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thunder and lightning.” This is the explanation given of the passage ; yet it must be confessed, that the supposed anagram does not make out a grammatical sentence. “ This mighty discovery,” Dr. Southey, in his “ Colloquies,” observes, “ was withheld in mercy to mankind. No finer proof of foresight and true greatness of mind has ever been given than in that illustrious instance ; for Roger Bacon's motives cannot be mistaken. He desired the praise of knowledge, and yet was contented to forego the honour of this discovery, till a secret, of which he anticipated the destructive application, should be brought to light by some future experimentalist, less humane or less considerate than himself."
Though so devoted to physical science, yet Roger Bacon was, to say the least, equally solicitous for intellectual and moral philosophy. He was not, indeed, like Thomas Aquinas, exclusively wedded to the speculative; yet we may readily perceive, from the facts above stated in relation to optical science, no less than from his alchemical errors, that he was not always so strict an experimentalist as might have been presumed. He likewise trusted to theory and authority, and, like his successor and namesake, proposed his own method rather as a rule previous to observation than as a result produced by induction. It is not to be doubted, that he made experiments where he could; and where he failed we should consider the difficulties that must have beset him in an age, when physical science was by scholastic men either despised, or denounced as the gift of necromancy or witchcraft. With the accurate and real sciences, the sources of their derivation were equally neglected ; hence not only experiment, but history and the study of languages, were pretermitted. Roger Bacon dared to think that the acquisition of Greek and Hebrew was useful, and, in the retirement of his cell, became a diligent student of both languages; expending besides great talents and learning in the accumulation and registry of his knowledge on history, jurisprudence, dialectic and metaphysical theology, as well as on mathematical and physical subjects.
It has been customary, in connexion with both Bacons and Bishop Grosetéte, for historians and critics to speak with unmeasured contempt of preceding philosophical schools.
“ While seraphic and angelic doctors” (such is the language sometimes used) “were laboriously employed in writing commentaries on bad translations from Aristotle, or on Augustine, or on Peter Lombard; a Grosetéte or a Bacon was engaged either in scriptural researches, and in diligent study of the Hebrew and Greek original texts, that he might be the better enabled to comprehend and interpret the sacred writings,-or in the original investigation of natural phenomena, that he might discover the laws by which it has pleased God to govern his creation.” The merits of these illustrious men need not such detraction of their predecessors, to render more apparent their own claim to glory. It is true, that, professing as they did to innovate on the established practices of the existing schools, they found it necessary to deteriorate in their own esteem and that of others, the methods and studies which they desired to supersede; but no such excuse is available now to an historian or a biographer, who, placed at this distance of time from the era in debate, is surely free from any such temporary prejudice, and may reasonably be expected to be somewhat critical and impartial in his opinion; and if he finds for the plaintiff on some counts, to find for the defendants on others. We do wrong in supposing that the comparative ignorance of the middle ages was a sluggish one; that the human mind was then asleep ;-on the contrary, it was remarkably and signally active. To the diligence and vitality of the school of Paris, in particular, Roger Bacon bears testimony. In giving an account of the state of learning there, as witnessed by himself when present on the scene, he acknowledges that “never was there so great an appearance of knowledge, never so great an application to so many sciences, as had then endured for forty years.” The direction and the method of study only seemed to him objectionable. The error of the scholastic discipline had been, that, having received certain defined results from authority and prescription, the schoolmen proceeded to invest them with the mere formalities of a science, and pursued this method to excess, until “philosophy dwindled into a mere logical skeleton.” It was the exclusiveness, after all, of the method, rather than the method itself, which was faulty; as one means of " filing the mind,” it was permissible, but as the only means it was clearly defective. There is no reason why, on some occasions, men, in their speculative moods, should not commence with the Divine nature, and seek, in the descent of a principle so sublime, to embrace the circle of all acquired knowledge; but it is well to recognise also a mediate ground in the constitution of the human understanding, reason, and conscience; and, likewise, such corroborative facts as may be gleaned from the field of sensible experience. Accordingly, the long disputes between the realists and nominalists, and what other similar controversies agitated the middle ages, were not without their precious uses in the mental economy of the race.
Several men of genius were struck out by the collision of the conflict-ideas became developed and distinguishedthought was subtilized—and the management of those metaphysics, that pass under the epithet of doctrinal, was more and more facilitated. To the new experimental science was reserved the opposite task of correcting a too-minute spirit of speculation in its tendency to puerile distinctions and capricious subdivisions, and of restoring the legitimate claims which the natural and the historical have on our attention. In the moral department, it had a still higher trust to perform, in recalling the human mind to the really practical and rational, which had been too much lost sight of in the rage for Aristotelian subtleties, that either lay out of their sphere entirely, or mixed them with alien considerations, by which they were not only perplexed in their development, but corrupted in their very beginnings.
Needful it is in every age, that the existence of these antagonist forces should be scientifically recognised, and their correlative action and reaction reconciled and preserved. And it may be questioned whether, in its turn, experimental science have not obtained too great a preponderance, and the balance want righting again. The knowledge gained from without is chiefly useful as the occasion of awakening us to a consciousness of our own intelligent being with its attributes and faculties. This consciousness once excited, we should be careful to keep our attention fairly distributed between the subjects of our self-reflection and the objects on which they were primarily displayed. If all our contemplations are turned inward, we shall miss the opportunity of learning the extent of the knowledge of which we are capable, relatively to that wonderful universe in which the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God are so abundantly revealed. If, on the other hand, we never “ commune with our own hearts and be still,” but roam vagrantly, and always in the foreign places of creation, we shall as assuredly become wanting in the requisite appreciation of the moral principles by which we should
govern our own conduct and character; and gain but an imperfect acquaintance with those laws of nature which, as they are intimately connected with our modes of judging, and made admirably to harmonize with the ideas of our reason, are best seen in the light of an understanding informed by the higher powers of our being, and the revelations of that conscience which is as the voice of God in the soul of man.
