Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The friend : a series of essays to aid in the formation of fixed principles in politics, morals, and religion, with literary amusements interspersed online

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all the theories. These give the law, and in it the method, both of
arranging the phenomena and of substantiating appearances into facts
of science ; with a success proportionate to the clearness or confusedness
of the insight into the law. For this reason, we anticipate the greatest-
improvements in the method, the nearest approaches to a system of
electricity from these philosophers, who have presented the law most
purely, and the correlative idea as an idea; those, namely, who, since
the year 1798, in the true spirit of experimental dynamics, rejecting the
imagination of any material substrate, simple or compound, contemplate
in the phaniomena of electricity the operation of a law which reigns
through all nature, the law of polarity, or the manifestation of one
power by opposite forces : who trace in these appearances, as the most
obvious and striking of its innumerable forms, the agency of the positive
and negative poles of a power essential to all material construction ; the
second, namely, of the three primary principles, for which the beautiful
and most appropriate symbols are given by the mind in the three ideal
dimensions of space.

The time is, perhaps, nigh at hand, when the same comparison be-
tween the -results of two unequal periods; the interval between the
knowledge of a fact, and that from the discovery of the law, will be ap-
plicable to the sister science of magnetism. But how great the contrast
between magnetism and electricity, at the present moment ! From
remotest antiquity, the attraction of iron by the magnet was known and
noticed ; but century alter century, it remained the undisturbed property



318 The Friend.

of poets and orators. The fact of the magnet and the fable of the pho3-
nix stood on the same scale of utility. In the thirteenth century, or
perhaps earlier, the polarity of the magnet, and its communicability to
iron, were discovered ; and soon suggested a purpose so grand and im-
portant, that it may well be deemed the proudest trophy ever raised by
accident* in the service of mankind the invention oi the compass. But
it led to no idea, to no law, and consequently to no method ; though a
variety of phasnomena, as startling as they are mysterious, have forced
on us a presentiment of its intimate connection with all the great agen-
cies of nature; of a revelation, in ciphers, the key to which is still want-
ing. We can recall no incident of human history that impresses the
imagination more deeply than the moment when Columbus,f on an un-
known ocean, first perceived one of these startling facts, the change of
the magnetic needle !

In what shall we seek the cause of this contrast between the rapid
progress of electricity and the stationary condition of magnetism ? As
many theories, as many hypotheses, have been advanced in the latter
science as in the former. But the theories and fictions of the electricians
contained an idea, and all the same idea, which has necessarily led to
method ; implicit indeed, and only regulative hitherto, but which re-
quires little more than the dismission of the imagery to become consti-
tutive like the ideas of the geometrician. On the contrary, the assump-
tions of the magnetists (as, for instance, the hypothesis that the planet
itself is one vast magnet, or that an immense magnet is concealed within
it; or that of a concentric globe within the earth, revolving on its own
independent axis) are but repetitious of the same fact or phenomenon

* If accident it were : if the compass did majesty of the poetry, has but " few peers iu

not obscurely travel to us from the remotest ancient or in modern song."
east: if its existence there does not point to COLUMBUS.

an age and a race, to which scholars of Certo da cor, ch' alto destin non scelse,

highest rank in the world of letters, Sir W. Son 1' imprese magnanime neglette ;

Jones, Bailly, Schlegel have attached faith ! Ma le bell' alme alle bell' opre elette

That it was known before the era generally Sanno gioir nelle tatiche eccelse :

assumed for its invention, and not spoken of Ne biasmo popolar, frale catena,

as a novelty, has been proved by Mr. Southey Spirto d' onore il suo cammin raffrena.

and others. Cosi Umga stagion per modi indegni

f It cannot be deemed alien from the pur- Kuropa disprezzb 1' inclita sperue :

poses of this disquisition, if we are anxious Schernendo il vulgo (e seco i Regi insieme)

to attract the &.tt?iuio of our readers to the Nudo nocchier promettitcr di Rfgni;

importance of speculative meditation, even Ma per le sconosciute onde marine

for the worlulj interests of mankind ; and to L' invitta proraei pur sospinseal fine,

that concurrence of nature and historic ercnt Qual uom, che torni alia gentil consorte,

with the great revolutionary movements of Tal ei da sua magion spiego 1' antenne ;

individual genius, of which so many instances L' ocean corse, e 1 turbini sostenne,

occur in the stu 'j of history how Nature Vinse le crude immagini di morte;

