Francis Bacon.

The physical and metaphysical works of Lord Bacon including the Advancement of learning and Novum Organum online

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John Galen Howard















"Repiinted from SUreoiype platen.']




Loud Bacon can only be said to have carried the three
first parts of his Insiaurcdio Magna to any degree of perfec-
tion. Of these the Sylva Sylvarum is but a dry catalogue
of natural phenomena, the collection of which, however
necessary it might be, Bacon viewed as a sort of mechanical
l.;boi r, and would never have stooped to the task, had not
the field been abandoned by the generality of philosophers,
as unworthy of them. The two other portions of the
iiistauratio Magna, which this volume contains, unfold the
design of his philosophy, and exhibit all the peculiarities of
his extraordinary mind, enshrined in the finest passages of
his writings.

Of the De Augmentis, though one of the greatest books
of modern times, only three translations have appeared,
and each of these strikiniiiy imperfect. That of Wats,
issued while Bacon was living, is singularly disfigured with
solecisms, and called forth the just censures of Bacon and hia
friends. The version of Eustace Gary is no less unfor-
tunate, owing to its poverty of diction, and antiquated
l)hraseology. Under the public sense of these failures, ano-
ther translation was j^roduced about sixty years ago by
Dr. Shaw, which might have merited approbation, had not
the learned physician been impressed with the idea that he
could improve Bacon by relieving his work of some of its
choicest passages, and entirely altering the arrangement.
In the present version, our task has been piincipally to
rectify Shaw's mistakes, by restoring the author's own



arrangement, and supplying the omitted portions. Sucli
of Shaw's notes as were deemed of value have been re-
tained, and others added where the text seemed to re*
quire illustration. Due care also has been taken to point
out the sources whence Bacon drew his extraordinary stores
of learning, by furnishing authorities for the quotations and
allusions in the text, so that the reader may view at a glance
the principal authors whom Bacon loved to consult, and
whose agency contributed to the formation of his colosrul

The version of the Novum Organum contained in this
volume is that by Wood, which is the best extant. The
present edition of this immortal work has been enriched with
an ample commentary, in which the remarks of the two
Playfairs, Sir John Herschel, and the German and French
editors, have been diligently considted, that nothing may
be wanting to render it as perfect as possible.

J. D.





Author's Announcemeut. Preface, and Account of the
Work . . ^. ... ^. ^. .. . . Pages 1-20

IN Nine Bock 3.

%* The Contents are given in full at par/cs 21-26.


Preface .. ._ „ ... «. ^. ^, ^ 380

Book I. — On the Interpretation op Nature and the

Empire of Man _ . . - . . 3S3

Book II.— On the Interpretation of Nature or the

B£iaN OF Mas ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ii8



Announcement of the Author.


Being convinced, by a careful observation, tha t the huma n
understanding perplexes itself, or makes not a sober and
advantage(5us\ise 7)T the real helps within its reach, whence
manifold ignorance and inconveniences arise, he was deter-
mined to employ his utmost endeavours towards restoring
or cultivating a just and legitimate familiarity betwixt the
mind and things.

But as the mind, hastily and without choice, imbibes and
treasures up the first notices of things, from whence all the
rest proceed, errors must for ever prevail, and remain uncor-
rected, either by the natural powers of the understanding
or the assistance of logic ; for the original notions being
vitiated, confused, and inconsiderately taken from things,
jind the secondary ones formed no less rashly, human know-
ledge itself, the thing employed in all our researches, is not ,
well put together nor justly formed, but resembles a magni-y
licent structure that has no foundation. \

And whilst men agree to admire and magnify the false
powers of the mind, and neglect or destroy those that might
be rendered true, there is no other course left but with
better assistance to begin the work anew, and raise or re-
build the sciences, arts, and all human knowledge from a
firm and solid basis.

This may at first seem an infinite scheme, unequal to
human abilities, yet it will be found more sound and judi*
« II


cious than the course hitlierto pursued, as tending to some .
issue; whereas all liitherto done with regard to the sciencesi
is vertiginous, or in the way of perpetual rotation.

