Robert Boyle.

The sceptical chymist online

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Opinion equally probable with the former part of my discourse. For by
that, I hope, you are satisfied, that the Arguments wont to be brought
by Chymists, to prove That all Bodies consist of either Three
Principles, or Five, are far from being so strong as those that I have
employ'd to prove, that there is not any certain and Determinate
number of such Principles or Elements to be met with Universally in
all mixt Bodies. And I suppose I need not tell you, that these
_Anti-Chymical_ Paradoxes might have been manag'd more to their
Advantage; but that having not confin'd my Curiosity to Chymical
Experiments, I who am but a young Man, and younger Chymist, can yet be
but slenderly furnished with them, in reference to so great and
difficult a Task as you impos'd upon me; Besides that, to tell you the
Truth, I durst not employ some even of the best Experiments I am
acquainted with, because I must not yet disclose them; but however, I
think I may presume that what I have hitherto Discoursed will induce
you to think, that Chymists have been much more happy in finding
Experiments than the Causes of them; or in assigning the Principles by
which they may best be explain'd. And indeed, when in the writings of
_Paracelsus_ I meet with such Phantastick and Un-intelligible
Discourses as that Writer often puzzels and tyres his Reader with,
father'd upon such excellent Experiments, as though he seldom clearly
teaches, I often find he knew; me thinks the Chymists, in their
searches after truth, are not unlike the Navigators of _Solomons
Tarshish_ Fleet, who brought home from their long and tedious Voyages,
not only Gold, and Silver, and Ivory, but Apes and Peacocks too; For
so the Writings of several (for I say not, all) of your Hermetick
Philosophers present us, together with divers Substantial and noble
Experiments, Theories, which either like Peacocks feathers make a
great shew, but are neither solid nor useful; or else like Apes, if
they have some appearance of being rational, are blemish'd with some
absurdity or other, that when they are _Attentively_ consider'd, makes
them appear Ridiculous.

_Carneades_ having thus finish'd his Discourse against the received
Doctrines of the _Elements_; _Eleutherius_ judging he should not have
time to say much to him before their separation, made some haste to
tell him; I confess, _Carneades_, that you have said more in favour of
your Paradoxes then I expected. For though divers of the Experiments
you have mention'd are no secrets, and were not unknown to me, yet
besides that you have added many of your own unto them, you have laid
them together in such a way, and apply'd them to such purposes, and
made such Deductions From them, as I have not Hitherto met with.

But though I be therefore inclin'd to think, that _Philoponus_, had he
heard you, would scarce have been able in all points to defend the
Chymical _Hypothesis_ against the arguments wherewith you have oppos'd
it; yet me thinks that however your Objections seem to evince a great
part of what they pretend to, yet they evince it not all; and the
numerous tryals of those you call the vulgar Chymists, may be allow'd
to prove something too.

Wherefore, if it be granted you that you have made it probable,

First, that the differing substances into which mixt Bodies are wont
to be resolved by the Fire are not of a pure and an Elementary nature,
especially for this Reason, that they yet retain so much of the nature
of the Concrete that afforded them, as to appear to be yet somewhat
compounded, and oftentimes to differ in one Concrete from Principles
of the same denomination in another:

Next, that as to the number of these differing substances, neither is
it precisely three, because in most Vegetable and Animal bodies Earth
and Phlegme are also to be found among their Ingredients; nor is there
any one determinate number into which the Fire (as it is wont to be
employ'd) does precisely and universally resolve all compound Bodies
whatsoever, as well Minerals as others that are reputed perfectly

Lastly, that there are divers Qualities which cannot well be refer'd
to any of these Substances, as if they primarily resided in it and
belong'd to it; and some other qualities, which though they seem to
have their chief and most ordinary residence in some one of these
Principles or Elements of mixt Bodies, are not yet so deducible from
it, but that also some more general Principles must be taken in to
explicate them.

