Francis Bacon.

Advancement of learning and novum organum online

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as the most gentle or least-burning flames in heat, or gold in in-
corruptibility, since it approaches nearest to it. For they all
serve to show the limit of existence and non-existence, and cir-
cumscribe forms, so that they cannot wander beyond the con-
ditions of matter.

34. In the twelfth rank of prerogative instances, we will class
those subjunctive instances, of which we spoke in the last
aphorism, and which we are also wont to call instances of ex-
tremity or limits ; for they are not only serviceable when sub-
joined to fixed propositions, but also of themselves and from
their own nature. They indicate with sufficient precision the


real divisions of nature, and measures of things, and the " how
far " nature effects or allows of anything, and her passage
thence to something else. Such are gold in weight, iron in hard-
ness, the whale in the size of animals, the dog in smell, the flame
of gunpowder in rapid expansion, and others of a like nature.
Nor are we to pass over the extremes in defect, as well as in
abundance, as spirits of wine in weight, the touchstone in soft-
ness, the worms upon the skin in the size of animals, and the like.

35. In the thirteenth rank of prerogative instances, we will
place those of alliance or union. They are such as mingle and
unite natures held to be heterogeneous, and observed and
marked as such in received classifications.

These instances show that the operation and effect, which is
considered peculiar to some one of such heterogeneous natures,
may also be attributed to another nature styled heterogeneous,
so as to prove that the difference of the natures is not real nor
essential, but a mere modification of a common nature. They
are very serviceable, therefore, in elevating and carrying on the
mind, from differences to genera, and in removing those phan-
toms and images of things, which meet it in disguise in concrete

For example: let the required nature be heat. The classi-
fication of heat into three kinds, that of the celestial bodies, that
of animals, and that of fire, appears to be settled and admitted ;
and these kinds of heat, especially one of them compared with
the other two, are supposed to be different, and clearly hetero-
geneous in their essence and species, or specific nature, since the
heat of the heavenly bodies and of animals generates and cher-
ishes, whilst that of fire corrupts and destroys. We have an
instance of alliance, then, in a very common experiment, that of
a vine branch admitted into a building where there is a constant
fire, by which the grapes ripen a whole month sooner than in
the air; so that fruit upon the tree can be ripened by fire, al-
though this appear the peculiar effect of the sun. From this
beginning, therefore, the understanding rejects all essential dif-
ference, and easily ascends to the investigation of the real dif-
ferences between the heat of the sun and that of fire, by which
their operation is rendered dissimilar, although they partake of
a common nature.

These differences will be found to be four in number. 1. The
heat of the sun is much milder and gentler in degree than that of
fire. 2. It is much more moist in quality, especially as it is
transmitted to us through the air. 3. Which is the chief point,
it is very unequal, advancing and increased at one time, retiring
and diminished at another, which mainly contributes to the
generation of bodies. For Aristotle rightly asserted that the
principal cause of generation and corruption on the surface of


the earth, was the oblique path of the sun in the zodiac, whence
its heat becomes very unequal, partly from the alternation of
night and day, partly from the succession of summer and winter.
Yet must he immediately corrupt and pervert his discovery, by
dictating to nature according to his habit, and dogmatically
assigning the cause of generation to the approach of the sun, and
that of corruption to its retreat; whilst, in fact, each circum-
stance indifferently and not respectively contributes both to
generation and corruption; for unequal heat tends to generate
and corrupt, as equable heat does to preserve. 4. The fourth
difference between the heat of the sun and fire is of great conse-
quence ; namely, that the sun, gradually, and for a length of
time, insinuates its effects, whilst those of fire (urged by the
impatience of man) are brought to a termination in a shorter
space of time. But if anyone were to pay attention to the
tempering of fire, and reducing it to a more moderate and gentle
degree (which may be done in various ways), and then were to
sprinkle and mix a degree of humidity with it ; and, above all,
were to imitate the sun in its inequality; and lastly, were pa-
tiently to suffer some delay (not such, however, as is propor-
tioned to the effects of the sun, but more than men usually ad-
mit of in those of fire), he would soon banish the notion of any
difference, and would attempt, or equal, or perhaps sometimes
surpass the effect of the sun, by the heat of fire. A like instance
of alliance is that of reviving butterflies, benumbed and nearly
dead from cold, by the gentle warmth of fire ; so that fire is no
less able to revive animals than to ripen vegetables. We may
also mention the celebrated invention of Fracastorius, of apply-
ing a pan considerably heated to the head in desperate cases of
apoplexy, which clearly expands the animal spirits, when com-
pressed and almost extinguished by the humors and obstructions
of the brain, and excites them to action, as the fire would operate
on water or air, and in the result produces life. Eggs are some-
times hatched by the heat of fire, an exact imitation of animal
heat; and there are many instances of the like nature, so that
no one can doubt that the heat of fire, in many cases, can be
modified till it resemble that of the heavenly bodies and of