Nor is he ignorant that he stands alone in an experiment
almost too bold and astonishing to obtain credit, yet he
thought it not right to desert either the cause or himself,,
but to boldly enter on the way and explore the only path
which is pervious to the human mind. For it is wiser tc
engage in an undertaking that admits of some termination,
than to involve oneself in perpetual exertion and anxiety
about what is interminable. The ways of contemplation,
indeed, nearly correspond to two roads in nature, one of
which, steep and rugged at the commencement, terminates
in a plain ; the other, at first view smooth and easy, leads
only to huge rocks and precipices. Uncertain, however,
whether these reflections would occur to another, and ob-
serving that he had never met any person disposed to ajiply
his mind to similar thoughts, he determined to publish what-
soever he found time to perfect. Nor is this the haste of
ambition, but anxiety, that if he should die there might
remain behind him some outline and determination of the
matter his mind had embraced, as well as some mark of his
sincere and earnest affection to promote the happiness of


Of the state of learning — That it is neither prosperous nof greatly
advanced, and that a way must be opened to the human nnderstand-
mg entirely distinct from that known to our predecessors, and
ditfierer.t aids procured, that the mind may exercise her power ovef
the nature of things.

It appears to me that men know neither their acquire-
ments nor their powers, bat fancy their possessions greater
and their faculties less than they are; whence, either valuing
the received arts above measure, they look out no farther ;
or else despising themselves too much, they exercise their
talents upon lio;hter matters, without attempting the capital


kliings of all. And hence the sciences seem to have their
Hercules' Pillars, which bound the desires and hopes ot'>(

But as a false imagination of plenty is among the
principal causes of want, and as too great a confidence in
things present leads to a neglect of the future, it is
necessary we should here admonish mankind that they do
not too highly value or extol either the number or useful-
ness of the things hitherto discovered ; for, by closely in-
specting the multiplicity of books upon arts and sciences, we
find them to contain numberless repetitions of the same
things in point of invention, but differing indeed as to the
manner of treatment ; so that the real discoveries, though at
the first view they may appear numerous, prove upon exa-
mination but few. And as to the point of usefulness, the
philosophy we principally received from the Greeks must be
acknowledged puerile, or rather ^tolkatiye^th an generative —
as being fruitful in controversies, but barren of effects.

The fable of Scylla seems a civil representation of the
present condition of knowledge; for she exhibited the coun-
tenance and expression of a virgin, whilst barking monsters
encircled her womb. Even thus the sciences have their
specious and plausible generalities; but when we descend to
particulars, which, like the organs of generation, should i)ro-
iuce fruits and effects, then spring up loud altercations
and controversies, which terminate in barren sterility.^
And had this not been a lifeless kind of philosophy, it 1
were scarce possible it should have made so little progress jl
in so many ages, insomuch, that not only positions now fre-
quently remain positions still, but questions remain ques
tions, rather riveted and cherished than determined by
disputes ; philosophy thus coming down to us in the persons
of master and scholar, instead of inventor and improver.
In the mechanic arts tlie case is otherwise — these com-
monly advancing towards perfection in a course of daily
improvement, from ^ rough unpolished state, sometimes
prejudicial to the first inventors, whilst philosophy and the
intellectual sciences are, like statues, celebrated and adored,
but never adva.nced ; nay, they sometimes appear most per-
fect in the original author, and afterwards degenerate. For
since men have gone over in crowds to the opinion of their




, leader, like those silent senators of Rome,* they add nothing
\ to the extent of learning themselves, but perform the servile
duty of waiting upon particular authors, and repeating their