If, I say, the Chymists (continues _Eleutherius_) be so Liberall as to
make you these three Concessions, I hope you will, on your part, be so
civil and Equitable as to grant them these three other propositions,

First, that divers Mineral Bodies, and therefore probably all the
rest, may be resolv'd into a Saline, a Sulphureous, and a Mercurial
part; And that almost all Vegetable and Animal Concretes may, if not
by the Fire alone, yet, by a skilfull Artist Employing the Fire as
his chief Instrument, be divided into five differing Substances, Salt,
Spirit, Oyle, Phlegme and Earth; of which the three former by reason
of their being so much more Operative than the Two Later, deserve to
be Lookt upon as the Three active Principles, and by way of Eminence
to be call'd the three principles of mixt bodies.

Next, that these Principles, Though they be not perfectly Devoid of
all Mixture, yet may without inconvenience be stil'd the Elements of
Compounded bodies, and bear the Names of those Substances which they
most Resemble, and which are manifestly predominant in them; and that
especially for this reason, that none of these Elements is Divisible
by the Fire into Four or Five differing substances, like the Concrete
whence it was separated.

Lastly, That Divers of the Qualities of a mixt Body, and especially
the Medical Virtues, do for the most part lodge in some One or Other
of its principles, and may Therefore usefully be sought for in That
Principle sever'd from the others.

And in this also (pursues _Eleutherius_) methinks both you and the
Chymists may easily agree, that the surest way is to Learn by
particular Experiments, what differing parts particular Bodies do
consist of, and by what wayes (either Actual or potential fire) they
may best and most Conveniently be Separated, as without relying too
much upon the Fire alone, for the resolving of Bodies, so without
fruitlessly contending to force them into more Elements than Nature
made Them up of, or strip the sever'd Principles so naked, as by
making Them Exquisitely Elementary to make them almost useless,

These things (subjoynes _Eleu._) I propose, without despairing to see
them granted by you; not only because I know that you so much preferr
the Reputation of _Candor_ before that of subtility, that your having
once suppos'd a truth would not hinder you from imbracing it when
clearly made out to you; but because, upon the present occasion, it
will be no disparagement to you to recede from some of your Paradoxes,
since the nature and occasion of your past Discourse did not oblige
you to declare your own opinions, but only to personate an Antagonist
of the Chymists. So that (concludes he, with a smile) you may now by
granting what I propose, add the Reputation of Loving the truth
sincerely to that of having been able to oppose it subtilly.

_Carneades's_ haste forbidding him to answer this crafty piece of
flattery; Till I shal (sayes he) have an opportunity to acquaint you
with my own Opinions about the controversies I have been discoursing
of, you will not, I hope, expect I should declare my own sence of the
Arguments I have employ'd. Wherefore I shall only tell you thus much
at present; that though not only an acute Naturalist, but even I my
self could take plausible Exceptions at some of them; yet divers of
them too are such as will not perhaps be readily answer'd, and will
Reduce my Adversaries, at least, to alter and Reform their
_Hypothesis_. I perceive I need not minde you that the Objections I
made against the Quaternary of Elements and Ternary of Principles
needed not to be oppos'd so much against the Doctrines Themselves
(either of which, especially the latter, may be much more probably
maintain'd than hitherto it seems to have been, by those Writers for
it I have met with) as against the unaccurateness and the
unconcludingness of the _Analytical_ Experiments vulgarly Relyed On to
Demonstrate them.

And therefore, if either of the two examin'd Opinions, or any other
Theory of Elements, shall upon rational and Experimental grounds be
clearly made out to me; 'Tis Obliging, but not irrational, in you to
Expect, that I shall not be so farr in Love with my Disquieting
Doubts, as not to be content to change them for undoubted truths. And
(concludes _Carneades_ smiling) it were no great disparagement for a
Sceptick to confesse to you, that as unsatisfy'd as the past discourse
may have made you think me with the Doctrines of the Peripateticks,
and the Chymists, about the Elements and Principles, I can yet so
little discover what to acquiesce in, that perchance the Enquiries of
others have scarce been more unsatisfactory to me, than my own have
been to my self.


