Imatges de pÓgina

Eslinale of the Philosophical Character of Lord Bacon.

503 siological theory concerning their cussions about the nature of mind, causes, or to any analogical explana- he decidedly states his conviction, that tions founded on the caprices of meta- the facultics of man differ not merely phorical language. If, on some occa- in degree, but in kind, from the insions, he assumes the existence of stincts of the brutes. “I do not, animal spirils, as the medium of com- therefore," he observes in one occamunication between soul and body, sion, “ approve of that confused and it must be remembered, that this was promiscuous method in which phithen the universal belief of the learned ; losophers are accustomed to treat of and that it was at a much later period pneumatology; as if the human soul not less confidently arowed by Locke. ranked above those of brutes, merely Nor ought it to be overlooked' (I men- like the sun above the stars, or like tion it to the credit of both authors), gold above other metals." that in such instances the fact is com- Among the various topics started by monly so stated, as to render it easy Bacon for the consideration of future for the reader to detach it from the logicians, he did not overlook (what theory. As to the scholastic questions may be justly regarded, in a practical concerning the nature and essence of view, as the most interesting of all mind, whether it be extended or logical problems) the question conunextended? whether it have any rning the mutual influence of relation to space or to time? or thought and of language on each whether (as was contended by others) other. “Men believe,” says he, “that it exist in every uli, but in no place ? — their reaason governs their words; but, Bucon has uniformly passed them over it often happens, that words have with silent contempt; and has proba- power enough to re-act upon reason." bly contributed not less effectually to This aphorism may be considered as bring them into general discredit, by the text of by far the most valuable this indirect intimation of his own part of Locke's Essay,--that which opinion, than if he had descended to relates to the imperfections and abuse the ungrateful task of exposing their of words; but it was not till within absurdity.

the last twenty years, that its depth While Bacon, however, so and importance were perceived in all tiously avoids these unprofitable dis- their extent. I need scarcely say, that

I allude to the excellent Memoirs of

M. Prevost and of M. Degerando, on Notwithstanding the extravagance of Spinoza's own philosophical creed, he is

Signs considered in their connection

with the Intellectual Operations." one of the very few among Bacon's successors, who seem to hare been fully aware

The anticipations formed by Bacon, of the justness, importance, and originality of that branch of modern logic which of the method pointed out in the Novum relates to Universal Grammar, do no Organon for the study of the mind. “Ad less honour to his sagacity. “Gramhæc intelligenda, non est opus naturam mar," he observes, " is of two kinds, mentis cognoscere, sed sufficit, mentis the one literary, the other philosophisive perceptionum historiolam concinnare cal. The former has for its object to modo illo quo VERULAMIUS docet." Spin. trace the analogies running through Epist. 42.

the structure of a particular tongue, so In order to comprehend the whole as to facilitate its acquisition to a merit of this remark, it is necessary to foreigner, or to enable him to speak know that, according to the Cartesian it with correctuess and purity. "The phraseology, which is here adopted by latter directs the attention, not to the Spinoza, the word perception is a general term, oqually applicable to all the intel- analogies which words bear to words, lectual operations. The words of Des- but to the analogies which words bear cartes himself are these : « Omnes modi to things; "4 or, as he afterwards excogitandi, quos in nobis experimur, ad plains himself more clearly, “ to landuos generales referri possunt : quorum guage considered as the sensible porunus est, perceptio, sive operatío intel- traiture or image of the mental prolectus, alius verò, volitio, sive operatio cesses." In farther illustration of voluntatis. Nam sentire, imaginari, et these hints, he takes notice of the pure intelligere, sunt tantum diversi modi lights which the different genius of percipiendi ; ut et cupere, aversari, astiridare, negare, dubitare, sunt diversi modi solendi." Princ. Phil. Pars. I. $ 32.

+ De Aug. Scient. Lib. vi. cap. I.


different languages reflect on the cha- of the seventeenth century. In the racters and habits of those by whom short passage just cited from Bacon, they were respectively spoken. “Thus,” there are involved no less than two says he, “it is easy to perceive, that capital errors, which are now almost the Greeks were addicted to the cul- universally ranked, by men of educature of the arts, the Romans engrossed tion, among the grossest prejudices with the conduct of affairs; inasmuch, of the multitude. The one, that the as the technical distinctions introduced declensions and conjugations of the in the progress of refinement require ancient languages, and the modern the aid of compounded words ; while substitution in their place, of prepo the real business of life stands in no sitions and auxiliary verbs, are, both of need of so artificial a phraseology."