It is a fatal mistake to suppose that the sciences have
gradually arrived at a state of perfection, and then been
recorded by some one writer or other ; and that as nothing
better can afterwards be invented, men need but cultivate
and set off what is thus d:lscovered and completed ; whereas,
in reality, this registering of the sciences proceeds only from
the assurance of a few and the sloth and ignorance of many.
For after the sciences might thus perhaps in several parts
be carefully cultivated; a man of an enterprising genius
rising up, who, by the conciseness of his method, renders
himself acceptable and famous, he in appearance erects an
art, but in reality corrupts the labours of his predecessors.
This, however, is usually well received by posterity, as
readily gratifying their curiosity, and indulging their indo-
lence. But he that rests upon established consent as the
judgment approved by time, trusts to a very fallacious and
weak foundation ; for we have but an imperfect knowledge
of the discoveries in arts and sciences, made public in diffe-
rent ages and countries, and still less of what has been done
by particular persons, and transacted in private ; so that
neither the births nor miscarriages of time are to be found
in our records.

Nor is consent, or the continuance thereof, a thing of any
account ; for however governments may vary, there is but
one state of the sciences, and that will for ever be democratical
or popular. But the doctrines in greatest vogue among the
people, are either the contentious and quarrelsome, or the
showy and empty ; that is, such as may either entrap the
assent, or lull the mind to rest : whence, of course, the
greatest geniuses in all ages have suffered violence ; whilst
out of regard to their own character, they submitted to the
judgment of the times, and the populace. And tlus when
any more sublime speculations happened to appear, they were
»A>mraonly tossed and extinguished by the breath of popular
opinion. Hence time, like a river, ha.s brought down to xa

• Peclarii scnatorcs.


what is light and tumid, but sunk what wafj ponderous and
Bolid. As to those who have set up for teachers of the sciences,
when they drop their character, and at intervals speak their
sentiments, they complain of the subtilty of nature, the
concealment of truth, the obscurity of things, the entangle-
ment of causes, and the imperfections of the human under-
standing ; thus rather choosing to accuse the common state
of men and things, than make confession of themselves. It is
also frequent with them to adjudge that impossible in an art,
which they find that art does not affect ; by which means they
screen indolence and ignorance from the reproach they merit.
Tlie knowledge delivered down to us is barren in effects, i!
fruitful in questions, slow and languid in improvement, ex- J/
hibiting in its generalities the counterfeits of perfection, but />
meagre in its details, popular in its aim, but suspected by il<R/
very promoters, and therefore defended and propagated by\ >
artifice and chicanery. And even those who by experience '
propose to enlarge the bounds of the sciences, _scarce_ever
entirely quit the received opinions, and go to the fountain^
head, but think it enough to add somewhat of their own ;
as prudentially considering, that at the time they show their
modesty in assenting, they may have a liberty of adding.
But whilst this regard is shown to opinions and moral
considerations, the sciences are greatly hurt by such a languid
procedure ; for it is scarce possible at once to admire and
excel an author : as water rises no higher than the reservoir
it falls from. Such men, therefore, though they improve
some things, yet advance the sciences but little, or ratherY
amend than enlarge them.

There have been also bolder spirits, and greater geniuses,
who thought themselves at liberty to overturn and destroy
the ancient doctrine, and make way for themselves and their
opinions ; but without any great advantage from the dis-
turbance ; as they did not effectively enlarge pliilosoj)hy and
arts by i)ractical works, but only endeavoured to substitute
new dogmas, and to transfer the empire of opinion to them-
selves, with but small advantage; for opposite errors proceed
mostly from common causes.

As for those who, neither wedded to their own nor others'
opinions, but continuing friends to liberty, made use o.
assistance in their inquiries, the success they met with did


-lot answer expectation, the attempt, though laudable, bekig
but feeble ; for pursuing only the probable reasons of
things, they were earned about in a circle of arguments,
and taking a promiscuous liberty, preserved not the rigour of
true inquirers; whilst none of them* duly conversed with

^ experience and things themselves. Others again, who
commit themselves to mechanical experience, yet make their
experiments at random, without any method of inquiry.
And the greatest part of these have no considerable views,
but esteem it a great matter if they can make a single dis-
covery ; which is both a trifling and unskilful procedure,
as no one can justly or successfully discover the nature of any
one thing in that thing itself, or without numerous experi-
ments which lead to farther inquiries. And we must not
omit to observe, that all the industry displayed in experiment
has been directed by too indiscreet a zeal at some prejudged

■ effect, seeking those which produced fruit rather than know-

I ledge, in opposition to the Divine method, which on the
first day created time alone, delaying its material creations

[ until the sun had illumined space.

