Sceptical Chymist/Praeface Introductory
P R AE F A C E
To the following Treatise.
To give the Reader an account, why the following Treatise, is suffer'd, to pass abroad so maim'd, and imperfect, I must inform him that 'tis now long since, that to gratify an ingenious Gentleman ; I set down some of the Reasons that kept me from fully acquiescing either in the Peripatetical ; or Chymical Doctrine, of the Material Principles of mixt Bodies. This Dircourse some years after falling into the hands of some Learned men, had the good luck to be so favourably receiv'd, and advantageously spoken of by them, that having had more then ordinary Invitations given me to make it publick, I thought fit to review it, that might retrench some things that seem'd fit to be shewn to every Reader, And substitute some of those other things that occurr'd to me of the tryals and observations I had since made. What became of my papers, I elsewhere mention in a Preface where I complain of it : But since I writ That, I found many sheets that belong'd to the subjects I am now about to discourse of. Wherefore seeing that I had then in my hands as much of the first Dialogue as was requisite to state the Case, and serve for an Introduction as well to the conference betwixt Carneades and Eleutherius, as to same other Dialogues, which for certain reasons are not now herewith publish'd, I resolv'd to supply, as well as I could, the Contents of a Paper belonging to the secund of the following Discourses, which I could not possibly retrive, though it were the chief of them all. And having once more try'd the Opinion of Friends, but not of the same, about this imperfect work, I found it such, that I was content in complyance with their Desires, that not only it should be publish'd, but that it should be publish'd as soon as conveniently might be. I had indeed all along the Dialogues spoken of my self, as of a third Person ; For, they containing Discourses which were among the first treatises that I ventur'd long ago to write of matters Philosophical, I had reason to desire, with the Painter, to , and bear what men would say of them, before I own'd my self to be their Author. But besides that now I find, 'tis not unknown to many who it is that writ them, I am made to believe that 'tis not inexpedient, they would be known to come from a Person not altogether a stranger to Chymical Affairs. And I made the lesse scruple to let them come abroad uncompleated, partly, because my affairs and Prae-ingagements to publish divers other Treatises allow'd me small hopes of being able in agreat while to compleat these Dialogues. And partly, because I am not unapt to think, that they may come abroad seasonably enough, though not for the Authors reputation, yet for other purposes. For I observe, that of late Chymistry begins, as indeed it deserves, to be cultivated by Learned Men who before despis'd it ; and to be pretended to by many who never cultivated it, that they may be thought not to ignore it : Whence it is come to passe, that divers Chymical Notions about Matters Philosophical are taken for granted and employ'd, and so adopted by very eminent writers both Naturalists and Physitians. Now this I fear may prove somewhat prejudicial to the Advancement of solid Philosophy : For though I am a great Lover of Chymical Experiments, and though I have no mean esteem of divers Chymical Remedies, yet I distinguish these from their Notions about the causes of things, and their manner of Generation. And for ought I can hitherto discern, there are a thousand Phaenomena in Nature, besides Multitude of Accidents relating to the humane Body ,which will scarcely be clearly & satisfactorily made out by them that confine themselves to deduce things from Salt, Sulphur and Mercury, and the other Notions peculiar to the Chymists, without taking much more Notice than they are wont to do, of the Motions and Figures, of the small Parts of Matter, and the other more Catholick and Fruitful affections of Bodies. Wherefore it will not perhaps be now unseasonable to let our Carneades warne Men, not to subscribe to the grand Doctrine of the Chymists touching their three Hypostatical Principles, till they have a little examin'd it, and consider'd, how they can clear it from his Objections, divers of which 'tis like they may never have thought on ; since a Chymist scarce would, and none but a Chymist could propose them. I hope also it will not be unacceptable to several Ingenious Persons, who are unwilling to determine of any important Controversie, without a previous consideration of what may be said on both sides, and yet have greater desires to understand Chymical Matters, than Opportunities of learning them, to find here together, besides several Experiments of my own purposely made to Illustrate the Doctrine of the Elements, divers others scarce to be met with, otherwise then Scatter'd among many Chymical Books. And to Find these Associated Experiments so Deliver'd as that an Ordinary Reader, if he be but Acquainted with the usuall Chymical Termes, may easily enough Understand Them ; and even a wary One may safely rely on Them. These Things I add, because a Person any Thing vers'd in the writings of Chymists cannot but Discern by their obscure, ambiguous, and almost AEnigmatical way of expressing what they pretend to Teach, that they have no Mind to be understood at all, but by the Sons of Art ( as they call them ) nor to be Understood even by these Without Difficulty and Hazardous Tryalls. lnsomuch that same of Them Scarce ever speak so candidly, as when they make use of that known Chymical Sentence ; . And as