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equal weight the distance from the fulcrum has any effect upon the inclination-though the theory of the lever was as well understood in his own time as it is now. In making an experiment of his own to ascertain the cause of the motion of a windmill, he overlooks an obvious circumstance which makes the experiment inconclusive, and an equally obvious variation of the same experiment which would have shown him that his theory was false." He speaks of the poles of the earth as fixed, in a manner which seems to imply that he was not acquainted with the precession of the equinoxes; and in another place of the north pole being above, and the south pole below, as a reason why in our hemisphere the north winds predominate over the south.^
This list, for which I am entirely indebted to Mr. Ellis's prefaces and notes, might probably be increased; but the instances enumerated are sufficient to shew not only that Bacon was ill read in the history of these branches of learning, (and yet it was in this direction that science was making the most real and rapid advances,) but also that upon such subjects his ideas were not clear; this latter defect being no doubt the cause of the other; for where he could not readily follow the steps of the investigation, he could hardly appreciate the value of the result.
In the fact itself there would be nothing to create surprise. That of two faculties so opposite in their nature as to suggest a main division of human intellects according to their several predominance, the same mind should be largely endowed with one and scantily with the other, is an accident far less singular than the perfect developement in the same mind of both together. The only wonder is (since a good understanding is generally aware of its own defects) that if Bacon's was really weak in this department, he did not find the weakness out before he was five-and-forty. A sufficient explanation of this may however be found, I think, partly in the excessive activity of his discursive faculty, which coming to the rescue in every perplexity with a throng of ingenious suggestions, seduced his attention from the exact point at issue and flattered him that
1 Vol. I. p. 638. note 2. Vol. I. p. 343. note 3.
2 See Preface to Historia Ventorum, Vol. II. p. 6. 4 Vol. II. p. 28. note 1.
Maximum et velut radicale discrimen ingeniorum, quoad philosophiam et scientias, illud est: quod alia ingenia sint fortiora et aptiora ad notandas rerum differentias ; alia ad notandas rerum similitudines. - Nov. Org. i. 55.
the time was come for a permissio intellectus;—partly in the great pains which he took to lay his subject out in titles, articles, sections, divisions, and subdivisions, all named and numbered; the effect of which would be to give his investigations an appearance, though a superficial and delusive one, of exact and delicate discrimination ;-and partly in the magnanimous hopefulness of his nature, which inclined him to trust too much to the labor omnia vincit and the possunt quia posse videntur. As he would not believe that nature contained labyrinths impenetrable by the mind, so he would not believe that the mind contained obstructions insuperable by patient industry. And believing on the other hand as he certainly did, that the divine blessing was upon his enterprise, he accepted all delays and disappointments as nothing more than
the protractive trials of great Jove To find persistive constancy in men.
But however this may be, I see no way of escaping the conclusion that his intellect was in this particular faculty originally defective; and that, whether he knew of the defect or not, he did not succeed in overcoming it.
Nor am I aware that the supposition involves any further difficulty. It does not require us to question any of his other intellectual attributes. For it is certain that as an eye which has lost the power of reading small print may yet be perfect in its judgment of form, colour, distance, and proportion; so a mind which cannot take distinct impressions of subtle and minute differences of ideas, or cannot retain such impressions long enough or easily enough for the purpose of exact comparison, may nevertheless be perfect in its power of dealing with all ideas which it can distinguish and compare. And I suppose that if Bacon could have put on a pair of intellectual spectacles, analogous in their effect on the understanding to that of clearers on an eye which is growing dim with age, he would have seen in an instant the true import and value of the reasonings of Archimedes, Copernicus, Galileo, Ghetaldo, and Kepler, and would have become aware in the same instant that he had never before really understood them. The lens through which he had been looking had not been adjusted to the object, and had transmitted a confused image to the mental retina. The existence of this defect being once admitted and allowed for, the rest of the wonder disappears at once. Grant this, and
the question which I began by proposing is readily answered. Bacon failed to devise a practicable method for the discovery of the Forms of Nature, because he misconceived the conditions of the case; he expected to find the phenomena of nature more easily separable and distinguishable than they really are; a misconception into which a discursive intellect, an enterprising spirit, and a hopeful nature, would most naturally fall. He failed to discover his error, because in all the cases in which he tried to carry his method out, the further he advanced towards his object the more he needed the very faculty in which he was most wanting, and was baffled by the difficulties which presented themselves before he had met with any which were in their nature insuperable. For the same reason he failed even to make any single discovery which holds its place as one of the steps by which science has in any direction really advanced. The clue with which he entered the labyrinth did not reach far enough before he had nearly attained the end, he was obliged either to come back or to go on without it. He began with an attempt to investigate the nature of Motion in general: the result remains in a long list of titles and divisions, exhibiting merely the plan upon which he proposed to conduct the enquiry1; and this plan he appears afterwards to have abandoned; for the doctrine of motion was ultimately remitted to a subordinate place in the Novum Organum among the Prerogatives of Instances. He then tried the nature of Sound: the result remains in the Sylva Sylvarum, in a large collection of curious observations and experiments; rough materials for an induction which he does not seem to have carried further. Finally he selected the nature of Heat as the subject to try his method upon, and commenced a systematic enquiry which was to be offered as a specimen of it: the result of this we have seen in the Novum Organum; and though he proceeded in it but a little way, it appears that he was already beginning to lose himself among the subtler phenomena which presented themselves; for it is the opinion of the best judges that he has there confounded things essentially different, and rested in conclusions not legitimately deducible from the facts from which they profess to be deduced. And so no doubt it would have been in any other subject of investigation which he might have taken
