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in a place that need not here be named; where the subject whereof we
have been speaking, was amply and variously discours'd of.

It was on one of the fairest dayes of this Summer that the inquisitive
_Eleutherius_ came to invite me to make a visit with him to his friend
_Carneades_. I readily consented to this motion, telling him that if
he would but permit me to go first and make an excuse at a place not
far off, where I had at that hour appointed to meet, but not about a
business either of moment, or that could not well admit of a delay, I
would presently wait on him, because of my knowing _Carneades_ to be
so conversant with nature and with Furnaces, and so unconfin'd to
vulgar Opinions, that he would probably by some ingenious Paradox or
other, give our mindes at least a pleasing Exercise, and perhaps
enrich them with some solid instruction. _Eleutherius_ then first
going with me to the place where my Apology was to be made, I
accompanied him to the lodging of _Carneades_, where when we were
come, we were told by the Servants, that he was retired with a couple
of Friends (whose names they also told us) to one of the Arbours in
his Garden, to enjoy under its coole shades a delightful protection
from the yet troublesome heat of the Sun.

_Eleutherius_ being perfectly acquainted with that Garden immediately
led me to the Arbour, and relying on the intimate familiarity that had
been long cherish'd betwixt him and _Carneades_; in spight of my
Reluctancy to what might look like an intrusion upon his privacy,
drawing me by the hand, he abruptly entered the Arbour, where we found
_Carneades_, _Philoponus_, and _Themistius_, sitting close about a
little round Table, on which besides paper, pen, and inke, there lay
two or three open Books; _Carneades_ appeared not at all troubled at
this surprise, but rising from the Table, received his Friend with
open looks and armes, and welcoming me also with his wonted freedom
and civility, invited us to rest our selves by him, which, as soon as
we had exchanged with his two Friends (who were ours also) the
civilities accustomed on such occasions, we did. And he presently
after we had seated our selves, shutting the Books that lay open, and
turning to us with a smiling countenance seemed ready to begin some
such unconcerning discourse as is wont to pass or rather waste the
time in promiscuous companies.

But _Eleutherius_ guessing at what he meant to do, prevented him by
telling him, I perceive _Carneades_ by the books that you have been
now shutting, and much more by the posture wherein I found Persons
qualifi'd [Errata: so qualify'd] to discourse of serious matters; and
so accustom'd to do it, that you three were before our coming, engag'd
in some Philosophical conference, which I hope you will either
prosecute, and allow us to be partakers of, in recompence of the
freedome we have us'd in presuming to surprise you, or else give us
leave to repair the injury we should otherwise do you, by leaving you
to the freedom we have interrupted, and punishing our selves for our
boldness by depriving our selves of the happiness of your company.
With these last words he and I rose up, as if we meant to be gone, But
_Carneades_ suddenly laying hold on his arme, and stopping him by it,
smileingly told him, We are not so forward to lose good company as you
seem to imagine; especially since you are pleas'd to desire to be
present at what we shall say, about such a Subject as that You found
us considering. For that, being the number of the Elements,
Principles, or Materiall Ingredients of Bodies, is an enquiry whose
truth is of that Importance, and of that Difficulty, that it may as
well deserve as require to be searched into by such skilfull
Indagators of Nature as your selves. And therefore we sent to invite
the bold and acute _Leucippus_ to lend us some light by his Atomical
Paradox, upon which we expected such pregnant hints, that 'twas not
without a great deal of trouble that we had lately word brought us
that he was not to be found; and we had likewise begg'd the Assistance
of your presence and thoughts, had not the messenger we employ'd to
_Leucippus_ inform'd us, that as he was going, he saw you both pass by
towards another part of the Town; And this frustrated expectation of
_Leucippus_ his company, who told me but last night that he would be
ready to give me a meeting where I pleas'd to day, having very long
suspended our conference about the freshly mention'd Subject, it was
so newly begun when you came in, that we shall scarce need to repeat
any thing to acquaint you with what has pass'd betwixt us before your
arrival, so that I cannot but look upon it as a fortunate Accident
that you should come so seasonably, to be not hearers alone, but we
hope Interlocutors at our conference. For we shall not only allow of
your presence at it, but desire your Assistance in it; which I adde
both for other reasons, and because though these learned Gentlemen
(sayes he, turning to his two friends) need not fear to discourse
before any Auditory, provided it be intelligent enough to understand
them, yet for my part (continues he with a new smile,) I shall not
dare to vent my unpremeditated thoughts before two such Criticks,
unless by promising to take your turnes of speaking, You will allow me
