ePub 版

and assented to by persons of ordinary capacity, and seem nothing very profound; but when a man comes to reflect and observe, and his faculties enlarge, he then sees more in them than he did at first, and more still as he advances further; his admiration of Bacon's profundity increasing as he himself grows intellectually. Bacon's wisdom is like the seven-league boots, which would fit the giant or the dwarf, except only that he dwarf cannot take the same stride in them."

[ocr errors]

The distinguished Scotch philosopher, Dugald Stewart, bears similar testimony, which indeed is confirmed by the judgment of every competent reader: "The small volume to which he has given the title of Essays,' the best known and the most popular of all his works, is one of those where the superiority of his genius appears to the greatest advantage; the novelty and depth of his reflections often receiving a strong relief from the triteness of the subject. It may be read from beginning to end in a few hours, and yet after the twentieth perusal one seldom fails to remark in it something overlooked before. This, indeed, is a characteristic of all Bacon's writings, and is only to be accounted for by the inexhaustible aliment they furnish to our own thoughts, and the sympathetic activity they impart to our torpid faculties."

After the accession of James I. in 1603, whose favor he made great efforts to placate, Bacon rose rapidly in position and honor. That year he was elevated to the order of knighthood, and the following year appointed salaried counsel to the king — a mark of favor almost without precedent. In 1613 he was advanced to the office of attorney-general. In 1617 he was created Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England — a dignity of which he was proud; and the following year he was made Lord High Chancellor, the summit of his ambition and political elevation.

Fond of elegant surroundings, he lived in great state, with liveried servants, beautiful mansions, and magnificent gardens. He was inconsiderate and lavish in his expenditures; and while laboring with conscientious fidelity to improve the laws of the

kingdom and to facilitate the administration of justice, his personal character, it must be acknowledged, did not remain. above suspicion and reproach. He was unduly subservient to the king; and to maintain his outward splendor, he accepted presents, if not bribes, from persons interested in his judicial decisions. Being tried by Parliament, he made confession to twenty-eight charges of corruption, whereupon he was condemned to pay a fine of forty thousand pounds, to be imprisoned in the Tower during the king's pleasure, and to be debarred from any office in the state. Thus, in 1621, Bacon fell from his high position, ruined in fortune and broken in spirit. Though released from the Tower after an imprisonment of two days, and relieved also of the payment of the fine, he never recovered from his disgrace.

It is difficult now to determine the extent of his guilt. It is certain that he was not, what Pope pronounced him, "the meanest of mankind." The truth probably is that he was morally weak rather then basely corrupt. Though he received presents or bribes, it can hardly be shown that he purposely perverted justice. It was not unusual for judges at that day to receive presents. There is no sufficient reason to doubt his sincerity and justice when he wrote: "For the briberies and gifts wherewith I am charged, when the book of hearts shall be opened, I hope I shall not be found to have the troubled fountain of the corrupt heart, in a depraved habit of taking rewards to pervert justice; howsoever I may be frail, and partake of the abuses of the time." He was, in some measure, a victim of secret enmity and parliamentary clamor; and in his will he did wisely to appeal from the prejudice about him to the impartial judgment of posterity. "For my name and memory," he pathetically writes, "I leave it to men's charitable speeches, to foreign nations, and the next ages."

The colossal cast of Bacon's mind is seen in his great philosophical scheme entitled the "Instauratio Magna, or the Great Institution of True Philosophy," which embodies his principal writings. It was to consist of six parts, the completion of

which was necessarily beyond the power of one man or even of one age.

I. Divisions of the Sciences. "This part exhibits a summary, or universal description, of such science and learning as mankind is, up to this time, in possession of."

II. Novum Organum; or, Precepts for the Interpretation of Nature. "The object of the second part is the doctrine touching a better and more perfect use of reasoning in the investigation of things, and the true helps of the understanding; that it may by this means be raised, as far as our human and mortal nature will admit, and be enlarged in its powers so as to master the arduous and obscure secrets of nature."