the obscurity of what some Writers deliver makes it very difficult to be understood ; so the Unfaithfulness of too many others makes it unfit to be reli'd on. For though unwillingly, Yet I must for the truths sake, and the Readers, warne him not to be forward to believe Chymical Experiments when they are set down only by way of Prescriptions, and not of Relations ; that is, unless he that delivers them mentions his doing it upon his own particular knowledge, or upon the Relation of some credible person, avowing it upon his own experience. For I am troubled, I must complain, that even Eminent writers, both Physitians and Philosophers, whom I can easily name, if it be requir'd , have of late suffer'd themselves to be so far impos'd upon, as to Publish and Build upon Chymical Experiments, which questionless they never try'd ; for if they had, they would, as well as I, have found them not to be true. And indeed it were to be wish'd, that now that those begin to quote Chymical Experiments that are not themselves Acqainted with Chymical Operations, men would Leave off that Indefinite Way of Vouching the Chymists say this, or the Chymists affirme that, and would rather for each Experiment they alledge name the Author or Authors, upon whose credit they relate it ; For, by this means they would secure themselves from the suspition of falshood ( to which the other Practice Exposes them ) and they would Leave the Reader to Judge of what is fit for him to Believe of what is Deliver'd, whilst they employ not their own great names to Countenance doubtfull Relations ; and they will also do Justice to the Inventors or Publishers of true Experiments, as well as upon the Obtruders of false ones. Whereas by that general Way of quoting the Chymists, the candid Writer is Defrauded of the particular Praise, and the Impostor escapes the Personal Disgrace that is due to him.
The remaining Part of this Preface must be imploy'd in saying something for Carneades, and something for my Self.
And first, Carneades hopes that he will be thought to have disputed civilly and Modestly enough for one that was to play the Antagonist and the Sceptick. And if he any where seem to sleight his Adversaries Tenents and Arguments, he is willing to have it look'd upon as what he was induc'd to, not so much by his Opinion of them, as the Examples of Themistius and Philoponus, and the custom of such kind of Disputes.
Next, In case that some of his Arguments shall not be thought of the most Cogent sort that may be, he hopes it will be consider'd that it ought not to be Expected, that they should be So. For, his Part being chiefly but to propose Doubts and Scruples, he does enough, if he shews that his Adversaries Arguments are not strongly Concluding, though his own be not so neither. And if there should appear any disagreement betwixt the things he delivers in divers passages, he hopes it will be consider'd, that it is not necessary that all the things a Sceptick Proposes, should be consonant ; since it being his work to Suggest doubts against the Opinion he questions, it is allowable for him to propose two or more severall Hypotheses about the same thing : And to say that it may be accounted for this way, or that way, or the other way, though these ways be perhaps inconsistent among Themselves. Because it is enough for him, if either of the proposed Hypotheses be but as probable as that he calls a question. And if he proposes many that are Each of them probable, he does the more satisfie his doubts, by making it appear the more difficult to be sure, that that which they alwayes differ from is the true. And our Carneades by holding the Negative, he has this Advantage, that if among all the Instances he brings to invalidate all the Vulgar Doctrine of those be Disputes with, any one be Irrefragable, that alone is sufficient to overthrow a Doctrine which Universally asserts what he opposes. For, it cannot be true, that all Bodies whatsoever that are reckon'd among the Perfectly mixt Ones, are Compounded of such a Determinate Number of such or such Ingredients, in case any one such Body can be produc'd, that is not so compounded ; and he hopes too, that Accurateness will be the less expected from him ; because his undertaking obliges him to maintain such Opinions in Chymistry, and that chiefly by Chymical Arguments, as are Contrary to the very Principles of the Chymists ; From whose writings it is not Therefore like he should receive any intentional Assistance, except from some Passages of the Bold and Ingenious Helmont, with whom he yet disagrees in many things ( which reduce him to explicate Divers Chymical Phaenomena, according to other Notions ; ) And of whose Ratiocinations , not only some seem very Extravagant, but even the Rest are not wont to be as considerable as his Experiments. And though it be True indeed, that some Aristotelians have occasionally written against the Chymical Doctrine he Oppugnes, yet since they have done it according to their Principles, And since our Carneades must as well oppose their Hypothesis as that of the Spagyrist, he was fain to fight his Adverfaries with their own Weapons, Those of the Peripatetick being Improper, if not hurtfull for a Person of his Tenents ; besides that those Aristotelians, ( at Least, those he met with, ) that have written against the Chymists, seem to have had so little Experimental Knowledge in Chymical Matters, that by their frequent Mistakes and unskilfull way of Oppugning, they have too often expos'd Themselves to the Derision of their Adversaries, for writing so Confidently against what they appear so little to understand.