."* them, the deliberate and systematical Ideas of this sort have, in the course of contrivances of speculative grammaa very few years, already become com- rians; the other (still less analogous mon, and almost tritical; but how to Bacon's general style of re

reasoning), different was the case two centuries that the faculties of man hare de ago!

clined, as the world has grown older, With these sound and enlarged. Both of these errors may be now said views concerning the philosophy of to have disappeared entirely. The the mind, it will not appear surpri- latter, inore particularly, must, to the sing to those who have attended to rising generation, seem so absurd, the slow and irregular advances of that it almost requires an apology to human reason, that Bacon should have mentioned it. That the capacioccasionally blend incidental remarks, ties of the human mind have been in savouring of the habits of thinking all ages the same; and that the di-. prevalent in his time. A curious versity of phenomena exhibited by our example of this occurs in the same species, is the result merely of the chapter which contains his excellent different circumstances in which men definition or description of universal are placed, has been long received grammar “This too,” he observes, as an incontrovertible logical maxim; «' is worthy of notice, that the ancient or rather, such is the influence of early languages were full of declensions, of instruction, that we are apt to regard cases, of conjugations, of tenses, and it as one of the most obvious sugof other similar inflections; while the gestions of common sense. modern, almost entirely destitute of till about the time of Montesquieu, it these, indolently accomplish the same was by no means so generally recogpurpose by the help of prepositions, nized by the learned, as to have a and of auxiliary verbs. Whence," he sensible influence on the fashionable continues, may be inferred (how. tone of thinking over Europe. The ever we may Aatter ourselves with the application of this fundamental and idea of our own superiority), that the leading idea to the natural or theoretical hunan intellect was much more acute history of society in all its various and subtile in ancient, than it now is aspects ;-to the history of languages, in modern times.”+ How very unlike of the arts, of the sciences, of laws, is this last reflection to the usual strain of government, of manners, and of of Bacon's writings ! It seems, in- religion,—is the peculiar glory of the deed, much more congenial to the latter half of the eighteenth century; philosophy of Mr. Harris and of Lord and forms a characteristical feature Monboddo ; and it has accordingly in its philosophy, which even the been sanctioned with the approbation imagination of Bacon was unable to of both these learned authors. If my foresee. memo does not deceive me, it is the It would be endless to particularize only

passage in Bacon's works, which the original suggestions thrown out Lord Monboddo has any where con- by Bacon on topics connected with the descended to quote.

science of mind. The few passages of These observations afford me a this sort already quoted, are produced convenient opportunity for remarking merely as a specimen of the rest. the progress and diffusion of the They are by no means selected as the philosophical spirit, since the beginning most important in his writings; but,

as they happened to be those which • De Aug. Scient. Lib. vi. cap. i.

had left the strongest impression on my memory, I thought them as likely.

And yet,

+ Ibid.

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Estimate of the Philosophical Character of Lord Bacon.

505 as any other, to invite the curiosity of the citizens may live happily. For this my readers to a careful examination purpose, it is necessary that they of the rich mine from which they are should receive a religious and pious extracted.

education; that they should be trained The ethical disquisitions of Bacon to good morals; that they should be are almost entirely of a practical nature. secured from foreign enemies by proOf the two theoretical questions so per military arrangements; that ihcy much agitated, in both parts of this should be guarded by an effectual island, during the eighteenth century, police against seditions and private concerning the principle and the object injuries ; that they should be loyal of moral approbation, he has said to government, and obedient to magisnothing; but he has opened some trates; and finaily, that they should new and interesting views with respect abound in wealth, and in other to the influence of custom and the national resources." The science formation of habits ;-a most important of such matters certainly belongs more article of moral philosophy, on which particularly to the province of men he has enlarged more ably and more who, by habits of public business, usefully than any writer since Aristo- have been led to take a comprehensive tle.* Under the same head of Ethics survey of the social order; of the may be mentioned the small volume interests of the community at large; to which he has given the title of of the rules of natural equity; of the Essays; the best known and the most manners of nations; of the different · popular of all his works. It is also forms of government; and who are one of those where the superiority of thus prepared to reason concerning the his genius appears to the greatest ad- wisdom of laws, both from consideravantage; the novelty and depth of his tions of justice and of policy. The reflections often receiving a strong great desideratum, accordingly, is, by relief from the triteness of his subject. investigating the principles of natural It may be read from beginning to end justice, and those of political expediency, in a-few hours,—and yet, after the to exhibit a theoretical model of legis. twentieth perusal, one seldom fails to lation, which, while it serves as a remark in it something overlooked standard for estimating the comparative before. This, indeed, is a character- excellence of municipal codes, may istic of all Bacon's writings, and is suggest hints for their correction and only to be accounted for by the inex, improvement, to such as have at heart haustible aliment they furnish to our the welfare of mankind.”+ own thoughts, and the sympathetic How precise the notion was that activity they impart to our torpid Bacon had formed of a philosophical

a faculties.

