts of building, is not the same with
the manner of joining tliem and erecting the building ;
and in mechanicals, tlie direction liow to frame an in-
strument or engine, is not the same with the manner
of setting it on work and employing it ; and yet never-
theless in expressing of the one you incidcntly express
the aptness towards the other : so the doctrine of con-
jugation of men in society differeth from that of their
conformity thereunto.

This part of duty is subdivided into two parts j the
commoiTdiily of every man as a man or member of a
state, the other the respective or special duty of every
man in his profession, vocation, imd place. I'he first of
these is extant and well laboured, as hath been said.

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 52)