(why should we hesitate in saying, that I'oscia, del!" ampio mar spenta la guerra,

which in nature itself is more than nature?) Scorse la dianzi favolosa Terra,

seems to come forward in order to meet, to Allorda! cavo Pin scende veloce

aid, and tu reward every idi j a excited by a Edi grand Orma il nuovo mondo imprime;

contemplation of her methods in the spirit of Ne rcen ratio per 1' Aria erge sublime,

filial care.'and with the humility of love ! It Segno del Ciel, I'insuperabil Croce ;

is with this view tliut we extract from an ode E porge umile esempio, onde adorarla

of Chiabrera's the followinn lines, which, in JJebba sua Geute.
the strength of the thought and the lofty CHIABUF.RA. vol. i.



Section 2. Essay 8. 319

looked at through a magnifying glass ; the reiteration of the problem,
not its solution. The naturalist, who cannot or will not see, that one
fact is often worth a thousand, as including them all in itself, and that
it first makes all the others facts ; who has not the head to comprehend,
the soul to reverence, a central experiment or observation (what the
Greeks would perhaps have called a protophajnomenon) ; will never
receive an auspicious answer from the oracle of nature.



ESSAY VIII.

The sun doth give

Brightness to the eye ; and some say, that the sun
If not enligliten'd by the Intelligence
That doth inhabit it, would shine no more
Than a dull clod of earth. CABTWBIGUT.

IT is strange, yet characteristic of the spirit that was at work during the
latter half of the last century, and of which the French Revolution was,
we hope, the closing monsoon, that the writings of Plato should be
accused of estranging the mind from sober experience and substantial
matter of fact, and of debauching it by fictions and generalities. Plato,
whose method is inductive throughout, who argues on all subjects not
only from, but in and by, inductions of facts! Who warns us indeed
against that usurpation of the senses, which, quenching the " lumen
siccum" of the mind, sends it astray after individual cases for their own
sakes ; against that " tenuem ct manipularem experientiam,'" which re-
mains ignorant even of the transitory relations, to which the " pauca
particidaria " of its idolatry not seldom owe their fluxional existence ;
but who so far oftener, and with such unmitigated hostility, pursues the
assumptions, abstractions, generalities, and verbal legerdemain of the
Sophists ! Strange, but still more strange, that a notion so groundless
should be entitled to plead in its behalf the authority of Lord Bacon,
from whom the Latin words in the preceding sentence are taken, and
whose scheme of logic, as applied to the contemplation of nature, is
Platonic throughout, and differing only in the mode ; which in Lord
Bacon is dogmatic, i.e. assertory, in Plato tentative, and (to adopt the
Socratic phrase) obstetric. We are not the first, or even among the
first, who have considered Bacon's studied depreciation of the ancients,
with his silence, or worse than silence, concerning the merits of his con-
temporaries, as the least amiable, the least exhilarating side in the cha-
racter of our illustrious countryman. His detractions from the divine
Plato it is more easy to explain than to justify or even to palliate; and
that he has merely retaliated Aristotle's own unfair treatment of his
predecessors and contemporaries, may lessen the pain, but should not
blind us to the injustice of the aspersions on the name and works of



320 The Friend.

this philosopher. The most eminent of our recent zoologists and mine-
ralogists have acknowledged with respect, and even with expressions of
wonder, the performances of Aristotle, as the first clearer and breaker-
up of the ground in natural history. It is indeed scarcely possible to
pursue the treatise on colours, falsely ascribed to Theophrastus, the
scholar and successor of Aristotle, after a due consideration of the state
and means of science at that time, without resenting the assertion, that
he had utterly enslaved his investigations in natural history to his own
system of logic (logics suae prorsus mancipavit). Nor let it be forgotten
that the sunny side of Lord Bacon's character is to be found neither in
his inductions, nor in the application of his own method to particular
phenomena, or particular classes of physical facts, which are at least as
crude for the age of Gilbert, Galileo, and Kepler, as Aristotle's for
that of Philip and Alexander. Nor is it to be found in his recommen-
dation (which is wholly independent of his inestimable principles of
scientific method) of tabular collections of particulars. Let any unpre-
judiced naturalist turn to Lord Bacon's questions and proposals for the
investigation of single problems ; to his Discourse on the Winds ; or to
the almost comical caricature of this scheme in the " Method of im-
proving Natural Philosophy," (page 22 to 48), by Robert Hooke (the
history of whose multifold inventions, and indeed of his whole philoso-
phical life, is the best answer to the scheme if a scheme so palpably
impracticable needs any answer), and put it to his conscience, whether
any desirable end could be hoped for from such a process ; or inquire of
his own experience, or historical recollections, whether any important
discovery was ever made in this way.* For though Bacon never so far
deviates from his own principles as not to admonish the reader that the