system of jurisprudence (with which The suggestions of Bacon for the as a standard the municipal laws of improvement of political philosophy, different nations might be compared), exhibit as strong a contrast to the appears from a remarkable expression, narrow systems of contemporary states in which he mentions it as the proper men, as the inductive logic to that of business of those who might attempt the schools. How profound and com- to carry his plan into execution, to prehensive are the views opened in investigate those

“ LEGES LEGUM, the following passages, when compared with the scope of the celebrated Exemplum Tractatus de Fontibus ireatise De Jure Belli et Pacis ; a work Juris, Aphor. 5. This enumeration of which was first published about a year the different objects of law approaches rery before Bacon's death, and which con- nearly to Mr. Smith's ideas on the same tinued, for a hundred and fifty years subject, as expressed by himself in the afterwards, to be regarded in all the concluding sentence of his Theory of

Moral Sentiments. “ In another disProtestant universities of Europe as an

courso, I shall endeavour to give an acinexhaustible treasure of moral and

count of the general principles of law and jurisprudential wisdom!

government, and of the different revolu« The ultimate object which legis- tions they have undergone in the different Jators ought to have in view, and to ages and periods of society; not only in which all their enactinents and sanc- what concerns justice, but in what contions ought to be subservient, is, that cerns police, revenue, and arms, and

whatever else is the object of law." * De Aug. Scieni. Lib. vii. cap. iii. + De Aug. Scient. Lib. viii. cap. iii.


ex quibus informatio peti possit, quid temperate maxims so frequently inculin singulis legibus bene aut perperam cated by the author, on the subject of posituin aut constitutum sit."* I do political inpovation. “ A stubborn not know if, in Bacon's prophetic retention of customs is a turbulent anticipations of the future progress of thing, not less than the introduction physics, there be any thing more of new.”—“Time is the greatest innocharacteristical, both of the grandeur vator; shall we then not imitate rime, and of the justness of his conceptions, which innovates so silently as to mock than this short definition; more par- the sense?" Nearly connected with ricularly, when we consider how these aphorisms, are the profound widely Grotius, in a work professedly reflections in the first book 'De Augdevoted to this very inquiry, was soon mentis Scientiarum, on the necessity of after to wander from the right path, accommodating every new institution in consequence of his vague and to the character and circumstances of wavering idea of the aim of his re- the people for whom it is intended; searches.

and on the peculiar danger which The sagacity, however, displayed in literary men run of overlooking this these and various other passages of a consideration, from the familiar acsimilar import, can by no means be quaintance they acquire, in the course daly appreciated, without attending, of their early studies, with the ideas at the same time, to the cautious and and sentiments of the ancient clasics.

The remark of Bacon on the syste• De Fontibus Juris, Aphor. 6.

matical policy of Henry VII. was From the preface to a small tract of manifestly suggested by the same train Bacon's, entitled The Elements of the of thinking. “ His laws (whoso Common Laws of England, (written marks them well) were deep and not while he was Solicitor-General to Queen vulgar; not made on the spur of a Elizabeth), we learn, that the phrase particular occasion for the present, but legum leges had been previously used by out of providence for the future; to

great civilian." To what civilian make the estate of his people still Bacon here alludes, I know not; but, more and more happy, after the man. whoever he was, I doubt much if he an

ner of the legislators in ancient and nexed to it the comprehensive and philo- heroic times." How far this noble sophical meaning, so precisely explained in the above definition. Bacon himself

, eulogy was merited, either by the when he wrote his Tract on the Common legislators of antiquity, or by the Laws, does not seem to have yet risen to bestowed it, is a question of little

modern Prince on whom Bacon has this vantage-ground of universal jurisprudence. His great object (he tells us) moment. I quote it merely on acwas "to collect the rules avd grounds count of the important philosophical dispersed throughout the body of the same distinction which it indirectly marks, laws, in order to see more profoundly into between “ deep and vulgar laws;" the the reason of such judgments and ruled former invariably aiming to accom. cased, and thereby to make more use of plish their end, not by giring any them for the decision of other cases more sudden shock to the feelings and doubtful; so that the uncertainty of law, interests of the existing, generation, which is the principal and most just chal- but by allowing to natural causes time Jenge that is made to the laws of our nation and opportunity to operate; and by at this time, will, by this new strength removing those artificial obstacles laid to the foundation, be somewhat the which check the progressive tendenmore settled and corrected.” !o this pas cies of society. It is probable, that, sage, no reference whatever is made to