And Lastly, Carneades hopes, he shall doe the Ingenious this Piece of service, that by having Thus drawn the Chymists Doctrine out of their Dark and Smoakie Laboratories, and both brought it into the open light, and shewn the weakness of their Proofs, that have hitherto been wont to be brought for it, either Judicious men shall henceforth he allowed calmly and after due information to disbelieve it, or those abler Chymists, that are zealous for the reputation of it, will be oblig'd to speak plainer then hitherto has been done, and maintain it by better Experiments and Arguments then Those Carneades hath examin'd : so That he hopes, the Curious will one Way or other Derive either satisfaction or instruction from his endeavours. And as he is ready to make good the profession he makes in the close of his Discourse, he being ready to be better inform'd, so he expects either to be indeed inform'd, or to be let alone. For Though if any Truly knowing Chymists shall Think fit in a civil and rational way to shew him any truth touching the matter in Dispute That he yet discernes not, Carneades will not refuse either to admit, or to own a Conviction : yet if any impertinent Person shall, either to get Himself a Name, or for what other end soever, wilfully or carelesly mistake the State of the Controversie, or the sence of his Arguments, or shall rail instead of arguing, as hath been done of Late in Print by divers Chymists ;G. and F. and H. and others, in their books against one another. or lastly, shall write against them in a canting way ; I mean, shall express himself in ambiguous or obscure terms, or argue from experiments not intelligibly enough Deliver'd, Carneades professes, That he values his time so much, as not to think the answering such Trifles worth the loss of it.
And now having said thus much for Carneades, I hope the Reader will give me leave to say something too for my self.
And first, if some morose Readers shall find fault with my having made the Interlocutors upon occasion complement with one another, and that I have almost all along written these Dialogues in a stile more Fashionable then That of meer scholars is wont to be, I hope I shall be excus'd by them that shall consider, that to keep a due decorum in the Discourses, it was fit that in a book written by a Gentleman, and wherein only Gentlemen are introduc'd as speakers, the Language should be more smooth, and the Expressions more civil than is usual in the more Scholastick way of writing. And indeed, I am not sorry to have this Opportunity of giving an example how to manage even Disputes with Civility ; whence perhaps some Readers will be assisted to discern a Difference betwixt Bluntness of speech and Strength of reason, and find that a man may be a Champion for Truth, without being an Enemy to Civility ; and may confute an Opinion without railing at Them that hold it ; To whom he that desires to convince and not to provoke them, must make some amends by his Civility to their Persons, for his severity to their mistakes ; and must say as little else as he can to displease them, when he says that they are in an error.