Again, let the required natures be motion and rest. There
appears to be a settled classification, grounded on the deepest
philosophy, that natural bodies either revolve, move in a straight
line, or stand still and rest. For there is either motion without
limit, or continuance within a certain limit, or a translation to-
wards a certain limit. The eternal motion of revolution appears
peculiar to the heavenly bodies, rest to this our globe, and the
other bodies (heavy and light, as they are termed, that is to say,
placed out of their natural position) are borne in a straight line


to masses or aggregates which resemble them, the light towards
the heaven, the heavy towards the earth ; and all this is very
fine language.

But we have an instance of alliance in low comets, which re-
volve, though far below the heavens ; and the fiction of Aris-
totle, of the comet being fixed to, or necessarily following some
star, has been long since exploded ; not only because it is im-
probable in itself, but from the evident fact of the discursive
and irregular motion of comets through various parts of the

Another instance of alliance is that of the motion of air,
which appears to revolve from east to west within the tropics,
where the circles of revolution are the greatest.

The flow and ebb of the sea would perhaps be another in-
stance, if the water were once found to have a motion of revolu-
tion, though slow and hardly perceptible, from east to west, sub-
ject, however, to a reaction twice a day. If this be so, it is clear
that the motion of revolution is not confined to the celestial
bodies, but is shared, also, by air and water.

Again — the supposed peculiar disposition of light bodies to
rise is rather shaken ; and here we may find an instance of alli-
ance in a water bubble. For if air be placed under water, it rises
rapidly towards the surface by that striking motion (as Dem-
ocritus terms it) with which the descending water strikes
the air and raises it, not by any struggle or effort of the air itself ;
and when it has reached the surface of the water, it is prevented
from ascending any farther, by the slight resistance it meets
with in the water which does not allow an immediate separation
of its parts, so that the tendency of the air to rise must be very

Again, let the required nature be weight. It is certainly a
received classification, that dense and solid bodies are borne to-
wards the centre of the earth, and rare and light bodies to the
circumference of the heavens, as their appropriate places. As
far as relates to places (though these things have much weight
in the schools), the notion of there being any determinate place
is absurd and puerile. Philosophers trifle, therefore, when they
tell you, that if the earth were perforated, heavy bodies would
stop on their arrival at the centre. This centre would indeed
be an efficacious nothing, or mathematical point, could it affect
bodies or be sought by them, for a body is not acted upon except
by a body. In fact, this tendency to ascend and descend is either
in the conformation of the moving body, or in its harmony and
sympathy with another body. But if any dense and solid body
be found, which does not, however, tend towards the earth, the
classification is at an end. Now, if we allow of Gilbert's opin-
ion, that the magnetic power of the earth, in attracting heavy

4 i4 BACON

bodies, is not extended beyond the limit of its peculiar virtue
(which operates always at a fixed distance and no farther), and
this be proved by some instance, such an instance will be one of
alliance in our present subject. The nearest approach to it is
that of waterspouts, frequently seen by persons navigating the
Atlantic towards either of the Indies. For the force and mass
of the water suddenly effused by waterspouts, appear to be so
considerable, that the water must have been collected previously,
and have remained fixed where it was formed, until it was after-
wards forced down by some violent cause, rather than made to
fall by the natural motion of gravity; so that it may be con-
jectured that a dense and compact mass, at a great distance from
the earth, may be suspended as the earth itself is, and would not
fall, unless forced down. We do not, however, affirm this as
certain. In the mean while, both in this respect and many
others, it will readily be seen how deficient we are in natural
history, since we are forced to have recourse to suppositions
for examples, instead of ascertained instances.

