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Why nonsense so often escapes being detected.

understand, but in which often there is nothing to be understood.

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From such causes it hath arisen, that ever since the earliest days of philosophy, abstract subjects have been the principal province of altercation and logomachy; to the support of which, how far the artificial dialectic of the schoolmen; nay, the analytics and the metaphysics, the categories and the topics of the justly admired Stagyrite have contributed, we have considered already * Indeed, at length, disputation in the schools came to be so much a mechanical exercise, that if once a man had learned his logic, and had thereby come to understand the use of his weapons, and had gotten the knack of wielding them, he was qualified, without any other kind of knowledge, to defend any position whatsoever, how contradictory soever to com. mon sense, and to the clearest discoveries of reason and experience. This art, it must be owned, observ. ed a wonderful impartiality in regard to truth and error, or rather the most absolute indifference to both. If it was oftener employed in defence of error, that is not to be wondered at ; for the way of truth is one, the ways of error are infinite. One qualified in the manner above-mentioned, could as successfully dispute on a subject of which he was totally ignorant, as on one with which he was perfectly acquainted. Success indeed tended then no more to decide the question,

* Book I. Chap. VI

Sect. II.

The application of the preceding principles.

than a man's killing his antagonist in a duel serves now to satisfy any person of sense that the victor had right on his side, and that the vanquished was in the wrongSuch an art as this could at bottom be no other than a mere playing with words, used indeed grammatically, and according to certain rules established in the schools, but quite insignificant, and therefore incapable of conveying knowledge,

Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy.

This logic, between two and three centuries ago, received a considerable improvement from one Raimund Lully, a native of Majorca, who, by the inge. nious contrivance of a few concentric moveable cir, cles, on the borders of some of which were inscribed the subjects, of others the predicaments, and of others the forms of questions; he not only superseded the little in point of invention which the scholastic logic had till then required, but much accelerated the operations of the artist, All was done by manual labour, All the circles, except the 'outmost, which was immoveable, were turned upon the common center, one after another. In this manner the disposition of subjects, predicaments, and questions, was perpetually varied. All the proper questions on every subject were suggested, and pertinent answers supplied. In the same way did the working of the engine discover and apply the several topics of argument that might be used in support of any question. On this rare de

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Why nonsense so often escapes being detected.

vice, one Athanasius Kircher made great improvements in the last century. He boasted, that by means of a coffer of arts, divided into a number of small receptacles, entirely of his own contriving, a thousand prodigies might be performed, which either could not be effected at all, by Lully's magical circles, or at least not so expeditiously,

NOTHING can more fully prove, that the fruit of all such contrivances was mere words without knowledge, an empty show of science without the reality, than the ostentatious and absurd way in which the inventors, and their votaries, talk of these inventions. They would have us believe, that in these is contained a complete encyclopedia, that here we may discover all the arts and sciences as in their source, that hence all of them may be deduced a priori, as from their principles. Accordingly they treat all those as no better than quacks and empirics who have recourse to so homely a tutoress as experience.

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The consideration of their pretensions hath indeed satisfied me, that the ridicule thrown on projectors of this kind, in the account given by Swift * of a professor in the academy of Lagado, is not excessive, as I once thought it. The boasts of the accademist on the prodigies performed by his frame, are far less

* Gulliver's Travells, Part iii.

Sect. II.

The application of the preceding principles.

extravagant than those of the above mentioned artists, which in truth they very much resemble *.

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* At what an amazing pitch of perfection doth Knittelius, a great admirer both of Lully and of Kircher, suppose that the a depts in this literary handicraft may arrive. The assiduous and careful practice will, at length, according to him, fully instruct us, “ Quomodo de quacunque re proposita statim librum concipere, " et in capita dividere, de quacunque re ex tempore disserere, ar

gumentaris de quocunque themate orationem formare, orationem “mentalem per horam, dies et septimanas protrahere, rem quamcunque describere, per apologos et fabulas proponere, emblema

ta et hieroglyphica invenire, de quacunque re historias expeditè " scribere, adversaria de quacunque re facere, de quacunque mate" ria consilia dare, omnes argutias ad unam regulam reducere, as

sumptum thema in infinitum multiplicare, ex falso rem demons"trare, quidlibet per quidlibet probare, possimus.” Quirinus Kuhl. mannus, another philosopher of the last century, in a letter to Kircher, hath said with much good sense, concerning his cofier, " Lusus est ingeniosus, ingeniose Kirchere, non methodus, prima " fronte aliquid promittens, in recessu nihil solvens. Sine cista * enim puer nihil potest respondere, et in cista nihil præter verba “ habet ; tot profert quot audit, sine intellectu, ad instar psittaci; " et de illo jure dicitur quod Lacon de philomela, Vox est, prætcreaque

nihil.Ccald any body imagine, that one who thought so justly of Kircher's device, was himself the author of another of the same kind. He had, it seems, contrived a scientific machine, that moved by wheels, with the conception of which he pretended to liave been inspired by heaven, but unfortunately he did not live to publish it. . His only view, therefore, in the words above quoted, was to depreciate Kircher's engine, that he might the more effectually recommend his own. " Muita passim," says Morhoff concerning him (Polyhistor. vol. 1. lib. ü. cap. 5.) “ de rotis suis

. combinatoriis jactat, quibus ordinatis unus homo millies mille, "imo millies millies mille scribas vincat ; qui tamen primarius ro.

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So much for the third and last cause of illusion that was taken notice of, arising from the abuse of

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" tarum scopus non est, sed grandior longè reštat : Kempe notitia providentiæ æternæ, orbisque terrarum motus."

And again, “ Nec ullus hominum tam insulso judicio præditus est, qui hac in“stitutione libros doctos, novos, utiles, omni rerum scientia plenos, “ levissima opera edere non potest." How much more modest is the professor of Lagado : “ He flatters himself, indeed, that a more “ noble exalted thought than his never sprang in any other man's "head," but doth not lay claim to inspiration. Every one “ knows," he adds, “ how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences: whereas, by his contrivance, the most

ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily “ labour, may write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, law, ma“thematics, and theology," (no mention of history) " without the “ least. assistance from genius and study.” He is still modest enough to require time, and some corporal exercise, in order to the composing of a treatise ; but those artists propose to bring a proficient “ statim librum concipere,” instantly, “ levissima opera," with little or no pains. I shall conclude with laying before the reader the opinion of Lord Verulam, concerning the Lullian art, an opinion that may, with equal justice,- be applied to the devices of all Lully's followers and imitators. Neque tamen illud præ-“ termittendum, quod nonnulli viri magis tumidi quam docti insu“ darunt circa methodum quandam, legitimæ methodi nomine haud “ dignam, cum potius sit methodus imposturæ, quæ tamen quibus“ dam ardelionibus acceptissima procul dubio fuerit. Hæc metho“ dus ita scientiæ alicujus guttulas aspergit, ut quis sciolus specie " nonnulla eruditionis ad ostentationem possit abuti. Talis fuit

ars Lullii, talis typocosmia a nonnullis exarata; quæ nihil aliud fuerunt, quam

vocabulorum artis cujusque massa et acervus; ad hoc, ut qui voces artis habeant in promptu, etiam artes ipsas per“ didicisse existimentur. Hujus generis collectanea officinam refe“ runt veteramentariam, ubi præsegmina multa reperiuntur, sed ni

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