We refer the reader to the Posthumous binders, stage-players, dancing-masters, and

Works of Robert Hooke, M.D. F.R.C. &c. vanlters, apothecaries, chtrurgeuns, seameten,

folio, published under the auspices of the butchers, barbers, laundresses, and cosmetics !
Royal Society, by their Secretary, Richard &c. &c. &c. &c. (the true nature of which
Waller; and especially to the pages from being actually determined) will hugely
p. 22 to 42 inclusive, as containing the prelimi- facilitate our inquiries in philosophy ! ! !"
nary knowledges requisite or desirable for the As a summary of L)r. R. Hooke's multi-
naturalist, before he can form "even a farious recipe lor the growth of science may
fiiundat ion upon which anything like a sound be fairly placed that of the celebrated lir.
and stable theory can be constituted." As a Watts for the improvement of the mind,
small specimen of this appalling catalogue of which was thought, by Dr. Knox, to be w.ir-
proliminaries with which he is to make him- thy of insertion in the Elegant Extracts, vol.
self conversant, take the following: "The ii. p. 456, under the head of
history of potters, tobacco-pipe-makers, "DiitEcriuxs CONCKKMNG ouu IDEAS.
glaziers, glass-grinders, looking-glass-makers " Furnish yourselves with a rich variety
or toilers, spectacle-makers and optic-glass- of ideas. Acquaint yourselves with things
makers, makers of counterfeit pearl and ancient and modern ; things natural, civil,
precious stones, bugle-makers, lamp-blowers, and religious ; things of your native land,
colour-makers, colour-grinders, gla>s-pa;nters, mid ot foreign countries; things domestic
enameUurg, vamishers, colour-sellers, painters, and national; things present, past, and
limners, picture-drawers, makers of baby- future ; and above all, be wtll acquainted
heads, of little bowling-stones or marbles, with God and yourselves; wiih animal
fustian-makers (query whether potts are in- nature, and the workings of your own spirits,
eluded in this trade?), music-masters, lirisey- Surh a general acquaintance with thing* will
makers, and Uggers. The history of school- be of very great advantage."
matters, writing-masters, printers, book-



Section 2. Essay 8. 321

particulars are to be thus collected, only that by careful selection they
may be concentrated into universals ; yet so immense is their number,
and so various and almost endless the relations in which each is to lie
separately considered, that the lite of an antediluvian patriarch would
have been expended, and his strength and spirits wasted, in merely poll-
ing the votes, and long before he could have commenced the process of
simplification, or have arrived in sight of the law which was to reward
the toils of the over-tasked Psychr.*

\Vi- yield to none in our grateful veneration of Lord Bacon's philoso-
phical writings. We are proud of his very name, as men of science ;
and as Englishmen, we are almost vain of it. But we may not permit
the honest workings of national attachment to degenerate into the
jealous and indiscriminate partiality of clanship. Uuawed by such as
praise and abuse by wholesale, we dare avow that there are points in the
character of our Verulam, from which we turn to the life and labours
of John Keplerf as from gloom to sunshine. The beginning and the
close of his life were clouded by jwverty aud domestic troubles, while
the intermediate years were comprised within the most tumultuous
period of the history of his country, when the furies of religious and
political discord had left neither eye, ear, nor heart for the Muses. But
Kepler seemed born to prove that true genius can overpower all obsta-
cles. If he gives an account of his modes of proceeding, and of the views
under which they first occurred to his mind, how unostentatiously and
in ti'oitbitu, as it were, does he introduce himself to our notice ; and y. t
never fails to present the living germ out of which the genuine method,
as the inner form of the tree of science, springs up ! With what affec-
tionate reverence does he express himself of his master and immediate
predecessor, Tycho Bralie ! with what zeal does he vindicate his services
against posthumous detraction ! How often aud how gladly does he
speak of Copernicus ! and with what fervent tones of faith and consola-
tion does he proclaim the historic fact that the great men of all a_;t s
have prepared the way for each other, as pioneers and heralds ! Equally
just to the ancients and to his contemporaries, how circumstantially, and
with what exactness of detail, does Kepler demonstrate that Euclid
Copemiciaea a>s npo rov Koirepviicov KorrepviKi&i JLvK\(i8r)sl and how
it the compliments which headdresses to Porta ! with what cor-
diality he thanks him for the invention of the camera obscura, as en-
larging his views into the laws of vision ! But while we cannot avoid
contrasting this generous enthusiasm with Lord Bacon's cold invidious
treatment of Gilbert, and his at-sertion that the works of Plato and
Aristotle had been carried down the stream of time, like straws, by their