But perhaps other Readers will be less apt to find fault with the Civility of my Disputants, than the Chymists will be, upon the reading of some Passages of the following Dialogue to accuse Carneades of Asperity. But if have made my Sceptick sometimes speak sleightingly of the Opinions he opposes, I hope it will not be found that I have done any more, than became the Part he was to act of an Opponent : Especially, if what I have made him say be compar'd with what the Prince of the Romane Orators himself makes both great Persons and Friends say of one anothers Opinions, in his excellent Dialogues, De Natura Deorum : And I shall scarce be suspected of Partiality, in the case, by them that take Notice that there is full as much ( if not far More ) liberty of sleighting their Adversaries Tenents to be met with in the Discourses of those with whom Carneades disputes. Nor needed I make the Interlocutors speak, otherwise then freely in a Dialogue, wherein it was sufficiently intimated, that I meant not to declare my own Opinion of the Arguments propos'd, much lesse of the whole Controversy it self otherwise than as it may by an attentive Reader be guess'd at by some Passages of Carneades : ( I say, some Passages, because I make not all that he says, especially in the heat of Disputation, mine, ) partly in this Discourse, and partly in some other Dialogues betwixt the same speakers ( though they treat not immediately of the Elements ) which have long layn by me, and expect the Entertainment that these present Difcourses will meet with. And indeed they will much mistake me, that shall conclude from what I now publish, that I am at Defyance with Chymistry, or would make my Readers so. I hope the Specimina I have lately publish'd of an attempt to shew the usefulness of Chymical Experiments to Contemplative Philosophers, will give those that shall read them other thoughts of me ; & I had a design ( but wanted opportunity ) to publish with these Papers an Essay I have lying by me, the greater part of which is Apologetical for one sort of Chymists. And at least, as for those that know me, I hope the pain I have taken in the fire will both convince them, that I am far from being an Enemy to the Chymists Art, ( though lam no friend to many that disgrace it by professing it, ) and perswade them to believe me when I declare that I distinguish betwixt those Chymists that are either Cheats ; or but Laborants, and the true Adepti ; By whom, could I enjoy their Conversation, I would both willingly and thankfully be instructed ; especially concerning the Nature and Generation of Metals : And possibly those that know how little I have remitted of my former addictedness to make Chymical Experiments, will easily believe that one of the chief Designes of this Sceptical Discourse was, not so much to discredit Chymistry, as to give an occasion and a kind of necessity to the more knowing Artists to lay aside a little of their overgreat Reservedness, & either explicate or prove the Chymical Theory better than ordinary Chymists have done, or by enriching us with some of their nobler secrets to evince that Their art is able to make amends even for the deficiencies of their Theory : And thus much I shall here make bold to add, that we shall much undervalue Chymistry, if we imagine, that it cannot teach us things farr more useful, not only to Physick but to Philosophy, than those that are hitherto known to vulgar Chymists. And yet as for inferiour Spagyrists themselves, they have by their labours deserv'd so well of the Common-wealth of Learning, that methinks 'tis Pity they should ever misse the Truth which they have so industriously sought. And though I being Admirer of the Theorical Part of their Art, yet my conjectures will much deceive me, if the Practical Part be not much more cultivated than hitherto it has been, and do not both employ Philosophy and Philosophers, and help to make men such. Nor would I that have ben diverted by other Studies as well as affairs, be thought to pretend being a profound Spagyrist, by finding so many faults in the Doctrine wherein the Generality of Chymists scruples not to Acquiesce : For besides that 'tis most commonly far easier to frame Objections against any propos'd Hypothesis, than to propose an Hypothesis not lyable to Objections ( besides this I say ) 'tis no such great matter, if whereas Beginners in Chymistry are commonly at once imbu'd with the Theory and Operations of their profession, I who had the good Fortune to Learn the Operations from illiterate Persons, upon whose credit I was not Tempted to take up any opinion about them, should consider things with lesse prejudice, and consiquently with other Eyes than the Generality of Learners ; And should be more dispos'd to accommodate the Phaenomena that occur'd to me to other Notions than to those of the Spagyrists. And having at first entertained a suspition That the Vulgar Principles were lesse General and comprehensive, or lesse considerately Deduc'd from Chymical Operations, than was believ'd ; it was not uneasie for me both to Take notice of divers Phaenomena, overlook'd by prepossest Persons, that seem'd not to suite so well with the Hermetical Doctrine ; and to devise some Experiments likely to furnish me with Objections against it, not known to many, that having practis'd Chymistry longer perchance then I have yet liv'd, may have far more Experience, Than I, of particular processes.
To conclude, whether the Notions I have propos’d, and the Experiments I have communicated, be considerable, or not, I willingly leave others to Judge ; and This only I shall say for my Self, That I have endeavour’d to deliver matters of Fact, so faithfully, that I may as well assist the lesse skilful Readers to examine the Chymical Hypothesis, as provoke the Spagyrical Philosophers to illustrate it : which if they do, and that either the Chymical opinion, or the Peripatetick, or any other Theory of the Elements differing from that I am most inclin’d to, shall be intelligibly explicated, and duly prov’d to me ; what I have hitherto discours’d will not hinder it from making a Proselyte of a Person that Loves Fluctuation of Judgment little enough to be willing to be eas’d of it by any thing but Error.