mine of quarrelling, with what has been said. He and his friends added
divers things to convince us that they were both desirous that we
should hear them, and resolved against our doing so, unless we allowed
them sometimes to hear us. _Elutherius_ [Transcriber's Note:
Eleutherius] after having a while fruitlesly endeavoured to obtain
leave to be silent promis'd he would not be so alwayes, provided that
he were permitted according to the freedom of his Genious and
Principles to side with one of them in the managing of one Argument,
and, if he saw cause, with his Antagonist, in the Prosecution of
another, without being confin'd to stick to any one party or Opinion,
which was after some debate accorded him. But I conscious to my own
Disability's told them resolutely that _I_ was as much more willing as
more fit to be a hearer then a speaker, among such knowing Persons,
and on so abstruse a Subject. And that therefore I beseeched them
without necessitating me to proclaim my weaknesses, to allow me to
lessen them by being a silent Auditor of their Discourses: to suffer
me to be at which I could present them no motive, save that their
instructions would make them in me a more intelligent Admirer. I
added, that I desir'd not to be idle whilst they were imploy'd, but
would if they pleas'd, by writing down in short hand what should be
delivered, preserve Discourses that I knew would merit to be lasting.
At first _Carneades_ and his two friends utterly rejected this motion;
and all that my Resoluteness to make use of my ears, not tongue, at
their debates, could do, was to make them acquiesce in the Proposition
of _Eleutherius_, who thinking himself concern'd, because he brought
me thither, to afford me some faint assistance, was content that I
should register their Arguments, that I might be the better able after
the conclusion of their conference to give them my sence upon the
Subject of it, (The number of Elements or Principles:) which he
promis'd I should do at the end of the present Debates, if time would
permit, or else at our next meeting. And this being by him undertaken
in my name, though without my consent, the company would by no means
receive my Protestation against it, but casting, all at once, their
eyes on _Carneades_, they did by that and their unanimous silence,
invite him to begin; which (after a short pause, during which he
turn'd himself to _Eleutherius_ and me) he did in this manner.

Notwithstanding the subtile reasonings I have met with in the books of
the Peripateticks, and the pretty experiments that have been shew'd me
in the Laboratories of Chymists, I am of so diffident, or dull a
Nature, as to think that if neither of them can bring more cogent
arguments to evince the truth of their assertion then are wont to be
brought; a Man may rationally enough retain some doubts concerning the
very number of those materiall Ingredients of mixt bodies, which some
would have us call Elements, and others principles. Indeed when I
considered that the Tenents concerning the Elements are as
considerable amongst the Doctrines of natural Philosophy as the
Elements themselves are among the bodies of the Universe, I expected
to find those Opinions solidly establish'd, upon which so many others
are superstructed. But when I took the pains impartially to examine
the bodies themselves that are said to result from the blended
Elements, and to torture them into a confession of their constituent
Principles, I was quickly induc'd to think that the number of the
Elements has been contended about by Philosophers with more
earnestness then success. This unsatisfiedness of mine has been much
wonder'd at, by these two Gentlemen (at which words he pointed at
_Themistius_ and _Philoponus_) who though they differ almost as much
betwixt themselves about the question we are to consider, as I do from
either of them, yet they both agree very well in this, that there is a
determinate number of such ingredients as I was just now speaking of,
and that what that number is, I say not, may be, (for what may not
such as they perswade?) but is wont to be clearly enough demonstrated
both by Reason and Experience. This has occasion'd our present
Conference. For our Discourse this afternoon, having fallen from one
subject to another, and at length setl'd on this, they proffer'd to
demonstrate to me, each of them the truth of his opinion, out of both
the Topicks that I have freshly nam'd. But on the former (that of
Reason strictly so taken) we declin'd insisting at the present, lest
we should not have time enough before supper to go thorough the
Reasons and Experiments too. The latter of which we unanimously
thought the most requisite to be seriously examin'd. I must desire you
then to take notice Gentlemen (continued _Carneades_) that my present
business doth not oblige me so to declare my own opinion on the
Subject in question, as to assert or deny the truth either of the
Peripatetick, or the Chymical Doctrine concerning the number of the
Elements, but only to shew you that neither of these Doctrines hath
been satisfactorily proved by the arguments commonly alledged on its
behalfe. So that if I really discern (as perhaps I think I do) that
there may be a more rational account then ordinary, given of one of
these opinions, I am left free to declare my self of it,
notwithstanding my present engagement, it being obvious to all your
