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Constellations, without talking of their Vortices and their fubtile Matter? Upon such affected Principles, the finest Genius would but lay it self open to Ridicule.
XXV. And yet this is the Spirit which seems chiefly to reign among the Philosophers of our Days. Men attempt to signalize themselves by thinking out of the Way, and relinquish common Sense only because ?tis common. If they happen to imagine what was never before conceiv'd, they
feel a Pleasure in advancing what was never be"Ut in op- fore asserted. 'Tis on this Account, that Arcesilas timâ re who overturn’d the Old Academy to establish publica Tiberius the New, is by Tally compar'd to Gracchus, and Gracchus, the other feditious Disturber's of civil Govern. qui otium ment. Peter Ramus in these latter Times, had conturba- almoft ruin'd the University of Paris, by the ret, fic Ar. like Methods: His Zeal against the pretended constitu- Followers of Aristotle, carried him to attack tam philo- the true Aristotelian Doctrine; and under the fophiam Shew of restoring Peace to the Schools, he fillid everteret. them with Tumult and Confusion." He was in. Q Acad.4 deed a learned Man, bold and resolute in his
Decisions, but naturally of a turbulent Spirit; who set himself to imitate Laurentius Valla and Ludovicus Vives, two eminent Criticks of the Age before him, only that he might have the Glory of raising a new Sect. In the same man. ner, how often do Men argue and dispute with no other Profpect, but to overthrow establifh'd Things by an Affectation of Novelty ? If unable to coin new Opinions, they find means to give a new Form and Stamp to the Old ; and that they may ere&t themselves into Authors at whatsoever Expence, disguise and varnish over a new Do&trine with a Change of Language; imitating Zeno in drelling up anci
ent Nations under modern Names: For what will not Men do to distinguish themselves from the Vulgar, and to lay the Basis of a great Reputation ? But since ’tis really the Licentioufness of Manners that produces this in Opinions, there ought to be some Boundaries set to Thinking, and some Restraint laid upon Mens Theories, as well as their Practice. Religion, Law, Custom, Education, Rewards, and Punishments, are so many Confiderations that ought to curb the Fancy in its unruly Flight; yet we often find it breaking out through all these Guards; and when it has once got loose, and pass’d the Limits of common Persuasion, there is no Absurdity but what 'tis capable of. And this shews how necessary it is, that the civil Laws should interpose their Authority in regulating Mens Sentiments, and the Government be enablid to reduce the Exorbitance of Imagination.
XXVI. Some Spirits are naturally free in their Conceptions, and others naturally flavish. The former over-rule the latter by an happy Ascendant of Birth; and the latter as easily submit to their Controll, as being of a Genius fo precarious and dependant, that they seem born only to take the Impressions that others shall give them, and to make no Step, but as they are led. It was upon this Weakness and Defect that the various Tribes of Philosophers were form’d. Whensoever there arose Men hardy and assuming enough to affect a Superiority, there were never wanting others, timorous and mean enough to acknowledge the new Dominion, and never to think but according to the Standard of their Mafters. Nay, fome there are so easy, so light, and credulous, as to make the Dreams of other Men the Rule of their own Dd
Reason and Conduct. The Spirit of Slavery postesses their Heart, and their very Thoughts ; and they have not Courage enough to preserve the Independence of their own Mind.
what is still more extraordinary, there are Men Clarses of of dark, perplex'd Ideas, and of a Genius obolycwraz scurely profound, who are yet reverenced as dinguame Oracles, and acquire a Sort of an Empire over Lucret.
Mens Judgments, only because they are more peremptory and confident in their Determinations, and owe all their Authority to their Prefumption. 'Twas by this means Paracelsus advancd his Credit in the last Age: He recommended himself by an Affectation of being obscure; and his great Merit, was the saying those Things which none else would say, or could understand. His Boldness in setting up for a Master, engaged some to be his Scholars, and his Doctrine met with those that embrac'd it, as propos d under the surprizing Air of a mighty Secret. Descartes ow'd his Reputation to the like Measures. The perplex'd Answers that he gives to the Objections he has started, are so many new Difficulties to the Reader. We take some Sort of Pleasure in being led from one doubtful Prospect to another, and still without a thorough View. This is an Art by which that Au
thor never fails to take, because 'tis by this he Rohault. plays the Oracle. His interpreter, who has
endeavour'd to render him more intelligible by Majorem: a new Explication of his Phyficks, has robb’d fidem adbi. him of Part of his Beauty, by giving him a beme bomi. nes iis qua more easy and familiar Turn. His admirable non inte - Genius seems to have been pleas'd with nothing liguar; s so much, as with the Pains and Difficulty of cupidine being apprehended. His obscure Expression ingenii bumani libentius obscura creduntur. Plin.
