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reverence, and a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means whereof, men have withdrawn themselves too much from the contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon these intellectualists, which are, notwithstanding, commonly taken for the most sublime and divine philosophers, Heraclitus gave a just censure, saying, “Men sought truth in “ their own little worlds, and not in the great and
common world;" for they disdain to spell, and so by degrees to read in the volume of God's works; and contrariwise, by continual meditation and agitation of wit, do urge and as it were invocate their own spirits to divine, and give oracles unto them, whereby they are deservedly deluded.
Another error that hath some connexion with this latter, is, that men have used to infect their meditations, opinions, and doctrines, with some conceits which they have most admired, or some sciences which they have most applied ; and given all things else a tincture according to them, utterly untrue and improper. So hath Plato intermingled his philosophy with theology, and Aristotle with logic; and the second school of Plato, Proclus and the rest, with the mathematics. For these were the arts which had a kind of primogeniture with them severally. So have the alchymists made a philosophy out of a few experiments of the furnace; and Gilbertus, our countryman, hath made a philosophy out of the observations of a loadstone. So Cicero,
when, reciting the several opinions of the nature of the soul, he found a musician that held the soul was but a harmony, saith pleasantly, “ Hic ab arte sua “nonrecessit,” &c. But of these conceits Aristotle speaketh seriously and wisely, when he saith, “ Qui “ respiciunt ad pauca
de facili pronunciant." Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action, commonly spoken of by the ancients; the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable ; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even : so it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts ; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Another error is in the manner of the tradition and delivery of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory, and not ingenuous and faithful; in a sort as may be soonest believed, and not easiliest examined. It is true, that in compendious treatises for practice, that form is not to be disallowed : but in the true handling of knowledge, men ought not to fall, either, on the one side, into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean : “Nil tam “ metuens, quàm ne dubitare aliqua de re videretur:” nor, on the other side, into Socrates' ironical doubting of all things; but to propound things sincerely, with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a man's own judgment proved more or less.
Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavours; for whereas the more constant and devoted kind of professors of any science ought to propound to themselves to make some additions to their science, they convert their labours to aspire to certain second prizes : as to be a profound interpreter or commentor, to be a sharp champion or defender, to be a methodical compounder or abridger, and so the patrimony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom augmented.
But the greatest error of all the rest, is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or furthest end of knowledge: for men have entred into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity, and inquisitive appetite ; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight ; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession ; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in knowledge a couch, whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a tarrasse for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale ; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man's estate. But this is that which will indeed dignify
and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together than they have been; a conjunction like unto that of the two highest planets, Saturn, the planet of rest and contemplation, and Jupiter, the planet of civil society and action : howbeit, I do not mean, when I speak of use and action, that end before-mentioned of the applying of knowledge to luere and profession; for I am not ignorant how much that diverteth and interrupteth the prosecution and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta, which while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up, the race is hindered;
“ Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.”
Neither is my meaning, as was spoken of Socrates, to call philosophy down from heaven to converse upon the earth; that is, to leave natural philosophy aside, and to apply knowledge only to manners and policy. But as both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to the use and benefit of man; so the end ought to be, from both philosophies to separate and reject vain speculations, and whatsoever is empty and void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever is solid and fruitful : that knowledge may not be, as a curtesan, for pleasure and vanity only, or as a bond-woman, to acquire and gain to her master's use; but as a spouse, for generation, fruit, and comfort.
Thus have I described and opened, as by a kind of dissection, those peccant humours, (the principal of them,) which have not only given impediment to the proficience of learning, but have given also occasion to the traducement thereof; wherein if I have been too plain, it must be remembered, “Fi“ delia vulnera amantis, sed dolosa oscula malignan“ tis.” This, I think, I have gained, that I ought to be the better believed in that which I shall say pertaining to commendation; because I have proceeded so freely in that which concerneth censure. And yet I have no purpose to enter into a laudative of learning, or to make a hymn to the muses ; (though I am of opinion that it is long since their rites were duly celebrated :) but my intent is, without varnish or amplification, justly to weigh the dignity of knowledge in the balance with other things, to take the true value thereof by testimonies and arguments divine and human. + First, therefore, let us seek the dignity of knowledge in the archetype or first platform, which is in the attributes and acts of God, as far as they are revealed to man, and may be observed with sobriety; wherein we may not seek it by the name of learning ; for all learning is knowledge acquired, and all knowledge in God is original: and therefore we must look for it by another name, that of wisdom or sapience, as the Scriptures call it.