observation, that a solid truth may be generally maintained by no
other, then incompetent Arguments. And to this Declaration I hope it
will be needless to add, that my task obliges me not to answer the
Arguments that may be drawn either for _Themistius_ or _Philoponus's_
Opinion from the Topick of reason, as opposed to experiments; since
'tis these only that I am to examine and not all these neither, but
such of them alone as either of them shall think fit to insist on, and
as have hitherto been wont to be brought either to prove that 'tis
the four Peripatetick Elements, or that 'tis the three Chymical
Principles that all compounded bodies consist of. These things (adds
_Carneades_) I thought my self obliged to premise, partly lest you
should do these Gentlemen (pointing at _Themistius_ and _Philoponus_,
and smiling on them) the injury of measuring their parts by the
arguments they are ready to propose, the lawes of our Conference
confining them to make use of those that the vulgar of Philosophers
(for even of them there is a vulgar) has drawn up to their hands; and
partly, that you should not condemn me of presumption for disputing
against persons over whom I can hope for no advantage, that _I_ must
not derive from the nature, or rules of our controversy, wherein I
have but a negative to defend, and wherein too I am like on several
occasions to have the Assistance of one of my disagreeing adversaries
against the other.

_Philoponus_ and _Themistius_ soon returned this complement with
civilities of the like nature, in which _Eleutherius_ perceiving them
engaged, to prevent the further loss of that time of which they were
not like to have very much to spare, he minded them that their
present businesse was not to exchange complements, but Arguments: and
then addressing his speech to _Carneades_, I esteem it no small
happinesse (saies he) that I am come here so luckily this Evening. For
I have been long disquieted with Doubts concerning this very subject
which you are now ready to debate. And since a Question of this
importance is to be now discussed by persons that maintain such
variety of opinions concerning it, and are both so able to enquire
after truth, and so ready to embrace it by whomsoever and on what
occasion soever it is presented them; I cannot but promise my self
that I shall before we part either lose my Doubts or the hopes of ever
finding them resolved; _Eleutherius_ paused not here; but to prevent
their answer, added almost in the same breath; and I am not a little
pleased to find that you are resolved on this occasion to insist
rather on Experiments then Syllogismes. For I, and no doubt You, have
long observed, that those Dialectical subtleties, that the Schoolmen
too often employ about Physiological Mysteries, are wont much more to
declare the wit of him that uses them, then increase the knowledge or
remove the doubts of sober lovers of truth. And such captious
subtleties do indeed often puzzle and sometimes silence men, but
rarely satisfy them. Being like the tricks of Jugglers, whereby men
doubt not but they are cheated, though oftentimes they cannot declare
by what slights they are imposed on. And therefore I think you have
done very wisely to make it your businesse to consider the _Phænomena_
relating to the present Question, which have been afforded by
experiments, especially since it might seem injurious to our senses,
by whose mediation we acquire so much of the knowledge we have of
things corporal, to have recourse to far-fetched and abstracted
Ratiocination [Errata: Ratiocinations], to know what are the sensible
ingredients of those sensible things that we daily see and handle, and
are supposed to have the liberty to untwist (if I may so speak) into
the primitive bodies they consist of. He annexed that he wished
therefore they would no longer delay his expected satisfaction, if
they had not, as he feared they had, forgotten something preparatory
to their debate; and that was to lay down what should be all along
understood by the word Principle or Element. _Carneades_ thank'd him
for his admonition, but told him that they had not been unmindful of
so requisite a thing. But that being Gentlemen and very far from the
litigious humour of loving to wrangle about words or terms or notions
as empty; they had before his coming in, readily agreed promiscuously
to use when they pleased, Elements and Principles as terms equivalent:
and to understand both by the one and the other, those primitive and
simple Bodies of which the mixt ones are said to be composed, and into
which they are ultimately resolved. And upon the same account (he
added) we agreed to discourse of the opinions to be debated, as we
have found them maintained by the Generality of the assertors of the
four Elements of the one party, and of those that receive the three
Principles on the other, without tying our selves to enquire
scrupulously what notion either _Aristotle_ or _Paracelsus_, or this
or that Interpreter, or follower of either of those great persons,
framed of Elements or Principles; our design being to examine, not
what these or those writers thought or taught, but what we find to be
the obvious and most general opinion of those, who are willing to be
accounted Favourers of the Peripatetick or Chymical Doctrine,
concerning this subject.