Again, let the required nature be the discursive power of the
mind. The classification of human reason and animal instinct
appears to be perfectly correct. Yet there are some instances of
the actions of brutes which seem to show that they, too, can
syllogize. Thus it is related, that a crow, which had nearly
perished from thirst in a great drought, saw some water in the
hollow trunk of a tree, but as it was too narrow for him to get
into it, he continued to throw in pebbles, which made the water
rise till he could drink ; and it afterwards became a proverb.

Again, let the required nature be vision. The classification
appears real and certain, which considers light as that which is
originally visible, and confers the power of seeing; and color,
as being secondarily visible, and not capable of being seen with-
out light, so as to appear a mere image or modification of light.
Yet there are instances of alliance in each respect ; as in snow
when in great quantities, and in the flame of sulphur ; the one
being a color originally and in itself light, the other a light verg-
ing towards color.

36. In the fourteenth rank of prerogative instances, we will
place the instances of the cross, borrowing our metaphor from
the crosses erected where two roads meet, to point out the dif-
ferent directions. We are wont also to call them decisive and
judicial instances, and in some cases instances of the oracle and
of command. Their nature is as follows. When in investigat-
ing any nature the understanding is, as it were, balanced, and
uncertain to which of two or more natures the cause of the re-
quired nature should be assigned, on account of the frequent
and usual concurrence of several natures, the instances of the
cross show that the union of one nature with the required nature


is firm and indissoluble, whilst that of the other is unsteady
and separable; by which means the question is decided, and the
first is received as the cause, whilst the other is dismissed and
rejected. Such instances, therefore, afford great light, and are
of great weight, so that the course of interpretation sometimes
terminates, and is completed in them. Sometimes, however,
they are found amongst the instances already observed, but they
are generally new, being expressly and purposely sought for and
applied, and brought to light only by attentive and active dili-

For example : let the required nature be the flow and ebb of
the sea, which is repeated twice a day, at intervals of six hours
between each advance and retreat, with some little difference,
agreeing with the motion of the moon. We have here the fol-
lowing cross-ways.

This motion must be occasioned either by the advancing and
the retiring of the sea, like water shaken in a basin, which leaves
one side while it washes the other ; or by the rising of the sea
from the bottom, and its again subsiding, like boiling water.
But a doubt arises, to which of these causes we should assign
the flow and ebb. If the first assertion be admitted, it follows,
that when there is a flood on one side, there must at the same
time be an ebb on another, and the question therefore is reduced
to this. Now Acosta, and some others, after a diligent inquiry,
have observed that the flood tide takes place on the coast of
Florida, and the opposite coasts of Spain and Africa, at the
same time, as does also the ebb ; and that there is not, on the
contrary, a flood tide at Florida when there is an ebb on the
coasts of Spain and Africa. Yet if one consider the subject
attentively, this does not prove the necessity of a rising motion,
nor refute the notion of a progressive motion. For the motion
may be progressive, and yet inundate the opposite shores of a
channel at the same time ; as if the waters be forced and driven
together from some other quarter, for instance, which takes
place in rivers, for they flow and ebb towards each bank at the
same time, yet their motion is clearing progressive, being that
of the waters from the sea entering their mouths. ,So it may
happen, that the waters coming in a vast body from the eastern
Indian Ocean are driven together, and forced into the channel of
the Atlantic, and therefore inundate both coasts at once. We
must inquire, therefore, if there be any other channel by which
the waters can at the same time sink and ebb : and the South-
ern Ocean at once suggests itself, which is not less than the At-
lantic, but rather broader and more extensive than is requisite
for this effect.

