Instauratio Magna/Proem (Devey)

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Instauratio Magna by Francis Bacon, translated by Joseph Devey
Proem
This was an unlabeled section placed after the title page and before the dedication. It served the role that a book-jacket marketing blurb or publisher's abstract does nowadays. Such sections could be written by the author, the publisher, or both working together. This one was presumably written by Bacon himself.

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FRANCIS

OF VERULAM

THOUGHT THUS,

AND SUCH IS THE METHOD WHICH HE
DETERMINED WITHIN HIMSELF, AND WHICH
HE THO0UGHT IT CONCERNED THE LIVING AND
POSTERITY TO KNOW.

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Being convinced, by a careful observation, that the human understanding perplexes itself, or makes not a sober and advantageous use of the real helps within its reach, whence manifold ignorance and inconveniences arise, he was determined to employ his utmost endeavours towards restoring or cultivating a just and legitimate familiarity betwixt the mind and things.

But as the mind, hastily and without choice, imbibes and treasures up the first notices of things, from whence all the rest proceed, errors must for ever prevail, and remain uncorrected, either by the natural powers of the understanding or the assistance of logic; for the original notions being vitiated, confused, and inconsiderately taken from things, and the secondary ones formed no less rashly, human knowledge itself, the thing employed in all our researches, is not well put together nor justly formed, but resembles a magnificent structure that has no foundation.

And whilst men agree to admire and magnify the false powers of the mind, and neglect or destroy those that might be rendered true, there is no other course left but with better assistance to begin the work anew, and raise or rebuild the sciences, arts, and all human knowledge from a firm and solid basis.

This may at first seem an infinite scheme, unequal to human abilities, yet it will be found more sound and judicious than the course hitherto pursued, as tending to some issue; whereas all hitherto done with regard to the sciences is vertiginous, or in the way of perpetual rotation.

Nor is he ignorant that he stands alone in an experiment almost too bold and astonishing to obtain credit, yet he thought it not right to desert either the cause or himself, but to boldly enter on the way and explore the only path which is pervious to the human mind. For it is wiser to engage in an undertaking that admits of some termination, than to involve oneself in perpetual exertion and anxiety about what is interminable. The ways of contemplation, indeed, nearly correspond to two roads in nature, one of which, steep and rugged at the commencement, terminates in a plain; the other, at first view smooth and easy, leads only to huge rocks and precipices. Uncertain, however, whether these reflections would occur to another, and observing that he had never met any person disposed to apply his mind to similar thoughts, he determined to publish whatsoever he found time to perfect. Nor is this the haste of ambition, but anxiety, that if he should die there might remain behind him some outline and determination of the matter his mind had embraced, as well as some mark of his sincere and earnest affection to promote the happiness of mankind.