* * * * *

The Authors constant Absence from the Presse, whilst the former
Treatise was Printing, and the Nature of the Subject it self,
wherewith ordinary Composers are not wont to be at all acquainted,
will, 'tis hop'd, procure the Readers Excuse, till the next Edition,
if the _Errata_ be somewhat numerous, and if among them there want not
some grosser mistakes, which yet are not the only Blemishes these
lines must take notice of and acknowledg; For the Author now perceives
that through the fault of those to whom he had committed the former
Treatise in loose Sheets, some Papers that belonged to it, have
altogether miscarryed. And though it have luckily enough happen'd, for
the most part, that the Omission of them does not marr the Cohærence
of the rest; yet till the next design'd Edition afford an
_opportunity_ of inserting them, it is thought fit that the Printer
give notice of one Omission at the End of the first Dialogue; and that
to these _Errata_ there be annex'd the ensuing sheet of Paper, that
was casually lost, or forgotten by him that should have put it into
the Presse; where it ought to have been inserted, in the 187. printed
Page, at the break, betwixt the words, [_Nature_] in the 13th. line,
and [_But_] in the next line after. Though it is to be noted here,
that by the mistake of the Printer, in some Books, the number of 187
is placed at the top of two somewhat distant pages; and in such copies
the following addition ought to be inserted in the latter of the two,
as followeth.

And on this occasion I cannot but take notice, that whereas
the great Argument which the Chymists are wont to employ to
vilify Earth and Water, and make them be look'd upon as
useless and unworthy to be reckon'd among the Principles of
Mixt Bodies, is, that they are not endow'd with Specifick
Properties, but only with Elementary qualities; of which
they use to speak very sleightingly, as of qualities
contemptible and unactive: I see no sufficient Reason for
this Practice of the Chymists: For 'tis confess'd that Heat
is an Elementary Quality, and yet that an almost innumerable
company of considerable Things are perform'd by Heat, is
manifest to them that duly consider the various _Phænomena_
wherein it intervenes as a principall Actor; and none ought
less to ignore or distrust this Truth then a Chymist. Since
almost all the operations and Productions of his Art are
performed chiefly by the means of Heat. And as for Cold it
self, upon whose account they so despise the Earth and
Water, if they please to read in the Voyages of our English
and Dutch Navigators in _Nova Zembla_ and other Northern
Regions what stupendious Things may be effected by Cold,
they would not perhaps think it so despicable. And not to
repeat what I lately recited to You out of _Paracelsus_
himself, who by the help of an intense Cold teaches to
separate the Quintessence of Wine; I will only now observe
to You, that the Conservation of the Texture of many Bodies
both animate and inanimate do's so much depend upon the
convenient motion both of their own Fluid and Looser Parts,
and of the ambient Bodies, whether Air, Water, &c. that not
only in humane Bodies we see that the immoderate or
unseasonable coldness of the Air (especially when it finds
such Bodies overheated) do's very frequently discompose the
_Oeconomie_ of them, and occasion variety of Diseases; but
in the solid and durable Body of Iron it self, in which one
would not expect that suddain Cold should produce any
notable change, it may have so great an operation, that if
you take a Wire, or other slender piece of steel, and having
brought it in the fire to a white heat, You suffer it
afterwards to cool leasurely in the Air, it will when it is
cold be much of the same hardnesse it was of before: Whereas
if as soon as You remove it from the fire, you plunge it
into cold water, it will upon the sudden Refrigeration
acquire a very much greater hardness then it had before;
Nay, and will become manifestly brittle. And that you may
not impute this to any peculiar Quality in the Water, or
other Liquor, or Unctuous matter, wherein such heated steel
is wont to be quenched that it may be temper'd; I know a
very skillful Tradesman, that divers times hardens steel by
suddenly cooling it in a Body that is neither a liquor, nor
so much as moist. A tryal of that Nature I remember I have
seen made. And however by the operation that Water has upon
steel quenched in it, whether upon the Account of its
coldness and moisture, or upon that of any other of its
qualities, it appears, that water is not alwaies so
inefficacious and contemptible a Body, as our Chymists would
have it passe for. And what I have said of the Efficacy of
Cold and Heat, might perhaps be easily enough carried
further by other considerations and experiments; were it not
that having been mention'd only upon the Bye, I must not
insist on it, but proceed to another Subject.