' Lastly, those who recommend logic as the best and surest
instrument for improving the sciences, very justly observe,
that the understanding, left to itself, ought always to be
suspected. But here the remedy is neither equal to the
disease, nor approved ; for though the logic in use may be
properly applied in civil affairs, and the arts that are founded
in discourse and opinion, yet it by no means reaches the
subtilty of nature ; and by catching at what it cannot hold,
rather serves to establish errors, and fix them deeper, than
open the way of truth.^

Upon the whole, men do not hi therto appear to be happily
inclined and fitted for the sciences, either by their own in-
dustry, or the authority of authors, especially as there is little
dependence to be had upon the common demonstrations and
experiments ; wliilst the structure of the u<iiverse renders it
a labyrinth to the understanding ; where the paths are not
only everywhere doubtful, but the appearances of things and
their signs deceitful ; and the wreaths and knots of nature

'' For exemplifications of these opinions, the reader may consult
Morhof's "Polyhistor.," and the other writers upon polymathy and
literary history. Shaw.


intricately turned and twisted:*' through all which we are
only to be conducted by the uncertain light of the senses,
that sometimes shines^ and sometimes hides its head ; and by
collections of experiments and particular facts, in which no
guides can be trusted, as wanting direction themselves, and
adding to the errors of the rest. In this melancholy state
of things, one might be apt to despair both of the under-
standing left to itself, and of all fortuitous helps ; as of a
state irremediable by the utmost efforts of the human
genius, or the often-repeated chance of trial. The only cluo \ > ^
and method is to^begin^all anew, and direct our steps in a | f^
certain order, from the very first perceptions of the senses, j
Yet I must not be understood to say that nothing has been I
done in former ages, for the ancients have shown themselves
worthy of admiration in everything which concerned either
wit or abstract reflection ; but, as in former ages, when men
at sea, directing their course solely by the observation of the
stars, might coast along the shores of the continent, but
could not trust themselves to the wide ocean, or discover new
worlds, until the use of the compass was knoAvn: even so
the present discoveries referring to matters immediately
under the jurisdiction of the senses, are such as might easily
result from experience and discussion ; but before we can
enter the remote and hidden parts of nature, it is requisite
that a better and more perfect application of the human
mind should be introduced. This, however, is not to be
understood as if nothing had been effected by the immense
labours of so many past ages; as the ancients have per-
formed surprisingly in subjects that required abstract medi-
tation, and force of genius. But as navigation was imperfect
before the use of the compass, so will many secrets of nature
and art remain undiscovered, without a more perfect know-
ledge of the understanding, its uses, and Avays of working.

For our own part, from an earnest desire of truth, we
have committed ourselves to doubtful, difficult, and solitary
ways ; and relying on the Divine assistance, have supported
Qur niinds against the vehemence of opinions, our own in-
ternal doubts and scruples, and the darkness and fantastic

« By wreaths and knots, is understood the apparent comphcation of
causes, and the superaddition of properties not essential to things ; aa
light to heat, yellowness to gold, pellucidity to glass, &c. Shaw.