I see not (saies _Eleutherius_) why you might not immediately begin to
argue, if you were but agreed which of your two friendly Adversaries
shall be first heard. And it being quickly resolv'd on that
_Themistius_ should first propose the Proofs for his Opinion, because
it was the antienter, and the more general, he made not the company
expect long before he thus addressed himself to _Eleutherius_, as to
the Person least interessed in the dispute.

If you have taken sufficient notice of the late Confession which was
made by _Carneades_, and which (though his Civility dressed it up in
complementall Expressions) was exacted of him by his Justice, I
suppose You will be easily made sensible, that I engage in this
Controversie with great and peculiar Disadvantages, besides those
which his Parts and my Personal Disabilities would bring to any other
cause to be maintained by me against him. For he justly apprehending
the force of truth, though speaking by no better a tongue then mine,
has made it the chief condition of our Duell, that I should lay aside
the best Weapons I have, and those I can best handle; Whereas if I
were allowed the freedom, in pleading for the four Elements, to employ
the Arguments suggested to me by Reason to demonstrate them, I should
almost as little doubt of making You a Proselyte to those unsever'd
Teachers, Truth and _Aristotle_, as I do of your Candour and your
Judgment. And I hope you will however consider, that that great
Favorite and Interpreter of Nature, _Aristotle_, who was (as his
_Organum_ witnesses) the greatest Master of Logick that ever liv'd,
disclaim'd the course taken by other petty Philosophers (Antient and
Modern) who not attending the Coherence and Consequences of their
Opinions, are more sollicitous to make each particular Opinion
plausible independently upon the the [Transcriber's Note: extra "the"
in original] rest, then to frame them all so, as not only to be
consistent together, but to support each other. For that great Man in
his vast and comprehensive Intellect, so fram'd each of his Notions,
that being curiously adapted into one Systeme, they need not each of
them any other defence then that which their mutuall Coherence gives
them: As 'tis in an Arch, where each single stone, which if sever'd
from the rest would be perhaps defenceless, is sufficiently secur'd by
the solidity and entireness of the whole Fabrick of which it is a
part. How justly this may be apply'd to the present case, I could
easily shew You, if I were permitted to declare to You, how harmonious
_Aristotles_ Doctrine of the Elements is with his other Principles of
Philosophy; and how rationally he has deduc'd their number from that
of the combinations of the four first Qualities from the kinds of
simple Motion belonging to simple bodies, and from I know not how many
other Principles and _Phænomena_ of Nature, which so conspire with his
Doctrine of the Elements, that they mutually strengthen and support
each other. But since 'tis forbidden me to insist on Reflections of
this kind, I must proceed to tell You, that though the Assertors of
the four Elements value Reason so highly, and are furnish'd with
Arguments enough drawn from thence, to be satisfi'd that there must be
four Elements, though no Man had ever yet made any sensible tryal to
discover their Number, yet they are not destitute of Experience to
satisfie others that are wont to be more sway'd by their senses then
their Reason. And I shall proceed to consider the testimony of
Experience, when I shall have first advertis'd You, that if Men were
as perfectly rational as 'tis to be wish'd they were, this sensible
way of Probation would be as needless as 'tis wont to be imperfect.