III. Phenomena of the Universe; or, Natural and Experimental History on which to found Philosophy. "The third part of our work embraces the phenomena of the universe; that is to say, experience of every kind, and such a natural history as can form the foundation of an edifice of philosophy."


IV. Scale of the Understanding. "The fourth part . . . is in fact nothing more than a particular and fully developed application of the second part."

V. Precursors or Anticipations of the Second Philosophy. "We compose this fifth part of the work of those matters which we have either discovered, tried, or added.”

VI. Sound Philosophy, or Active Science. "Lastly, the sixth part of our work (to which the rest are subservient and auxiliary) discloses and propounds that philosophy which is reared and formed by the legitimate, pure, and strict method of investigation previously taught and prepared. But it is both beyond our power and expectation to perfect and conclude this last part."

In the first part of this vast scheme Bacon embodied, in a revised form, the "Advancement of Learning," his earliest philosophical work, published in 1605. It made a complete survey of the field of learning, for the purpose of indicating what departments of knowledge had received due attention, and what subjects yet needed cultivation. It is a rich mine of wisdom

and learning. But the most celebrated part of the Instauratio Magna is the Novum Organum, in which Bacon's philosophical method is unfolded. It is written in the form of aphorisms, several of which, including the first, are here given as indicating the character of the whole work:


"I. Man, as the minister and interpreter of nature, does and understands as much as his observations on the order of nature, either with regard to things or the mind, permit him, and neither knows nor is capable of more.

"IX. The sole cause and root of almost every defect in the sciences is this; that whilst we falsely admire and extol the powers of the human mind, we do not search for its real helps.

"XIX. There are and can exist but two ways of investigating and discovering truth. The one hurries on rapidly from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms; and from them as principles and their supposed indisputable truth derives and discovers the intermediate axioms. This is the way now in use. The other constructs its axioms from the senses and particulars, by ascending continually and gradually, till it finally arrives at the most general axioms, which is the true but unattempted way."

A well-known and valuable portion of the Novum Organum is the discussion of the influences which warp the human mind in the pursuit of truth. These warping influences Bacon calls idols; and his exposition of the subject, which cannot be fully inserted here, has never been surpassed in analytical scope and power.

"XXXIX. Four species of idols beset the human mind; to which, for distinction's sake, we have assigned names, calling the first, idols of the tribe; the second, idols of the den; the third, idols of the market; the fourth, idols of the theatre.

"XLI. The idols of the tribe are inherent in human nature, and the very tribe or race of man. For man's sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things. On the contrary, all the perceptions, both of the senses and the mind, bear reference to

man, and not to the universe, and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors, which impart their own properties to different objects, from which rays are emitted, and distort and disfigure them.

"XLII. The idols of the den are those of each individual. For everybody (in addition to the errors common to the race of man) has his own individual den or cavern, which intercepts and corrupts the light of nature; either from his own peculiar and singular disposition, or from his education and intercourse with others, or from his reading, and the authority acquired by those whom he reverences and admires, or from the different impressions produced on the mind, as it happens to be preoccupied and predisposed, or equable and tranquil, and the like; so that the spirit of man (according to its several dispositions) is variable, confused, and, as it were, actuated by chance; and Heraclitus said well that men search for knowledge in lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.

"XLIII. There are also idols formed by the reciprocal intercourse and society of man with man, which we call idols of the market, from the commerce and association of man with each other. For men converse by means of language; but words are formed at the will of the generality; and there arises from a bad and unapt formation of words a wonderful obstruction to the mind. Nor can the definitions and explanations, with which learned men are wont to guard and protect themselves in some instances afford a complete remedy; words still manifestly force the understanding, throw everything into confusion, and lead mankind into vain and innumerable controversies and fallacies.

"XLIV. Lastly, there are idols which have crept into men's minds from the various dogmas of peculiar systems of philosophy, and also from the perverted rules of demonstration, and these we denominate idols of the theatre. For we regard all the systems of philosophy hitherto received or imagined, as so many plays brought out and performed, creating fictitious and

« 上一頁繼續 »