« AnteriorContinuar »
When resident in the University, I read the following passage: “The life and faculties of man, at the best but short and limited, cannot be employed more rationally, or laudably, than in the search of knowledge ; and especially of that sort which relates to our duty, and conduces to our happiness. In these inquiries, therefore, wherever I perceive any glimmering of truth before me, I readily pursue and endeavour to trace it to its source, without any reserve or caution of pushing the discovery too far. I look upon the discovery of any thing that is true as a valuable acquisition to society, which cannot possibly hurt or obstruct the good effect of any other truth whatsoever, for they all partake of one common essence, and necessarily coincide with each other; and like the drops of rain which fall separately into the river, mix themselves at once with the stream, and strengthen the general current.”
With the ardour of youth, ever supposing that it can realize what it imagines, I commenced a work upon the Preservation of Health, the Regu
lation of the Passions, and the Conduct of the Understanding, upon which I proceeded for many years, until I was obliged to suspend my labours that I might collect the works of Lord Bacon. From the moment of my completion of this attempt I resumed my inquiries upon the Conduct of the Understanding, which, after many years' steady labour, I have concluded,
It is written in aphorisms, in obedience to the intimation of Lord Bacon, and of his friend Hobbes, who both thought that the proper style for philosophy was aphorisms. Lord Bacon says: “The delivery in aphorisms is a test of the knowledge of the writer. Methodical delivery is better to procure consent; worse to generate action. Aphorisms invite persons to add to knowledge: methodical delivery is a bar to such addition, carrying a show of a total and perfect knowledge, securing men as if they were at the furthest.”
In aphorisms Bacon's most important work, his “Novum Organum," and his valuable tract on “ Justitia Universalis," are written. I, however, have not contented myself with the aphorisms, but have annexed, in the Appendix, the proofs of the assertions in the aphorisms, that the student may, at his own pleasure, refer to the inquiries or omit them. Each note is an elucidation of the aphorism to which it refers.
CONDUCT OF THE UNDERSTANDING,
KNOWLEDGE consists in understanding the properties of creatures, and the names by which they are called,-- Ignorance in not understanding them; Error in misunderstanding them.
Knowledge is of two sorts :
1st. Knowledge of things.
There is an intimate connexion between happiness and knowledge, and between error and misery.
Assuming these positions to be true, the question is, how the mind can be so disciplined as to be least infected by error, and most stored with knowledge ?
How shall our reason be guided, that it be right; that it be not a blind guide, but direct us to the place where the Star appears, and point to the very House where the babe lieth ?
The subject is thus divided : 1. MOTIVES
ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE. 2. OBSTACLES THE ACQUISITION
KNOWLEDGE. 3. OUR POWERS TO ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE. 4. THE ART OF INVENTION.
Motives for acquiring Knowledge.
Love of knowledge.
Fear is not a good motive for acquiring knowledge.
Fear may cause the immediate acquisition, but chills the love of knowledge.
Emulation leads to that portion of knowledge for which it operates.
Emulation is attended with the chance of contracting a habit to acquire knowledge. (D)
Emulation is only a temporary motive. (F)
When the temporary motive ceases to operate, and the desire continues, it will, without caution, waste itself in some idle pursuit.