on this occasion, Bacon had an eye the universal justice spoken of in the aphorisms de Fontibus Juris ; but merely

more particularly to the memorable to the leading and governing rules which statute of alienation ; to the effects of give to a municipal system whatever it pos- which (whatever were the motives of sesses of analogy and consistency. To its author) the above description certhese rules Bacon gives the title of leges tainly applies in an eminent degree. legum; but the meaning of the phrase, After all, however, it must be acon this occasion, differs from that in knowledged, that it is rather in his which he afterwards employed it, not less general views and maxims, than in widely than the rules of Latin or of Greek the details of his political theories, syntax differ from the principles of univer- that Bacon's sagacity appears to adgal grammar.

vantage. His notions with respect to

Estimate of the Philosophical Character of Lord Bacon. 505 commercial policy seem to have been applauded by Bacon, while they more peculiarly erroneous; originating strongly illustrate the narrow and in an overweening opinion of the effi. mistaken views in political economy cacy of law, in matters where natural entertained by the wisest statesmen causes ought to be allowed a free and philosophers two centuries ago, operation. It is observed by Mr. afford, at the same time, a proof of Hume, that the statutes of Henry VII. the general diffusion which has since relating to the police of his kingdom, taken place among the people of Great are generally contrived with more Britain, of juster and more enlightjudgment than his commercial regula- ened opinions on this important tions. The same writer adds, that branch of legislation. Wherever such “the more simple ideas of order and doctrines find their way into the page equity are sufficient to guide a legis- of history, it may be safely inferred, lator in every thing that regards the that the public mind is not indisposed internal administration of justice ; but to give them a welcome reception. that the principles of commerce are The ideas of Bacon concerning the inuch more complicated, and require education of youth, were such as long experience and deep reflection to might be expected from a philoso be well understood in any state. The phical statesman. On the conduct of real consequence is there often con- education in general, with a view to trary to first appearances. No wonder, the developement and improvement that, during the reign of Henry VII. of the intellectual character, he has these matters were frequently mis- suggested various useful hints in diffetaken ; and it may safely be affirmed, rent parts of his works ; but what I that, even in the age of Lord Bacon, wish chiefly to remark at present is, very imperfect and erroneous ideas the paramount importance which he were formed on that subject.”

has attached to the education of the The instances mentioned by Hume people,-comparing (as he has repeatin confirmation of these general re- edly done) the effects of early cnlture marks, are peculiarly gratifying to on the understanding and the heart, those who have a pleasure in tracing to the abundant harvest which rewards the slow but certain progress of reason the diligent husbandman for the toils” and liberality. “ During the reign," of the spring. To this analogy he says he, “ of Henry VII. it was pro- seems

to have been particularly hibited to export horses, as if that anxious to attract the attention of his exportation did not encourage the readers, by bestowing on education breed, and make them more plentiful the title of the georgics of the mind;. in the kingdom. Prices were also identifying, by a happy and impressive, affixed to woollen cloths, to caps and metaphor, the two proudest functions hats, and the wages of labourers were entrusted to the legislator, the enregulated by law. IT IS EVIDENT, couragement of agricultural industry, that these matters ought always to be left and the care of national instruction. free, and be entrusted to the common In both instances, the legislator exerts course of business and commerce."—For a power which is literally productie a like reason, the historian continues, or creative; compelling, in the one “ the law enacted against inclosures, case, the unprofitable desert to pour and for the keeping up of farm-houses, forth its latent riches; and in the scarcely deserves the praises bestowed other, vivifying the dormant seeds of on it by Lord Bacon. If husband- genius and virtue, and redeeming from men understand agriculture, and have the neglected wastes of human intela ready vent for their commodities, we lect, a new and unexpected accession need not dread a diminution of the to the common inheritance of manpeople employed in the country. Du- kind. ring a century and a half after this When from such speculations as period, there was a frequent renewal these we descend to the treatise De of laws and edicts against depopula. Jure Belli et Pacis, the contrast is tion; whence we may infer, that none mortifying indeed. And yet, so much of them were ever executed. The better suited were the talents and accomnatural course of improvement at last plishments of Grotius to the taste, not. provided a remedy."

only of his contemporaries, but of These acute and decisive strictures their remote descendants, that, while on the impolicy of some laws highly the merits of Bacon failed, for a

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