61 Roger Ariew Quotes on Modern Philosophy - Quotes.pub

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And these fancies affect not only dogmas, but also simple notions. 46. The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all other things to support and agree with it. And though there is a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet it either neglects and despises these, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods; “Yes,” he asked again, “but where are the pictures of those who were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like, in which men, having a delight in such vanities, notice the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happens much more often, neglect and pass them by. But this mischief insinuates itself with much more subtlety into philosophy and the sciences, in which the first conclusion colors and brings into conformity with itself all that come after, though far sounder and better. Besides, independently of that delight and vanity which I have described, it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives, whereas it ought properly to hold itself indifferently disposed towards both alike. Indeed, in the establishment of any true axiom, the negative instance is the more forcible of the two.
43. There are also idols formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, which I call idols of the market place, on account of the commerce and consort of men there. For it is by discourse that men associate; and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. Nor do the definitions or explanations, with what in some things learned men are accustomed to guard and defend themselves, by any means set the matter right. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies. 44. Lastly, there are idols which have immigrated into men’s minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call idols of the theater, because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion. Nor is it only of the systems now in vogue or only of the ancient sects and philosophies that I speak; for many more plays of the same kind may yet be composed and in like artificial manner set forth, seeing that the most widely different errors have causes which are for the most part alike. Neither again do I mean this only of entire systems, but also of many principles and axioms in science which by tradition, credulity, and negligence have come to be received. But of these several kinds of idols I must speak more largely and exactly, that the understanding may be duly cautioned. 45. The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. And though there may be things in nature which are singular and unmatched, yet it devises for them parallels and conjugate relatives which do not exist.
In order to penetrate into the inner and further recesses of nature, it is necessary that both notions and axioms be derived from things by a more sure and guarded way, and that a method of intellectual operation be introduced altogether better and more certain. 19. There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one files from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried. 20. The understanding left to itself takes the same course (namely the former) which it takes in accordance with logical order. For the mind longs to spring up to positions of higher generality, that it may find rest there, and so after a little while wearies of experiment. But this evil is increased by logic, because of the order and solemnity of its disputations. 21. The understanding left to itself, in a sober, patient, and grave mind, especially if it is not hindered by received doctrines, tries a little that other way, which is the right one, but with little progress; for the understanding, unless directed and assisted, is a thing unequal, and quite unfit to contend with the obscurity of things. 22. Both ways set out from the senses and particulars, and rest in the lightest generalities, but the difference between them is infinite. For the one just glances at experiment and particulars in passing, the other dwells duly and orderly among them. The one, again, begins at once by establishing certain abstract and useless generalities, the other rises by gradual steps to that which is prior and better known in the order of nature.
3. Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known, the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which is in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule. [ … ] 11. As the sciences we now have do not help us in finding out new works, so neither does the logic we now have help us in finding out new sciences. 12. The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search for truth. So it does more harm than good. 13. The syllogism is not applied to the first principles of science, and is applied in vain to intermediate axioms, being no match for the subtlety of nature. It commands assent therefore to the proposition, but does not take hold of the thing. 14. The syllogism consists of propositions, propositions consist of words, words are symbols of notions. Therefore, if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and too hastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure. Our only hope therefore lies in a true induction. 15. There is no soundness in our notions, whether logical or physical. Substance, quality, passion, essence itself are not sound notions; much less are heavy, light, dense, rare, moist, dry, generation, corruption, attraction, repulsion, element, matter, form, and the like. But all are fantastical and ill defined. 16. Our notions of less general species, as man, dog, dove, and of the intermediate perceptions of the sense, as hot, cold, black, white, do not materially mislead us; yet even these are sometimes confused by the flux and alteration of matter and the mixing of one thing with another. All the others which men have adopted up to now are but wanderings, not being abstracted and formed from things by proper methods. 17. Nor is there less willfulness and wandering in the construction of axioms than in the formation of notions, not excepting even those very principles which are obtained by common induction, but much more in the axioms and lower propositions educed by the syllogism.
For it is not likely that we would take on different passions without changing; and what suffers change does not remain one and the same, and if it is not one and the same, then it also is not. But, as to being a complete being, that also changes being simply, constantly becoming another from another. And consequently the senses deceive us and lie to us by nature, taking what appears for what is, for lack of knowing what it is that is. But what is it, then, that truly is? What is eternal, that is, what has never been born, will never have an end; time never brings it any change. For time is a mobile thing, which appears as in shadow, with matter always running and flowing, without ever remaining stable or permanent. Anything to which the words before and after, has been and will be, is applied shows on the face of it that it is not a thing that is. For it would be great stupidity and a very obvious falsehood to say that that thing is which is not yet in being or has already ceased to be. As to the words present, instant, now, by which it seems we chiefly support and found our awareness of time, when reason discovers it, it destroys everything on the spot, for it immediately splits and divides it into future and past, as if it wanted necessarily to see it cut in two. The same thing happens to the nature that is being measured as to the time that measures it. For there is nothing there either that remains, or that is subsistent, but all things there are are born, or being born, or dying. Thus it would be a sin to say of God, who alone is, that he was or will be. For these are terms of variation, passage, or vicissitude concerning things that cannot last or remain in being. Hence we must conclude that only God is, not in the least according to some measure of time, but according to an immutable and immobile eternity, not measured by time, nor subject to any variation, before which nothing is, nor will be afterward, nor newer or more recent, but one really real being, who with one single now fills always; and there is nothing that is truly real but him alone, without one’s being able to say: He has been, or he will be without beginning and without end.