images of the mind ; that at length we might make moi-«
sure and certain discoveries for the benefit of posterity.
And if we shall have effected anything to the purpose, what
led us to it was a true and genuine humiliation of mind. Those
who before us applied themselves to the discovery of arts,
having just glanced upon things, examples, and experiments;
immediately, as if invention was but a kind of contemplation,
raised up their own spirits to deliver oracles : whereas our
method is continually to dwell among things soberly, without
abstracting or setting the understanding farther from them
than makes their images meet ; which leaves but little work
for genius and mental abilities. And the same humility
that we practise in learning, the same we also observe in
teaching, without endeavouring to stamp a dignity on any
of our inventions, by the triumphs of confutation, the cita-
tions of antiquity, the producing of authorities, or the mask
of obscurity ; as any one might do, who had rather give
lustre to his OAvn name, than light to the minds of others.
We offer no violence, and spread no nets for the judgments
of men, but lead them on tojbhings themselves, and their
relations ; that they may view their own stores, what they
have to reason about, and what they may add, or procure,
for the common good. And if at any time ourselves have
erred, mistook, or broke off too soon, yet as we only propose
to exhibit things naked, and open, as they are, our errors
may be the readier observed, and separated, before they con-
siderably infect the riiass of knowledge ; and our labours be
the more easily continued. And thus we hope to establish
for ever a true and legitimate union between the experi-
mental and rational faculty, whose fallen and inauspicious
divorces and repudiations have disturbed everything in the
family of mankind.

But as these great things are not at our disposal, we here,
at the entrance of our work, with the utmost humility and
fervency, put forth our prayers to God, that remembering the
miseries of mankind, and the pilgrimage of this life, where
we pass but few days and sorrowful, he would vouchsafe,
through our hands,, and the hands of others, to whom he has
given the like mind, to relieve the human race by a new act
of his bounty. We likewise humbly beseech him, that what ,
is hunwu may not clash with what is divine; and that when


the ways of the senses are opened, and a greaternatnral light
set up in the mind, nothing of incredulity and blindness
towards divine mysteries may arise; but rather that the
understanding, now cleared up, and purged of all vanity and
superstition, may remain entirely subject to the divine^^
oracles, and yield to faith, the things that are faith's : and,
lastly, that expelling the poisonous knowledge infused by/
the serpent, which puifs up and swells the human mind, we
may neither be wise above measure, nor go beyond the bounds
of sobriety, but pursue the truth in charity.

We now turn ourselves to men, with a few wholesome
admonitions and just requests. And first, we admonish them
to continue in a sense of their duty, as to divine matters ; for
the senses are like the sun, which displays the face of the
earth, but shuts up that of the heavens : and again, that
they run not into the contrary extreme, which they certainly
will do, if they think an inquiry into nature any way forbid
them by religion. It was not that pure and imspotted
natural knowledge whereby Adam gave names to things,
agreeable to their natures, which caused his fall ; but an
ambitious and authoritative desire of moral knowledge, to
judge of good and evil, which makes men revolt from God,
and obey no laws but those of their own will. But for the
sciences, which contemplate nature, the sacred philosopher
declares, " It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the
glory of a king to find it out."'^ As if the Divine Being
thus indulgently condescended to exercise the human mind
by philosophical inquiries.

In the next place, we ad v^ise all mankind to think of the
true ends of knowledge, and that they endeavour not after it
for curiosity, contention, or the sake of despising others, nor
yet for profit, reputation, power, or any such inferior con- ^
sideration, but solely for the occasions and uses of life ; all J
along conducting and perfecting it in the spil^oFlbenevo-
lence. Our request* are, — 1. That men do not conceive wo
liere deliver an opinion, but a work ; and assure themselves
we attempt not to found any sect or particular doctrine, but >^
to fix an extensive basis for the servic e^jjf h^man nnturA ji
2. That, for their own sakes, they lay aside the zeal and

* Frov. XXV. 2.


prejudices of opinions, and endeavour tjie common good ;
and that being, by our assistance, freed an3~^ept clear from
the errors and hinderances of the way, they would themselves
also take part of the task. 3. That they do not despair, as
imagining our project for a grand restoration, or advancement
of all kinds of knowledge, infinitely beyond the power of
mortals to execute ; whilst in reality, it is the genuine stop
. and prevention of infinite error. Indeed, as our state is
/niortal, and human, a full accomplishment cannot be expected
I in a single age, and must therefore be commended to
I posterity. Nor could we hope to succeed, if we arrogantly

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe physical and metaphysical works of Lord Bacon including the Advancement of learning and Novum Organum → online text (page 1 of 63)