Cunda erenim ftolidi magis admirantur amantque, Inverfis que fub rebus latitantia cernunt. Lucret.
seems more venerably mysterious, and his Character of incomprehensible is the most charming Quality that attracts the Admiration of his Dil ciples. This affected Intricacy of Doctrine is a Stratagem that some Men imploy to gain upon our Simplicity of Belief.
XXVII. Men of too quick and subtile Spirits are not always the fittest to commence Philosophers. It is better to settle, and, as it were, condensate the Imagination with somewhat gross and filling, than to let it evaporate in nice Speculations. The plain good Sense of Socrates tri. Habet hoc umph’d over all the Art and Cunning of the So-humanum, phists. Philosophy never becomes abstracted till ut cùm ad it ceases to be folid. Men retire to Forms when folida non they have nothing real to advance; and take fuffecerit, Shelter in Subtlety, when they despair of car-bus atterying an Argument by Simplicity. Protagoras, ratur. the înventor of these fallacious Reasonings, and Verulam. this Tricking in Philosophy, had certainly a de Aug. false Genius. He was a sharp and formidable
Scient. Sophist, as Aulus Gellius observes, but by no
quidem means a just Philosopher. These who would pbilosorefine upon all Things, says Seneca, are in the phus, fed sure Method of spoiling all Things. Through a acerrimun vain Oftentation of Wit Men relinquish what Sophiftais most essential to Knowledge: They weaken rum. L.V. the Truth of Things by the Artifice of Words, vide
quaand fly to Sophistry, when deficient in good tum. mali Reason. It was by this new Stratagem, that fecerit, ni. Nausiphanes and Parmenides, were capable of so mia fubtimuch Mischief. It was by this, that Cleanthès,
litas, es Chryfippus, and the other Stoicks, made a notio- festa fit nal King of their wise Man, invested him with veritati.
Senec. In his exercitationibus doctores peccant, qui neceffe babens cum infa nientibus furere, Petron.
empty Titles of Majesty, and enrich him with
Treasures that consisted only in Magnificence Ex verbo- of Speech; as Tully pleasantly exposes them. rum pre Thus, the Purity of Reason was vitiated by the regna vo- Artifice of Language, and Truth was made the bis nata Sport of Wit, which should have been the Obsunt, co ject of Veneration. This was the great Fault of imperia, the Spaniards in the last Age: They practis’d & tanta • upon Philosophy, as they had done upon Poliquidem,ut ticks; and by the Character of their Genius, omnia quæ which is acute and thoughtful, spun out both ubique into unconceivable Niceties, every Scholar atemisele tempting still to refine upon his Master. Hence dicatis.
arose a Dilorder, like that which Seneca comde Fin. plains of Philosophy bore no other Fruit than Philofo- mere Cavil and Disputation; and was no lonpbia non
ger consider'd as the Medicine of the Passions; in remedi.
but as the Exercise of the Parts. Let us be saum animi, sed in ex- tisfied with Wifdom of the common Standard, ercitatio- and take such Reason as passes current with all nem inge- Mankind. He that would be wiser than the nii inven- rest of the World, bids fair for the Character de Ben. of Folly; nor is any Thing more useless in the
Conduct of Human Life, than these Cobweb
XXVIII. Mistaken Philosophy has spoilt many a good Ipfa pbi. lofophia
Head; and Wisdom misunderstood, has been fermultis fu-tile in the Production of Fools. Empedocles had it periculi a noble and rais'd Genius : Lucretius opposes him causa, in- to the greatest Men of Antiquity. Yet the folenter tractara.
Fumes of his Melancholy, aided by too ftrain'd Idem E. an Application, and too obstinate Study, caft pift.
such a Cloud over his Imagination, and so far Carmina quin etiam divini pe&oris hujus vociferantur, c. Lucr. I, 1. Ut cum non amplius appareret, ad cælos abiiffe putaretur. Lact.