We at length arrive, then, at an instance of the cross, which
is this. If it be positively discovered, that when the flood sets

4 i6 BACON

in towards the opposite coasts of Florida and Spain in the
Atlantic, there is at the same time a flood tide on the coasts of
Peru and the back part of China, in the Southern Ocean, then
assuredly, from this decisive instance, we must reject the asser-
tion, that the flood and ebb of the sea, about which we inquire,
takes place by progressive motion ; for no other sea or place is
left where there can be an ebb. But this may most easily be
learnt, by inquiring of the inhabitants of Panama and Lima
(where the two oceans are separated by a narrow isthmus),
whether the flood and ebb takes place on the opposite sides of
the isthmus at the same time, or the reverse. This decision or
rejection appears certain, if it be granted that the earth is fixed ;
but if the earth revolves, it may perhaps happen, that from the
unequal revolution (as regards velocity) of the earth and the
waters of the sea, there may be a violent forcing of the waters
into a mass, forming the flood, and a subsequent relaxation of
them (when they can no longer bear the accumulation), form-
ing the ebb. A separate inquiry must be made into this. Even
with this hypothesis, however, it remains equally true, that there
must be an ebb somewhere, at the same time that there is a flood
in another quarter.

Again, let the required nature be the latter of the two motions
we have supposed ; namely, that of a rising and subsiding mo-
tion, if it should happen that upon diligent examination the
progressive motion be rejected. We have, then, three ways
before us, with regard to this nature. The motion, by which
the waters raise themselves, and again fall back, in the floods
and ebbs, without the addition of any other water rolled towards
them, must take place in one of the three following ways.
Either the supply of water emanates from the interior of the
earth, and returns back again ; or there is really no greater
quantity of water, but the same water (without any augmenta-
tion of its quantity) is extended or rarefied, so as to occupy
a greater space and dimension, and again contracts itself; or
there is neither an additional supply nor any extension, but the
same waters (with regard to quantity, density, or rarity) raise
themselves and fall from sympathy, by some magnetic power
attracting and calling them up, as it were, from above. Let us
then (passing over the first two motions) reduce the investiga-
tion to the last, and inquire if there be any such elevation of the
water by sympathy or a magnetic force ; and it is evident, in
the first place, that the whole mass of water being placed in the
trench or cavity of the sea, cannot be raised at once, because
there would not be enough to cover the bottom, so that if there
be any tendency of this kind in the water to raise itself, yet it
would be interrupted and checked by the cohesion of things, or
(as the common expression is) that there may be no vacuum.


The water, therefore, must rise on one side, and for that reason
be diminished and ebb on another. But it will again necessarily
follow that the magnetic power not being able to operate on the
whole, operates most intensely on the centre, so as to raise the
waters there, which, when thus raised successively, desert and
abandon the sides.

We at length arrive, then, at an instance of the cross, which
is this : if it be found, that during the ebb the surface of the
waters at sea is more curved and round, from the waters rising
in the middle, and sinking at the sides or coast, and if, during
a flood, it be more even and level, from the waters returning to
their former position, then assuredly, by this decisive instance,
the raising of them by a magnetic force can be admitted ; if
otherwise, it must be entirely rejected. It is not difficult to make
the experiment (by sounding in straits), whether the sea be
deeper towards the middle in ebbs, than in floods. But it must
be observed, if this be the case, that (contrary to common
opinion) the waters rise in ebbs, and only return to their former
position in floods, so as to bathe and inundate the coast.