1 See Inquisitio Legitima de Motu; further on in this volume.
2 See Mr. Ellis's note on the Vindemiatio prima (Vol. I. p. 266.); and compare Whewell, Phil. of Ind. Sci. book 11. ch. 11.
in hand. He would soon have arrived at a point where the phenomena of nature could not be separated accurately enough for the purposes of the enquiry without instruments more delicate and exact, or modes of calculation more subtle and complicated, than any which he could have devised or used.
Nor is this the only difficulty of which we thus obtain a more natural explanation than has hitherto I think been suggested. For the same defect would interfere with his metaphysical speculations; and may serve therefore to account for the misappreciation of Aristotle with which he is now commonly charged, apparently upon good authority. It would interfere with his success as a lawyer; the law having then (very unfortunately, in my opinion) fallen entirely into the hands of men whose strength was in subtlety of distinction, and not in that broad common sense which ought (one would think) to be the ruling principle in an institution with which all classes are alike concerned; and thus it serves to account for his failure to obtain that authority in his profession to which he certainly thought himself entitled. It would interfere with his speculations in a science like political economy, and so accounts for his being so little before his age in his views with regard to usury, trade, &c. It supplies also a natural explanation of another singular fact; namely, the little communication which he seems to have had with the scientific men of his own time, and the solitude in which (as he himself complained) he was compelled to prosecute his enterprise. For we know of no man of any scientific eminence, who was either a fellow-labourer or a disciple. But the truth is that such a defect (though the perfection of his intellect in those departments where we can all more or less judge of it, coupled with his reputation for genius in regions into which few are competent to follow him, has prevented posterity from suspecting it) could hardly have escaped the notice of competent judges in his own time who knew him. And accordingly we find that William Harvey," though he esteemed him much for his wit and style, would not allow him to be a great philosopher. 'He writes philosophy' (said Harvey to Aubrey) 'like a Lord Chancellor' - speaking in derision." And it is easy to imagine that if Newton (for instance) had been a young man in Bacon's later years, they would not have been able to work together,
Aubrey's Lives, ii, 281.
but would probably have kept by mutual consent respectfully aloof from each other. And this enables us to account for that silence with regard to his contemporaries for which he has been so severely censured by Coleridge and others, better than by supposing that he was either jealous of their rivalry or illiberally incredulous as to their merit. It was merely that he did not like to pronounce judgment where he did not feel that he understood the case; and if he did not take more pains to understand the case, it was only because it lay in a region in which he could not himself find conclusions which he felt that he could safely depend upon. He could follow Gilbert in his enquiries concerning the loadstone; and he was not silent about him, but refers to him frequently, with praise both of his industry and his method; censuring him only for endeavouring to build a universal philosophy upon so narrow a basis. So again with regard to Galileo. The direct revelations of the telescope were palpable, and he was not silent about them; but hailed the invention as a memorabilis conatus, a thing dignum humano genere: there was no doubt that it brought within the range of vision things invisible before. But when it came to the inferences deducible from the phenomena thus revealed, he could no longer speak with confidence. It was then "hinc demonstrari videtur," and "quatenus fides hujusmodi demonstrationibus tuto adhiberi possit:" the language of a man who did not feel certain in his own mind whether the demonstration was conclusive or not, - which is the natural condition of a man who does not thoroughly understand it.
I need hardly add that the admission of this defect in Bacon does not in any way diminish either the value of his real services to philosophy, of the general principles which he laid down, and those large and just views as to the nature of science and of man's mind which came out of the real depths of his own genius, or the respect due to himself. The truths which he told must stand for ever, because they are truths; and until some one else shall embody them in language juster, nobler, more impressive, and more comprehensive than his, his name will stand as the author of them. And for the rest, a more correct appreciation of the difficulties with which he had to struggle, instead of diminishing our sense of what we owe him, ought only to increase our admiration of the high instinct which suggested the end, the courageous hope with which he