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Leonardo's theories had a tendency towards transcendental philosophy, for he taught that our bodies are in subjection to heaven, and heaven in subjection to the spirit.1 It is difficult to evolve anything like a system from such a collection of floating and contradictory assertions. Does he not endeavour to define the spirit as "a power mingled with the body, because it, the power, is unable to govern itself by itself or even to move in any way, and if you say that it does govern itself, that is impossible in the midst of the elements, for if the spirit is an incorporeal quantity, such a quantity is called a vacuum, and a vacuum does not exist in nature. Suppose it to form, it would be at once filled by the ruin of the element in which it was formed."
"In Leonardo's science," says M. Seailles, "mind is not annihilated by matter. It seeks and finds mind in matter. A colourless philosophy was alien to his mobile intellect, which here again reconciled factors apparently irreconcilable, analysis and synthesis, a taste for the contingent, and a sense of the necessary." Is not the relation of soul and body, in the human microcosm, an exact parallel in the Cosmos to that of Nature and the vast body she inhabits ?" He notes that painters are inclined to create figures resembling themselves." The body is the first work of the soul. In it she realises her idea of the human form: it becomes her type and exemplar. "Translated into modern language, Leonardo's creed may be summed up thus: Mechanism implies dynamics. All movement, finally analysed, will be seen to have its origin in spiritual activity."
Elsewhere, after having declared that "i sensi sono terrestri, la ragione sta fuor di quelli, quando contemplo la," he proclaims that "ogni nostra cognitione principia da sentimenti," anticipating the maxim of the Stoics that "nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit prius in sensu." 2
Leonardo's classification of the senses is most curious.
In the first place comes sight, which receives impressions in the form of straight lines arranged in the shape of a pyramid, and can take note both of the cause and the origin of its impressions. Then comes hearing, which is often deceived as to the distance of sounds and
1 Beltrami, // Codice .... del Principe Trivulzio, fol 65.
2 See Richter, vol. ii. pp. 287-288, 305-306.
the quarter from which they come (as in the case of an echo). Smell is still more uncertain as to the origin of those odours which are its exciting causes. Finally, taste and touch can only exercise their functions by means of material contact.1
Elsewhere again, the painter indulges in transcendental discussions of time, of the past and the future.2 Kant could not have reasoned better.
In short, Leonardo had the the sanest of all intellects in whatever had to do with nature. In him we find no hint of pessimism. He tries to understand and admire the whole work of the Creator. Once indeed he confesses that to many animals Nature is rather a cruel stepmother than a real parent, though with some, he hastens to add, she is pitiful enough.3
1 Trattato dclla Pitfura, cap. 2.
- Richter, vol. ii. p. 308-309.
3 Richter, vol. ii. pp. 131, 310-311.
THE SAVANT—DID THE STUDY OF ANTIQUITY DELAY THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE?—WAS LEONARDO A MAGIAN? -HIS SCIENTIFIC METHODS—HIS WORK AS A MATHEMATICIAN—STUDIES IN PHYSICS—INVENTION OF THE CAMERA OBSCURA—RESEARCHES IN NATURAL HISTORY—LEONARDO AS ENGINEER AND MECHANICIAN.
"Reruni cognoscere causas."
OUR century is blamed for looking backwards too much in matters of art; would it not be more reasonable to find fault with it for not giving enough importance to the past in scientific matters? It is only at rare intervals that the works of the great discoverers have attracted the curiosity of the modern student. For knowledge on such points we are reduced to the popular and hasty works—to say no more—of Louis Figuier. One really experienced student, however, M. Berthelot, has lately proved