Pag. 5. line. 6. read _so qualify'd_, 15. 19. _Ratiocinations_, 25.
15. _for a_, 33. 17. in a parenth. (_that is no more_), 51. 24.
_besides another Caput_, 79. 10. _employ_, 86. 13. _structure_, 97.
13. _Sack_, ibid. 22. _Sack_, 104. 29. instead of _appear it, will_,
leg. _appear, it will_, 118. 20. _leasure_, ibid. _principal_, 126.
20. _and till it suffer_, 129. 3. leg. in parenth. (_notwithstanding,
&c._ 131. 15. _so_, 144. 15. [Greek: Synchysis], 151. 5. _nor have
been resolved_, 180. 25. _Magistram_, 185. 15. _lately_, 188. 15.
_tunned_, 200. 1. _intolerable_, ibid. 2. _in_, 209. 21. _tegularum_,
210. 7. _distill'd from_, 215. 25. dele _the_, 220. 1. _bodies_, 228.
11. [Transcriber's Note: 21.] _fugitive_, 231. 17. instead of _all_
lege _a pound_, 237. 6. _Chymist_, 248. 18. _Ashes off_, 251. 23.
_Deopilative)_, 259. 6. _it self_, 269. 10. [Greek: ousia analogos],
_ibid._ [Greek: astrôn stoicheiô], 276. 25. make a parenth. at the
words, _by the_, and shut it after the words in the 27. line _at all_,
280. 11. _Corals_, 288. 6. _ascribes_, 294. 22. _porosity_, ibid. 28.
_noted_, 296. 1. _Bodies_, 305. 8. _(attended_, 307. 12. dele _to_,
308. 12. _devisers_, 312. 14. _and_, 313. 3. _too_, 314. 24.
_fugitivenesse_, 333. 13. _origine_, ibid. 24. _contrivance of_, 339.
1. _Nay, Barthias_, 142. [Transcriber's Note: 342.] 3. _in; I will_,
350. 26. _absurd_, 356. 11. [Transcriber's Note: 21.] _Goutieres_,
358. 6. _antea_, 360. 1. _compertissimum_, ibid. 18. _Joachimica_,
ibid. 19 _graminis_, ibid. 23. _sua_ [Transcriber's Note: this appears
to be correct on the original page 360], 362. 6. _Dutch account_, 363.
2. _diggers)_, ibid. 11. and 12. lin. read _damp as the Englishmen
also call it_, 366. 25. _a height_, 368. 19. _in use_, 370. 9.
_latter; And_, ibid. 24. _Water; I_, 377. 22. _Rest_, ibid. 25.
_know)_, 378. 23. after _Aggregate_ insert _or complex_, ibid. 27.
dele ), ibid. 28. dele ), 379. 4. before _as_ begin a parenth. which
ends lin. 9. at _Gold_, ibid. instead of _Which_, put _This_, ibid.
12. with the word _Texture_ should be connected the next line,
_Though_, and this word _Though_ is to have put before it a
parenthesis, which is to end at the word _Fluid_ in the 16th. line,
383. 3. _Regulus Martis Stellatus_, 382. 3. _Relations_, ibid. 9.
_Chymist_, 386. 29. _confesse by teaching it_, 391. 8. _and yet may_,
392. 1. _an_, ibid. 12. _of_, 393. [Transcriber's Note: line 5]
_distinct Tasts_, 397. 13. _Talck_, 398. 18. _Earth_, 399. 18.
_parts_, 404. 8. _sal-petræ_, 419. 20. after _it_ put in _Sal_.

* * * * *

_The Publisher doth advertise the Redaer [Transcriber's Note: Reader],
that seeing there are divers Experiments related in this Treatise,
which the Author is not unwilling to submit to the consideration also
of Forraign Philosophers, he believes this piece will be very soon
translated into Latin._



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