Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]






The Father of modern Science has remarked, that the human mind is apt to propose to itself theories of nature, involving a uniformity which does not exist; and to imagine parallels, correspondencies, and relations, which are not actually to be found. This tendency to substitute the creations of fancy for painful and honest inquiry, Bacon regards as one of those cherished' idols' of the mind, which have kept men from arriving at truth. * Whatever be the analysis of this intellectual propensity, illustrations of it abound in the history of human

• Novum Organon.

knowledge, both in ancient and modern times. Hence the notion, among the earliest philosophers, that fire must be added to air, earth, and water, to make


the even number of the four elements, or first principles of all things :-also, the theory which prevailed till the time of Kepler, that the planets must of necessity all move in perfect circles. Even Kepler himself imagined that these bodies were six in number, from a mystical relation between the intervals of their spheres, and the dimensions of the five regular geometric solids ; and he declared he would not part with this discovery, for the electorate of Saxony.' * He was ingenuous enough to acknowledge, that when Galileo's telescope brought to view the satellites of Jupiter, his first feeling was-concern for his favourite theory; which, with all its harmonies, now vanished before his own eyes. This concern was not unnatural: nor was it inconsistent with a predominant love of truth; though it proved that genius could not compensate for the want of that unpretending and practical philosophy, the laws of which, Bacon was the first to digest into a system, so as to render them triumphant in all future time.

It were well, had philosophers, alone, been

* Kepleri Prodromus Dissertationum Cosmographicarum. Tübingen, 1596.

misled by dreams of the exclusive perfection of some favourite idea, while all beside was felt to clash with the proper order of the universe. It were happy, had some whose theme is greater than philosophy, been always ready to yield to the force of evidence. But a tenacious and incurable impression of the supposed necessity of a uniformity, which, fact and experience teach us, the AllWise has not judged essential to his plans,-has often marred the unity of the church, obstructed the progress of religion, and disturbed the peace of the world.

Bacon further notices how much men are wont to be misled by mere words. When we would define things, not by vulgar notions, but by accurate discrimination, 'words,' says this acute observer,

cry out and forbid. The truth of this remark, all must admit. There is apt to be found in words, what Plato, somewhere, complains of in matter, ‘a something stubborn and refractory,' * which tends to resist our apprehending them in their true meaning. They are, often, the almost inseparable signs of erroneous associations, which have grown with our growth, and strengthened with our strength. Illustrations might be drawn from many of the terms peculiar to theology; and from none more appropriately than from the term SCHISM.

* άτακτών τι και ανθιστάμενον. .

« EelmineJätka »