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Rant #42
(published May 31, 2001)
Of The Impediments of Knowledge in Handling It by Parts, And in Slipping Off Particular Sciences from the Root and Stock of Universal Knowledge, Being the 8th Chapter, The Whole Chapter.
(from Valerius Terminus)
by Sir Francis Bacon

Cicero, the orator, willing to magnify his own profession, and thereupon spending many words to maintain that eloquence was not a shop of good words and elegancies but a treasury and receipt of all knowledges, so far forth as may appertain to the handling and moving of the minds and affections of men by speech, maketh great complaint of the school of Socrates; that whereas before his time the same professors of wisdom in Greece did pretend to teach an universal SAPIENCE and knowledge both of matter and words, Socrates divorced them and withdrew philosophy and left rhetoric to itself, which by that destitution became but a barren and unnoble science. And in particular sciences we see that if men fall to subdivide their labours, as to be an oculist in physic, or to be perfect in some one title of the law, or the like, they may prove ready and subtile, but not deep or sufficient, no not in that subject which they do particularly attend, because of that consent which it hath with the rest. And it is a matter of common discourse of the chain of sciences how they are linked together, insomuch as the Grecians, who had terms at will, have fitted it of a name of CIRCLE LEARNING. Nevertheless I that hold it for a great impediment towards the advancement and further invention of knowledge, that particular arts and sciences have been disincorporated from general knowledge, do not understand one and the same thing which Cicero's discourse and the note and conceit of the Grecians in their word CIRCLE LEARNING do intend. For I mean not that use which one science hath of another for ornament or help in practice, as the orator hath of knowledge of affections for moving, or as military science may have use of geometry for fortifications; but I mean it directly of that use by way of supply of light and information which the particulars and instances of one science do yield and present for the framing or correcting of the axioms of another science in their very truth and notion. And therefore that example of OCULISTS and TITLE LAWYERS doth come nearer my conceit than the other two; for sciences distinguished have a dependence upon universal knowledge to be augmented and rectified by the superior light thereof, as well as the parts and members of a science have upon the MAXIMS of the same science, and the mutual light and consent which one part receiveth of another. And therefore the opinion of Copernicus in astronomy, which astronomy itself cannot correct because it is not repugnant to any of the appearances, yet natural philosophy doth correct. On the other side if some of the ancient philosophers had been perfect in the observations of astronomy, and had called them to counsel when they made their principles and first axioms, they would never have divided their philosophy as the Cosmographers do their descriptions by globes, making one philosophy for heaven and another for under heaven, as in effect they do.

So if the moral philosophers that have spent such an infinite quantity of debate touching Good and the highest good, had cast their eye abroad upon nature and beheld the appetite that is in all things to receive and to give; the one motion affecting preservation and the other multiplication; which appetites are most evidently seen in living creatures in the pleasure of nourishment and generation; and in man do make the aptest and most natural division of all his desires, being either of sense of pleasure or sense of power; and in the universal frame of the world are figured, the one in the beams of heaven which issue forth, and the other in the lap of the earth which takes in: and again if they had observed the motion of congruity or situation of the parts in respect of the whole, evident in so many particulars; and lastly if they had considered the motion (familiar in attraction of things) to approach to that which is higher in the same kind; when by these observations so easy and concurring in natural philosophy, they should have found out this quaternion of good, in enjoying or fruition, effecting or operation, consenting or proportion, and approach or assumption; they would have saved and abridged much of their long and wandering discourses of pleasure, virtue, duty, and religion. So likewise in this same logic and rhetoric, or arts of argument and grace of speech, if the great masters of them would but have gone a form lower, and looked but into the observations of Grammar concerning the kinds of words, their derivations, deflexions, and syntax; specially enriching the same with the helps of several languages, with their differing proprieties of words, phrases, and tropes; they might have found out more and better footsteps of common reason, help of disputation, and advantages of cavillation, than many of these which they have propounded. So again a man should be thought to dally, if he did note how the figures of rhetoric and music are many of them the same. The repetitions and traductions in speech and the reports and hauntings of sounds in music are the very same things. Plutarch hath almost made a book of the Lacedaemonian kind of jesting, which joined ever pleasure with distaste. SIR, (saith a man of art to Philip king of Macedon when he controlled him in his faculty,) GOD FORBID YOUR FORTUNE SHOULD BE SUCH AS TO KNOW THESE THINGS BETTER THAN I. In taxing his ignorance in his art he represented to him the perpetual greatness of his fortune, leaving him no vacant time for so mean a skill. Now in music it is one of the ordinariest flowers to fall from a discord or hard tune upon a sweet accord. The figure that Cicero and the rest commend as one of the best points of elegancy, which is the fine checking of expectation, is no less well known to the musicians when they have a special grace in flying the close or cadence. And these are no allusions but direct communities, the same delights of the mind being to be found not only in music, rhetoric, but in moral philosophy, policy, and other knowledges, and that obscure in the one, which is more apparent in the other, yea and that discovered in the one which is not found at all in the other, and so one science greatly aiding to the invention and augmentation of another. And therefore without this intercourse the axioms of sciences will fall out to be neither full nor true; but will be such opinions as Aristotle in some places doth wisely censure, when he saith THESE ARE THE OPINIONS OF PERSONS THAT HAVE RESPECT BUT TO A FEW THINGS. So then we see that this note leadeth us to an administration of knowledge in some such order and policy as the king of Spain in regard of his great dominions useth in state; who though he hath particular councils for several countries and affairs, yet hath one council of State or last resort, that receiveth the advertisements and certificates from all the rest. Hitherto of the diversion, succession, and conference of wits.

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