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and secular interests; I mean theology, which, con-
and how often may one meet with religion and morality treated of in the terms of the laboratory, and thought to be improved by the methods and notions of chemistry! But he that will take care of the conduct of his understanding, to direct it right to the knowledge of things, must avoid those undue mixtures, and not, by a fondness for what he has found useful and necessary in one, transfer it to another science, where it serves only to perplex and confound the understanding. It is a certain truth, that res nolunt malè administrari; it is no less certain res nolunt malè intelligi. Things themselves are to be considered as they are in themselves, and then they will show us in what way they are to be understood. For to have right conceptions about them, we must bring our understandings to the inflexible natures and unalterable relations of things, and not endeavour to bring things to any preconceived notions of our own.
There is another partiality very commonly observable in men of study, no less prejudicial nor ridiculous than the former; and that is a fantastical and wild attributing all knowledge to the ancients alone, or to the moderns. This raving upon antiquity in matter of poetry, Horace has wittily described and exposed in one of his satires. The same sort of madness may be found in reference to all the other sciences. Some will not admit an opinion not authorised by men of old, who were then all giants in knowledge, Nothing is to be put into the treasury of truth or knowledge which has not the stamp of Greece or Rome upon it; and since their days will scarce allow that men have been able to see, think, or write. Others, with a like extravagancy, contemn all that the ancients have left us, and, being taken with the modern inventions and discoveries, lay by all that went before, as if whatever is called old must have the decay of time upon it, and truth, too, were liable to mould and rottenness. Men, I think, have been much the same for natural endowments in all times. Fashion, discipline,
and education, have put eminent differences in the ages of several countries, and made one generation much differ from another in arts and sciences: but truth is always the same; time alters it not, nor is it the better or worse for being of ancient or modern tradition. Many were eminent in former ages of the world for their discovery and delivery of it; but though the knowledge they have left us be worth our study, yet they exhausted not all its treasure; they left a great deal for the industry and sagacity of after-ages, and so shall we. That was once new to them which any one now receives with veneration for its antiquity, nor was it the worse for appearing as a novelty; and that which is now embraced for its newness will to posterity be old, but not thereby be less true or less genuine. There is no occasion, on this account, to oppose the ancients and the moderns to one another, or to be squeamish on either side. He that wisely conducts his mind in the pursuit of knowledge will gather what lights, and get what helps he can, from either of them, from whom they are best to be had, without adoring the errors, or rejecting the truths, which he may find mingled in them.
Another partiality may be observed, in some to vulgar, in others to heterodox tenets: some are apt to conclude that what is the common opinion cannot but be true; so many men's eyes they think cannot but see right; so many men's understandings of all sorts cannot be deceived ; and, therefore, will not venture to look beyond the received notions of the place and age, nor have so presumptuous a thought as to be wiser than their neighbours. They are content to go with the crowd, and so go easily, which they think is going right, or at least serves them as well. But however vox populi vox Dei has prevailed as a maxim, yet I do not remember where ever God delivered his oracles by the multitude, or nature truths by the herd. On the other side, some fly all common opinions as either false or frivolous. The title of many.
beast is a sufficient reason to them to conclude that no truths of weight or consequence can be lodged there. Vulgar opinions are suited to vulgar capacities, and adapted to the ends of those that govern. He that will know the truth of things must leave the common and beaten track, which none but weak and servile minds are satisfied to trudge along continually in. Such nice palates relish nothing but strange notions quite out of the way: whatever is commonly received, has the mark of the beast on it; and they think it a lessening to them to hearken to it, or receive it; their mind runs only after paradoxes; these they seek, these they embrace, these alone they vent; and so, as they think, distinguish themselves from the vulgar. But common or uncommon are not the marks to distinguish truth or falsehood, and therefore should not be any bias to us in our inquiries. We should not judge of things by men's opinions, but of opinions by things. The multitude reason but ill, and therefore may be well suspected, and cannot be relied on, nor should be followed as a sure guide; but philosophers, who have quitted the orthodoxy of the community, and the popular doctrines of their countries, have fallen into as extravagant and as absurd opinions as ever common reception countenanced. It would be madness to refuse to breathe the common air, or quench one's thirst with water, because the rabble use them to these purposes; and if there are conveniencies of life which common use reaches not, it is not reason to reject them because they are not grown into the ordinary fashion of the country, and every villager doth not know them.
Truth, whether in or out of fashion, is the measure of knowledge, and the business of the understanding; whatsoever is besides that, however authorised by consent, or recommended by rarity, is nothing but ignorance, or something worse.
Another sort of partiality there is, whereby men impose upon themselves, and by it make their reading
little useful to themselves ; I mean the making use of the opinions of writers, and laying stress upon their authorities, wherever they find them to favour their own opinions.
There is nothing almost has done more harin to men dedicated to letters than giving the name of study to reading, and making a man of great reading to be the same with a man of great knowledge, or at least to be a title of honour. All that can be recorded in writing are only facts or reasonings. Facts are of three sorts ;
1. Merely of natural agents, observable in the ordinary operations of bodies one upon another, whether in the visible course of things left to themselves, or in experiments made by them, applying agents and patients to one another, after a peculiar and artificial
2. Of voluntary agents, more especially the actions of men in society, which makes civil and moral history:
3. Of opinions.
In these three consists, as it seems to me, that which commonly has the name of learning; to which perhaps some may add a distinct head of critical writings, which indeed at bottom is nothing but matter of fact; and resolves itself into this, that such a man, or set of men, used such a word, or phrase, in such a sense; i.e. that they made such sounds the marks of such ideas.
Under reasonings I comprehend all the discoveries of general truths made by human reason, whether found by intuition, demonstration, or probable deductions. And this is that which is, if not alone knowledge, (because the truth or probability of particular propositions may be known too) yet is, as may be
supposed, most properly the business of those who pretend to improve their understandings, and make themselves knowing by reading.
Books and reading are looked upon to be the great helps of the understanding, and instruments of knowledge, as it must be allowed that they are; and yet I