For it is much more high and Philosophical to discover things _a
priore_, then _a posteriore_. And therefore the Peripateticks have not
been very sollicitous to gather Experiments to prove their Doctrines,
contenting themselves with a few only, to satisfie those that are not
capable of a Nobler Conviction. And indeed they employ Experiments
rather to illustrate then to demonstrate their Doctrines, as
Astronomers use Sphæres of pastboard, to descend to the capacities of
such as must be taught by their senses, for want of being arriv'd to a
clear apprehension of purely Mathematical Notions and Truths. I speak
thus _Eleutherius_ (adds _Themistius_) only to do right to Reason, and
not out of Diffidence of the Experimental proof I am to alledge. For
though I shall name but one, yet it is such a one as will make all
other appear as needless as it self will be found Satisfactory. For if
You but consider a piece of green-Wood burning in a Chimney, You will
readily discern in the disbanded parts of it the four Elements, of
which we teach It and other mixt bodies to be compos'd. The fire
discovers it self in the flame by its own light; the smoke by
ascending to the top of the chimney, and there readily vanishing into
air, like a River losing it self in the Sea, sufficiently manifests to
what Element it belongs and gladly returnes. The water in its own form
boyling and hissing at the ends of the burning Wood betrayes it self
to more then one of our senses; and the ashes by their weight, their
firiness, and their dryness, put it past doubt that they belong to the
Element of Earth. If I spoke (continues _Themistius_) to less knowing
Persons, I would perhaps make some Excuse for building upon such an
obvious and easie _Analysis_, but 'twould be, I fear, injurious, not
to think such an Apology needless to You, who are too judicious either
to think it necessary that Experiments to prove obvious truths should
be farr fetch'd, or to wonder that among so many mixt Bodies that are
compounded of the four Elements, some of them should upon a slight
_Analysis_ manifestly exhibite the Ingredients they consist of.
Especially since it is very agreeable to the Goodness of Nature, to
disclose, even in some of the most obvious Experiments that Men make,
a Truth so important, and so requisite to be taken notice of by them.
Besides that our _Analysis_ by how much the more obvious we make it,
by so much the more suittable it will be to the Nature of that
Doctrine which 'tis alledged to prove, which being as clear and
intelligible to the Understanding as obvious to the sense, tis no
marvail the learned part of Mankind should so long and so generally
imbrace it. For this Doctrine is very different from the whimseys of
_Chymists_ and other Modern Innovators, of whose _Hypotheses_ we may
observe, as Naturalists do of less perfect Animals, that as they are
hastily form'd, so they are commonly short liv'd. For so these, as
they are often fram'd in one week, are perhaps thought fit to be
laughed at the next; and being built perchance but upon two or three
Experiments are destroyed by a third or fourth, whereas the doctrine
of the four Elements was fram'd by _Aristotle_ after he had leasurely
considered those Theories of former Philosophers, which are now with
great applause revived, as discovered by these latter ages; And had so
judiciously detected and supplyed the Errors and defects of former
_Hypotheses_ concerning the Elements, that his Doctrine of them has
been ever since deservedly embraced by the letter'd part of Mankind:
All the Philosophers that preceded him having in their several ages
contributed to the compleatness of this Doctrine, as those of
succeeding times have acquiesc'd in it. Nor has an _Hypothesis_ so
deliberately and maturely established been called in Question till in
the last Century _Paracelsus_ and some few other sooty Empiricks,
rather then (as they are fain to call themselves) Philosophers, having
their eyes darken'd, and their Brains troubl'd with the smoke of their
own Furnaces, began to rail at the Peripatetick Doctrine, which they
were too illiterate to understand, and to tell the credulous World,
that they could see but three Ingredients in mixt Bodies; which to
gain themselves the repute of Inventors, they endeavoured to disguise
by calling them, instead of Earth, and Fire, and Vapour, Salt,
Sulphur, and Mercury; to which they gave the canting title of
Hypostatical Principles: but when they came to describe them, they
shewed how little they understood what they meant by them, by
disagreeing as much from one another, as from the truth they agreed in
opposing: For they deliver their _Hypotheses_ as darkly as their
Processes; and 'tis almost as impossible for any sober Man to find
their meaning, as 'tis for them to find their Elixir. And indeed
nothing has spread their Philosophy, but their great Brags and


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Online LibraryRobert BoyleThe sceptical chymist → online text (page 2 of 21)