Again, let the required nature be the spontaneous motion of
revolution, and particularly, whether the diurnal motion, by
which the sun and stars appear to us to rise and set, be a real
motion of revolution in the heavenly bodies, or only apparent
in them, and real in the earth. There may be an instance of
the cross of the following nature. If there be discovered any
motion in the ocean from east to west, though very languid and
weak, and if the same motion be discovered rather more swift
in the air (particularly within the tropics, where it is more per-
ceptible from the circles being greater). If it be discovered
also in the low comets, and be already quick and powerful in
them ; if it be found also in the planets, but so tempered and
regulated as to be slower in those nearest the earth, and quicker
in those at the greatest distance, being quickest of all in the
heavens, then the diurnal motion should certainly be considered
as real in the heavens, and that of the earth must be rejected;
for it will be evident that the motion from east to west is part
of the system of the world and universal ; since it is most rapid
in the height of the heavens, and gradually grows weaker, till
it stops and is extinguished in rest at the earth.

Again, let the required nature be that other motion of revolu-
tion, so celebrated amongst astronomers, which is contrary to
the diurnal, namely, from west to east — and which the ancient
astronomers assign to the planets, and even to the starry sphere,
but Copernicus and his followers to the earth also — and let it
be examined whether any such motion be found in nature, or
it be rather a fiction and hypothesis for abridging and facili-
tating calculation, and for promoting that fine notion of effect-


ing the heavenly motions by perfect circles ; for there is nothing
.which proves such a motion in heavenly objects to be true and
real, either in a planet's not returning in its diurnal motion to
the same point of the starry sphere, or in the pole of the zodiac
being different from that of the world, which two circumstances
have occasioned this notion. For the first phenomenon is well
accounted for by the spheres overtaking or falling behind each
other, and the second by spiral lines ; so that the inaccuracy of
the return and declination to the tropics may be rather modifica-
tions of the one diurnal motion than contrary motions, or about
different poles. And it is most certain, if we consider ourselves
for a moment as part of the vulgar (setting aside the fictions of
astronomers and the school, who are wont undeservedly to at-
tack the senses in many respects, and to affect obscurity), that
the apparent motion is such as we have said, a model of which
we have sometimes caused to be represented by wires in a sort
of a machine.

We may take the following instances of the cross upon this
subject. If it be found in any history worthy of credit, that
there has existed any comet, high or low, which has not revolved
in manifest harmony (however irregularly) with the diurnal
motion, then we may decide so far as to allow such a motion
to be possible in nature. But if nothing of the sort be found,
it must be suspected, and recourse must be had to other in-
stances of the cross.

Again, let the required nature be weight or gravity. Heavy
and ponderous bodies must, either of their own nature, tend
towards the centre of the earth by their peculiar formation,
must be attracted and hurried by the corporeal mass of the
earth itself, as being an assemblage of similar bodies, and be
drawn to it by sympathy. But if the latter be the cause, it
follows that the nearer bodies approach to the earth, the more
powerfully and rapidly they must be borne towards it, and the
farther they are distant, the more faintly and slowly (as is the
case in magnetic attractions), and that this must happen within
a given distance ; so that if they be separated at such a distance
from the earth that the power of the earth cannot act upon
them, they will remain suspended like the earth, and not fall
at all.

The following instance of the cross may be adopted. Take a
clock moved by leaden weights, and another by a spring, and
let them be set well together, so that one be neither quicker nor
slower than the other ; then let the clock moved by weights be
placed on the top of a very high church, and the other be kept
below, and let it be well observed, if the former move slower
than it did, from the diminished power of the weights. Let the
same experiment be made at the bottom of mines worked to a


considerable depth, in order to see whether the clock move more
quickly from the increased power of the weights. But if this
power be found to diminish at a height, and to increase in sub-
terraneous places, the attraction of the corporeal mass of the
earth may be taken as the cause of weight.

Again, let the required nature be the polarity of the steel
needle when touched with the magnet. We have these two ways
with regard to this nature : — Either the touch of the magnet
must communicate polarity to the steel towards the north and
south, or else it may only excite and prepare it, whilst the actual
motion is occasioned by the presence of the earth, which Gilbert
considers to be the case, and endeavors to prove with so much
labor. The particulars he has inquired into with such ingeni-

Online LibraryFrancis BaconAdvancement of learning and novum organum → online text (page 44 of 51)