This warning is expedient at all times; but it is peculiarly. necessary in an intellectual age like the present, when the temporal is preferred to the spiritual, in all interests, political and religious. This conviction, indeed, it was which induced us to revive the subject of the present paper. Sufficient evidence might be produced from both the Bacons, to justify our persuasion, that it was never the design of either to give to the science of experiment the exclusive direction which it has since taken. Both by example and precept, its mighty masters extended its application to the moral as well as the physical—to logic, to ethics, and to politics. We are convinced that these two great writers, and Locke also, have been greatly misunderstood. The materialist and the atheist evidently proceeded upon a part of the system of the latter, not on the whole; and the merely physical theorist has, in like manner, limited the inductive philosophy in a way never anticipated by its founders.
Notwithstanding our anxiety to vindicate the merits and originality of the elder Bacon, on comparing the Opus Majus with the Novum Organon, we feel compelled to award the wreath of superior genius to the more recent author. We admit the Franciscan's critical skill in Greek and Hebrew, and the remarkable neatness of his Latin style; we admire the condensation and arrangement with which he conducts a great argument, together with his extraordinary grasp of various subjects in one treatise, and his comprehension of them under one law of method; but there are an eloquence and a richness of diction and illustration in every paragraph-we had almost said in every sentence-of Lord Bacon's writings, of which but few traces are to be found in his predecessor's. There is, nevertheless, much exquisite finish observable about all Roger Bacon's pieces: he seems never to have been weary of reviewing, retouching, and augmenting them; which, as they remained in manuscript, he was enabled to do with facility. Thus it has been said, that, as he grew older and wiser, the children of his brain partook of their parent's fortune, It is probable, also, that he surpassed his successor in the number of experiments that he personally made; having more leisure to make them, in a life wholly devoted to learning, notwithstanding his persecutions. And as a mechanician it is likely, that he was not altogether unentitled to the honour awarded him by Dr. Friend, who declares that “a greater genius of his kind had not arisen since the days of Archimedes;" in fact, he tells us himself of admirable inventions of vessels and chariots moved by machinery, and of machines for raising considerable weights, for diving, and for many other purposes, which he had personally seen and tried. It is likewise clear that he made numerous burning glasses, to which his friend, Peter de Maharn Curia, applied himself; having laboured three years about one glass, which was to burn at a certain distance-an experiment since established by Buffon beyond contradiction. They are supposed to have been reflectors made of metal, and capable of producing their effect at the distance of a bow-shot. In optics, however, as has been demonstrated, he hastily theorized on the doubtful authority of others, much more than he was able carefully to deduce by personal experience of actual effects. His merit, like that which has been claimed for Lord Bacon, consists in announcing a science or method initiative of an infinite series of observations and experiments, by means of which they might be conducted more safely than they had been towards a legitimate conclusion. The science, accordingly, as taught by both, was prophetic and anticipative of the results which might be produced by the labourers in the field of practical experience, who should have better opportunities of investigation in an age more favourable to the discovery of physical truth. Hence, to both Bacons we may apply what Dr. Reid said of the later, that “most arts have been reduced to rules after they had been brought to a considerable
degree of perfection by the natural sagacity of artists, and the rules have been drawn from the best examples of the art that had been before exhibited; but the art of philosophical induction was delineated, in a very ample manner, before the world had seen any tolerable example of it.”
Among the proofs of the à priori quality of the science, the cathartic process required by it for the purification of the mind of the student is not the least. The hindrances to be cleared away are stated by the elder Bacon in a simpler and more elementary form than by his imitator. Yet these simple words have all the force of the “ Idola Tribus," the “Idola Specus," the “ Idola Fori," and the “ Idola Theatri," of the later and more ornate writer. We mean that, in practice, they have all the same application; but it must be confessed, that in idea the phrases of Lord Bacon are abstractions raised from those of his predecessor, rather than mere synonymes for them. Thus, in actual experience, the idols of the tribe are found to be reduced to what is supposed authoritative, either in the course of nature or human intelligence; i. e. a greater degree of uniformity and accordance in both is conjectured than can be evidenced. But in the ideal abstraction which Lord Bacon's phrase implies, we are required to throw off the prejudices which belong to us as men; and, indeed, he frequently warns us that the intellectus humanus, mens hominis, has limitations which ought not to be mistaken for the definitions of things, whether natural or divine. Roger Bacon only requires of us what is of possible performance; he never dreamed that we should raise ourselves into critics of the construction according to which it had pleased the Creator to produce the human understanding--and, as the result of this act of criticism, set it aside entirely in favour of some possible measure of truth in some mind of loftier prerogatives, or in the supreme Reason itself. These inherent prejudices, which verily constitute the mind, cannot be avoided; and the authority which they imply must be permitted, if man is to judge of himself, of nature, or of God. There is, indeed, a high mystical precept to which all philosophy tends, as well as religion ; namely, the Christian rule of “ Judge not at all:" but we apprehend that the science of experiment, as applicable to the inquisition of natural phenomena, stops far short of that sublime maxim. The prejudices here predicated are not of those which we can remove, and it would be insane presumption in us to attempt the removal. They form, in fact, for us the foundations of morals, religion, and government; and serve as the very bases of the science itself, which is thus made to recommend their extinction. The earlier Bacon, if he stood on humbler, stood on safer ground. Herein the reader may apprehend the distinctions by which these two wise men are particularized. The genius of the learned Franciscan was of a more primitive character: that