A free enquiry into the vulgarly receiv'd notion of nature made in an essay address'd to a friend
Boyle, Robert, 1627-1691.
Page  407


AND now, dear Eleutherius, you have the whole Bundle of those Papers that I found and tack'd together, (for they are not all that I have written) touching my Free Enquiry into the Receiv'd Notion of Nature: At the Close of which Essay, I must crave leave to represent two or three things about It.

1. Since this Treatise pretends to be but an Enquiry, I hope that any Discourses or Expressions that you may have found Dogmatically deli∣ver'd, about Questions of great moment or difficulty, will be interpretated with congruity to the Title and avow'd Scope of this Treatise; and that so favourable a Reader, as Eleu∣therius, will consider, that 'twas very Page  408 difficult in the heat of Discourse, ne∣ver to forget the Reserves, that the Title might suggest, especially since, on divers occasions, I could not have spoken, with those Reserves, without much enervating my Discourse, and being, by Restrictions and other cautious Expressions, tedious or troublesome to you. But this, as I lately intimated, is to be understood of Things of great moment or difficul∣ty. For otherwise, there are divers Notions, Suppositions, and Expla∣nations, in the Vulgarly Receiv'd Doctrine of Nature, and Her Phae∣nomena; which I take to be either so precarious, or so unintelligible, or so incongruous, or so insufficient, that I scruple not to own, that I am dissatisfied with them, and reject them.

2. Though, upon a transient view of these Papers, I find that several Parcels, that came first into my hands, having been laid and fasten'd together, (to keep them from being lost, as others had already been) be∣fore Page  409 the others were lighted on, some of them will not be met with in Places that are not the most pro∣per for them; yet Haste and Sick∣ness made me rather venture on your good Nature, for the Pardon of a venial Fault, than put myself to the trouble of altering the Order of these Papers, and substituting new Transitions and Connections, in the room of those, with which I former∣ly made up the Chasms and Incohe∣rency of the Tract, you now receive. And if the Notions and Reasonings be themselves solid, they will not need the Assistence of an exact Me∣thod to obtain the Assent of so dis∣cerning a Reader, as they are presen∣ted to: Upon the score of whose Be∣nignity, 'tis hop'd, that the former Advertisement may likewise pass for an Excuse, if the same things, for substance, be found more than once in a Tract written at very distant Times, and in differing Circumstan∣ces. For, besides that such seeming Repetitions will not (if I be not mi∣staken) Page  410 frequently occur, and will, for the most part, be found, by be∣ing variously express'd, to elucidate or strengthen the Thought or Argu∣ment, they belong to: And besides, that the Novelty and Difficulty of some Points may have made it need∣ful, not only to display, but to in∣culcate them; besides these things, (I say) 'tis very possible that the same Notion may serve to explicate or prove several Truths; and there∣fore may, without Impertinency, be made use of in more than one Part of our Treatise. And if our Enquiry shall be thought worthy to be Tran∣scrib'd, and presented to you a se∣cond time, after I shall have review'd it, and heard Objections against it, and consider'd the Things, that either you, or I myself, may find fault with in it; 'tis very possible, that (if God grant me Life and Leisure,) this Tract, which, in its present Dress, I desire you would look on but as an Apparatus (towards a more full and orderly Treatise,) may appear before Page  411 you in a less unaccurate Method: And that my Second Thoughts may prove more Correct, more Mature, or better Back'd and fortifi'd, than my First.

3. The Subject of my Enquiry being of great Extent, as well as Con∣sequence, it oblig'd me to consider, and treat of many Things, (as Phi∣losophical, Medical, Theological, &c.) and, among them, of divers that are not at all of easie Speculation. And I found it the more difficult to han∣dle them well, because the Attempt I have ventur'd upon being new, and to be prosecuted by Discourse, many of them opposite to the general Sen∣timents of Mankind, I was not to ex∣pect much Assistence from any thing, but Truth and Reason. And there∣fore, as I cannot presume not to need your Indulgence, so I cannot despair of obtaining it, if in this my first Essay, upon a variety of difficult Points, I have not always hit the Mark, and as happily found the Truth as sincerely sought it. But if Page  412 you shall (which 'tis very probable you will) find that I have fallen into some Errors, 'twill be but one Trou∣ble for you, to make me discern them, and forsake them, (especial∣ly any, wherein Religion may be con∣cern'd) which I have, by way of Praevision, made it the more easie for myself to do; because (if my Style have not wrong'd my Intentions,) I have written this Discourse, rather like a doubting Seeker of Truth, than a Man confident that he has found It.