Imagens das páginas

prehensive eye, or even shown a perfect understanding of the inductive method in all its applications and principles. As for his attempts in the actual practice of the inductive method, they were either insignificant or utter failures; and that, too, while some of his contemporaries, who in no respect acknowledged him as their teacher, were turning it to account in extorting from nature the most brilliant revelations. Nay, can it be doubted that, if Bacon had never lived, or never written, the discoveries and the writings of Galileo, and Kepler, and Pascal, and others who were now extending the empire of science by the very method which he has explained and recommended, but most assuredly without having been instructed in that method by him, would have established the universal recognition of it as the right method of philosophy just as early as such recognition actually took place 2 That Bacon's Novum Organum has, even down to the present day, affected in any material degree the actual progress of science, may be very reasonably doubted. What great discovery or inprovement can be named among all those that have been made since his time, which, from the known facts of its history, we may not fairly presume would have been made at any rate, though the Novum Organum had never been written ? What instance can be quoted of the study of that work having made, or even greatly contributed to make, any individual a discoverer in science who would not in all probability have been equally such if he had never seen or heard of it? In point of fact, there is no reason to suppose that very many of those by whom science has been most carried forward since it appeared had either deeply studied

Bacon's Novum Organum, or had even acquired any intimate or comprehensive acquaintance with the rules and directions therein laid down from other sources. Nor is it likely that they would have been more suceessful experimenters or greater discoverers if they had. For there is surely nothing in any part of the method of procedure prescribed by Bacon for the investigation of truth, that would not occur of itself to the sagacity and common sense of any person of an inventive genius pursuing such investigation; indeed, every discovery that has been made, except by accident, since science had any being, must have been arrived at by the very processes which he has explained. There can be little doubt that it would be found, on a survey of the whole history of scientific discovery, that its progress has always depended partly upon the remarkable genius of individuals, partly upon the general state of the world and the condition of civilization at different times, and not in any sensible degree upon the mere speculative views as to the right method of philosophy that have at particular eras been taught in schools or books, or otherwise generally diffused. In fact it is much more reasonable to suppose that such speculative views should have been usually influenced by the actual progress of discovery than it by them; for the recognition of sound principles of procedure, in as far as that is implied in their practical application, though not perhaps the contemplation and exposition of them in a systematic form, is necessarily involved, as has been just observed, in the very act of scientific discovery. All this being considered, we cannot attribute to Bacon's Novum Organum any considerable direct share, nor even much indirect influence, in promoting the progress which science has made in certain departments since his time; we think that progress is to be traced to other causes altogether, and that it would have been pretty nearly what it is though the Novum Organum never had been written. Galileo, and not Bacon, is the true father of modern natural philosophy. That, in truth, was not Bacon's province at all; neither his acquirements nor the peculiar character and constitution of his mind fitted him for achieving anything on that ground. The common mistake regarding him is the same as if it were to be said that not Homer, but Aristotle, was the father of poetry, because he first investigated and explained the principles or philosophy of a part of the art of poetry, although his own mind was one of the most unpoetical that ever existed. Bacon belongs not to mathematical or natural science, but to literature and to moral science in its most extensive acceptation,--to the realm of imagination, of wit, of eloquence, of aesthetics, of history, of jurisprudence, of political philosophy, of logic, of metaphysics and the investigation of the powers and operations of the human mind. For this last, in reality, and not the investigation of nature, is the subject of his Novum Organum and his other writings on the advancement of human knowledge. He is in no respect an investigator or expounder of mathematics, or of mechanics, or of astronomy, or of chemistry, or of any other branch of geometrical or physical science (his contributions to natural history are not worth regarding); but he is a most penetrating and comprehensive investigator, and a most magnificent expounder, of that higher philosophy, in comparison with which all these things are but a more intellectual sort of legerdemain. Let the mathematicians, therefore, and the mechanicians, and the naturalists find out for themselves some other head: they have no claim to Bacon. All his works, his essays, his philosophical writings, commonly so called, and what he has done in liistory, are of one and the same character; reflective and, so to speak, poetical, not simply demonstrative, or elucidatory of mere matters of fact. What, then, is his glory?—in what did his greatness consist 2 In this, we should say —that an intellect at once one of the most capacious and one of the most profound ever granted to a mortal—in its powers of vision at the same time one of the most penetrating and one of the most far-reaching— was in him united and reconciled with an almost equal endowment of the imaginative faculty; and that he is, therefore, of all philosophical writers, the one in whom are found together, in the largest proportions, depth of thought and splendour of eloquence. His intellectual ambition, also,-a quality of the imagination,--was of the most towering character; and no other philosophic writer has taken up so grand a theme as that on which he has laid out his strength in his greatest works. But with the progress of scientific discovery that has taken place during the last two hundred years, we conceive these works to have had hardly anything to do. His Advancement of Learning and his Novum Organum appear to us to be poems rather than scientific treatises; and we should almost as soon think of fathering modern physical science upon Paradise Lost as upon them. Perhaps the calmest and clearest examination of Bacon's philosophy that has yet appeared is that given by Mr. Hallam in his History of European Literature.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Hallam's estimate of what Bacon has done for science is much higher than ours; but yet the following passage seems to come very near to the admission of, or at least very strongly to corroborate, all that we have just been stating:—“It is evident that he had turned his thoughts to physical philosophy rather for an exercise of his reasoning faculties, and out of his insatiable thirst for knowledge, than from any peculiar aptitude for their subjects, much less any advantage of opportunity for their cultivation. He was more eminently the philosopher of human than of general nature. Hence he is exact as well as profound in all his reflections on civil life and mankind; while his conjectures in natural philosophy, though often very acute, are apt to wander far from the truth in consequence of his defective acquaintance with the phenomena of nature. His Centuries of Natural History give abundant proof of this. He is, in all these inquiries, like one doubtfully, and by degrees, making out a distant prospect, but often deceived by the haze. But if we compare what may be found in the sixth, seventh, and eighth Books De Augmentis, in the Essays, the History of Henry VII., and the various short treatises contained in his works, on moral and political wisdom, and on human nature, from experience of which all such wisdom is drawn, with the Rhetoric, Ethics, and Politics of Aristotle, or with the historians most celebrated for their deep insight into civil society and human character, with Thucydides, Tacitus, Philip de Comines, Machiavel, Davila, Hume, we shall, I think, find that one man may almost be compared with all of these together. When Galileo is named as equal to Bacon, it is to be remembered that Galileo was no moral or political philo

« AnteriorContinuar »