NEON ORGANON–ΝΟΒΟΥΜ ΟΡΓΑΝΟΥΜ–новый орган (CT)


(BEING CONTINUED FROM 27/11/17)

116. First, then, don’t think that I want to found a new  sect in philosophy—like the ancient Greeks and like some   moderns such as Telesio, Patrizzi or Severinus. For that’s
not what I am up to; and I really don’t think that human welfare depends much on what abstract opinions anyone has
about nature and its workings. No doubt many old theories
of this sort can be revived and many new ones introduced,
just as many theories of the heavens can be supposed that
fit the phenomena well enough but differ from each other;
but I’m not working on such useless speculative matters.
My purpose, rather, is to see whether I can’t provide
humanity’s power and greatness with firmer foundations
and greater scope. I have achieved some results—scattered
through some special subjects—that I think to be far more
true and certain and indeed more fruitful than any that have
so far been used (I have collected them in the •fifth part of
my Fresh Start); but I don’t yet have a complete theory of
everything to propound. It seems that the time hasn’t come
for that. I can’t hope to live long enough to complete the
•sixth part (which is to present science discovered through
the proper interpretation of nature); but I’ll be satisfied if
in the middle parts I conduct myself soberly and usefully,
sowing for future ages the seeds of a purer truth, and not
shying away from the start of great things. [See note in 31.]

117. Not being the founder of a sect, I am not handing out
bribes or promises of particular works. You may indeed think
that because I talk so much about ‘works’ ·or ‘results’· and
drag everything over to that, I should produce some myself
as a down-payment. Well, I have already clearly said it many times, and am happy now to say it again: my project is not to get works from works or
experiments from experiments (like the •empirics),
but rather to get causes and axioms from works and experiments,
and then to get new works and experiments from those causes and
axioms (like the •legitimate interpreters of nature).
[An ‘empiric’ is someone who is interested in what works but not in why
it works; especially a physician of that sort, as referred to by Locke when
he speaks of ‘swallowing down opinions as silly people do empirics’ pills,
without knowing what they are made of or how they will work’.] If you
look at
•my Tables of Discovery that ·will· constitute the fourth
part of the Fresh Start, and
•the examples of particulars that I present in the
second part, ·i.e. the present work·, and
•my observations on the history that I ·will· sketch in
the third part,
you won’t need any great intellectual skill to see indications
and outlines of many fine results all through this material;
but I openly admit that the natural history that I have so far
acquired, from books and from my own investigations, is too
skimpy, and not verified with enough accuracy, to serve the
purposes of legitimate interpretation.
To anyone who is abler and better prepared ·than I am·
for mechanical pursuits, and who is clever at getting results
from experiment, I say: By all means go to work snipping off
bits from my history and my tables and apply them to getting
results—this could serve as interest until the principal is
available. But I am hunting for bigger game, and I condemn
all hasty and premature interruptions for such things as
these, which are (as I often say) like Atalanta’s spheres. I  don’t go dashing off after golden apples, like a child; I bet
everything on art’s winning its race against nature. [On
Atalanta and the race see 70.] I don’t scurry around clearing out
moss and weeds; I wait for the harvest when the crop is ripe.

118. When my history and Tables of Discovery are read,
it will surely turn out that some things in the experiments
themselves are not quite certain or perhaps even downright
false, which may lead you to think that the foundations and
principles on which my discoveries rest are ·also· false and
doubtful. But this doesn’t matter, for such things are bound
to happen at first. It’s like a mere typographical error, which
doesn’t much hinder the reader because it is easy to correct
as you read. In the same way, ·my· natural history may
contain many experiments that are false, but it won’t take
long for them to be easily expunged and rejected through
the discovery of causes and axioms. It is nevertheless true
that if big mistakes come thick and fast in a natural history,
they can’t possibly be corrected or amended through any
stroke of intelligence or skill. Now, my natural history has
been collected and tested with great diligence, strictness and
almost religious care, yet there may be errors of detail tucked
away in it; so what should be said of run-of-the-mill natural
history, which is so careless and easy in comparison with
mine? And what of the philosophy and sciences built on that
kind of sand (or rather quicksand)? So no-one should be
troubled by what I have said.

119. My history and experiments will contain many things
that are
•trivial, familiar and ordinary, many that are
•mean and low [see 120], and many that are
•extremely subtle, merely speculative, and seemingly
useless [see 121].
Such things could lead men to lose interest or to become hostile ·to what I have to offer. I shall give these one paragraph each·.
Men should bear in mind that until now their activities
have consisted only in explaining unusual events in terms of
more usual ones, and they have simply taken the usual ones
for granted, not asking what explains them. So they haven’t
investigated the causes of
weight,
rotation of heavenly bodies,
heat,
cold,
light,
hardness,
softness,
rarity,
density,
liquidity,
solidity,
life,
lifelessness,
similarity,
dissimilarity,
organicness,
and the like. They have accepted these as self-evident and
obvious, and have devoted their inquiring and quarrelling
energies to less common and familiar things.
But I have to let the most ordinary things into my history,
because I know that until we have properly looked for and
found the causes of common things and the causes of
those causes, we can’t make judgments about uncommon
or remarkable things, let alone bring anything new to light.
Indeed, I don’t think that anything holds up philosophy more
than the fact that common and familiar events don’t cause
men to stop and think, but are received casually with no inquiry into their causes. A result of this we need •to pay
attention to things that are known and familiar at least as
often as •to get information about unknown things.

120. As for things that are low or even filthy: as Pliny says,
these should be introduced with an apology, but they should
be admitted into natural history just as the most splendid
and costly things should. And that doesn’t pollute the
natural history that admits them; the sun enters the sewer
as well as the palace, but isn’t polluted by that! I am not
building a monument dedicated to human glory or erecting a
pyramid in its honour; what I’m doing is to lay a foundation
for a holy temple in the human intellect—a temple modelled
on the world. So I follow that model, because whatever is
worthy of being is worthy of scientific knowledge, which is
the image or likeness of being; and low things exist just as
splendid ones do. And another point: just as from certain
putrid substances such as musk and civet the sweetest
odours are sometimes generated, so also mean and sordid
events sometimes give off excellent and informative light.
That is enough about this; more than enough, because this
sort of squeamishness is downright childish and effeminate.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Francis Bacon

1620

NOTE ON THE TEXT

This rendition is based on the standard translation of James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath in The Works (Vol. VIII), published in Boston by Taggard and Thompson in 1863. All bracketed statements are the additions of the editor.

About sooteris kyritsis

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