* See the beautiful allegoric tale of Cupid s'anres of that hidden wisdom, " where more

and ISyche, in the original of Apuleius. Th-; is me:mt thaii meets the ear"

task-; iu)|><-s< d on her by the Ji-alum-y <>f ln-r "f Horn 1571, ten years after Lord Bacon :

mother-in-law, and the ac''iicy by which tin y died 1630, four years after the death of

are at length self-performed, are noble iii- Bacon.



322 n e Friend.

levity alone, when things of weight and worth had sunk to the bottom :
still iu the founder of a revolution, scarcely less important for the scien-
tific, and even for the commercial world, than that of Luther for the
world of religion and politics, we must allow much to the heat of protes-
tation, much to the vehemence of hope, and much to the vividness of
novelty. Still more must we attribute to the then existing and actual
state of the Platonic and Peripatetic philosophies, or rather to the dreams
or verbiage which then passed current as such. Had he but attached
to their proper authors the schemes and doctrines which he condemns,
our illustrious countryman would, in this point, at least, have needed
no apology. And surely no lover of truth, conversant with the particu-
lars of Lord Bacon's life, with the very early, almost boyish age, at
which he quitted the university, and the manifold occupations and
anxieties in which his public and professional duties engaged, and his
courtly alas ! his servile, prostitute, and mendicant ambition, entan-
gled him in his after years, will be either surprised or offended, though
we should avow our conviction, that he had derived his opinions of
Plato and Aristotle from any source rather than from a dispassionate
and patient study of the originals themselves. At all events, it will be
no easy task to reconcile many passages in the De Augmentis, and the
Redargutio Philosophiarum, with the author's own fundamental princi-
ples, as established in his Novum Organum ; if we attach to the words
the meaning which they may bear, or even, in some instances, the
meaning which might appear to us, in the present age, more obvious ;
instead of the sense in which they were employed by the professors,
whose false premises and barren methods Bacon was at that time contro-
verting. And this historical interpretation is rendered the more neces-
sary by his fondness for point and antithesis in his style, where we must
often disturb the sound in order to arrive at the sense. But with these
precautions ; and if, in collating the philosophical works of Lord Bacon
with those of Plato, we, in both cases alike, separate the grounds and
essential principles of their philosophic systems from the inductions
themselves ; no inconsiderable portion of which, in the British sage, as
well as in the divine Athenian, is neither more nor less crude and erro-
neous than might be anticipated from the infant state of natural history,
chemistry, and physiology, in their several ages ; and if we moreover
separate the principles from their practical application, which in both is
not seldom impracticable, and, in our countryman, not always reconcile-
able with the principles themselves : we shall not only extract that from
each, \vhich is for all ages, and which constitutes their true systems of
philosophy, but shall convince ourselves that they are radically one and
the same system ; in that, namely, which is of universal and imperish-
able worth ! the science of method, and the grounds and conditions of
the science of method.



Section '2. Essay 9. 323



ESSAY IX.

A great authority may be a poor proof, but it is an excellent presumption : and few things
give a wise man a truer delight than to reconcile two great authorities, that had been com-
monly but falsely held to be dissonant. STAFYLTON.

UNDER a deep impression of the importance of the truths we have
vcd to develope, we would tain remove every prejudice that
does not originate in the heart rather than in the understanding. For
truth, says the wise man, will not enter a malevolent spirit.

To oiler or to receive names in lieu of sound arguments, is only less
reprehensible than an ostentatious contempt of the great men of former
hut we may well and wisely avail ourselves of authorities in con-
firmation of truth, and above all, in the removal of prejudices founded
on imperfect information. We do not see, therefore, how we can more
appropriately conclude this first explanatory and controversial section
of our inquiry, than by a brief statement of our renowned countryman's
own principles of method, conveyed for the greater part in his o.wn
words. Nor do we see, in what more precise form we can recapitulate
the substance of the doctrines asserted and vindicated in the preceding
. For we rest our strongest pretensions to a calm and respeeti'ul
])orusal, in the first instance, on the fact, that we have only re-proclaimed
the coinciding prescripts of the Athenian Verulam, and the British
Plato genuinam scilicet PLATOXIS dialecticem ; et methodologiam
principialem

FRANCISCI DE VERULAMIO.

In the first instance, Lord Bacon equally with ourselves, demarfds
what we have ventured to call the intellectual or mental initiative, as the
motive and guide of every philosophical experiment ; some well-grounded
purpose, some distinct impression of the probable results, some self-
consistent anticipation as the ground of the "prudeus qtuestio*' (the
forethoughtful query), which he affirms to be the prior half of the know-
ledge sought, diinidium scimti\r. "With him, therefore, as with us, an
idea is an experiment proposed, an experiment is an idea realized. Fur
so, though, in other words, he himself informs us : " neque sr.itntw.rn mo-
lintur (am st-uutt i" I iiitfnnn- n'ix quam experimeittis ; ((mini experi-
mentorum lonye major est subtilihis quam sensiis ipslus, licet inftriiincii-
,'iisitis adj'uti. Nam de iislojuirititr cjcjnriiuentis, quit nd iutot-
tionem fjus quod queer itur jKrite tt stcundum artem excoffitata <.,'
apjx'tita sut. Jtaque percept lot, i n nttu immtdiatce ac jirojn'in nun
multuiii tribuimus: sed cb rt/n dedttcifntu, ut sensus tantihn dc t
mento, erperimcntinn de re, judicit."' This last sentence is, as the atten-



324 The Friend.

tive reader will have himself detected, one of those faulty verbal anti-
theses, not unfrequent in Lord Bacon's writings. Pungent antitheses,
and the analogies of wit in which the resemblance is too often more in-
debted to the double or equivocal sense of a word, than to any real con-
formity* in the thing or image, form the dulcia vitia of his style, the
Delilahs of our philosophical Samson. But in this instance, as indeed
throughout all his works, the meaning is clear and evident namely,
that the sense can apprehend, through the organs of sense, only the
phenomena evoked by the experiment : vis verb mentis ea, quas ejj'tri-
meritum excogitaverat, de re jvdictt : i. e. that power which, out of its
own conceptions had shaped the experiment, must alone determine the
true import of the phenomena. If again we ask, what it is which gives
birth to the question, and then ad intent ionem qucfstionissuceexperimen-
tum excogitat, unde de re judicet, the answer is: Lux Iritelltctus, lumen
siccum, the pure and impersonal reason, freed from all the various idols
enumerated by our great legislator of science (idola tribus, speci!s,fori, the-
atri~) ; that is, freed from the limits, the passions, the prejudices, the peculiar
habits of the human understanding, natural or acquired ; but above all,
pure from the arrogance which leads man to take the forms and me-
chanism of his own mere reflective faculty, as the measure of nature and
of Deity. In this indeed we find the great object both of Plato's and of
Lord Bacon's labours. They both saw that there could be no hope of
any fruitful and secure method, w r hile forms, merely subjective, were
presumed as the true and proper moulds of objective truth. This is the
sense in which Lord Bacon uses the phrases, intelltctus humanus, mens
hominis, so profoundly and justly characterised in the preliminary
essay (Distributio Operis) of his Novum Organum. And with all
right and propriety did he so apply them ; for this was, in fact, the sense
in which the phrases were applied by the teachers whom he is contro-
verting ; by the doctors of the schools ; and the visionaries of the labo-
ratory. To adopt the bold but happy phrase of a late ingenious French
writer, it is the homme particuliere, as contrasted with Thomme gene-
rale; against which, Heraclitus and Plato, among the ancients, and
among the moderns, Bacon and Stewart (rightly understood), warn and
pre-admonish the sincere inquirer. Most truly, and in strict consonance
with his two great predecessors, does our immortal Veralam teach
that the human understanding, even independent of the causes that
always, previously to its purification by philosophy, render it more or
less turbid or uneven, "ipsa sua natura radios ex fgura et sectione
propria immutat :" that our understanding not only reflects the objects
subjectively, that is, substitutes for the inherent laws and properties of



Online LibrarySamuel Taylor ColeridgeThe friend : a series of essays to aid in the formation of fixed principles in politics, morals, and religion, with literary amusements interspersed → online text (page 41 of 50)