Observations upon experimental philosophy to which is added The description of a new blazing world
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674.

1. Ancient Learning ought not to be exploded, nor the Experimental part of Philosophy preferred before the Speculative.

IN this present age those are thought the greatest Wits that rail most against the ancient Philosophers, especially Ari∣stotle, who is beaten by all; but whether he deserve such punishment, others may judg. In my opinion, he was a very subtil Philosopher, and an ingenious Man; 'tis true, he was subject to errors as well as other men are, (for there is no creature so perfect but may err, nay, not Nature her self; but God onely Page  2 who is Omnipotent) but if all that err should be ac∣counted fools, and destitute of regular reason, then those deserve it most who think themselves wiser then they are, and upon that account few in this age would escape this censure. But concerning the Opinions of ancient Philosophers, condemned by many of our mo∣dern Writers, I for my particular, do very much ad∣mire them; for although there is no absolute perfecti∣on in them, yet if we do but rightly consider them, we shall find, that in many things, they come nearer to truth then many of our Moderns; for surely the anci∣ents had as good and regular rational and sensitive per∣ceptions, and as profitable Arts and Sciences as we have; and the world was governed as well, and they lived as happily in ancient times, as we do now, nay more. As for example; how well was the World governed, and how did it flourish in Augustus's time? how many proud and stately Buildings and Palaces could ancient Rome shew to the world, when she was in her flower? The Cedars, Gold, and many other curiosities which Solomon used in the structure of that Magnificent Temple, (the like whereof our age cannot shew) were as safely fetch'd and brought to him out of forreign places, as those commodities which we have out of other Countries either by Sea or Land: Besides, I doubt not but they had as profitable and use∣ful Arts and knowledges, and as skilful and ingenious Artists as our age can boast of; if not the very same, yet Page  3 the like, and perhaps better, which by the injury of time have been lost, to our great disadvantage; it may be they had no Microscopes or Telescopes, but I think they were the happier for the want of them, im∣ploying their time in more profitable studies: What learned and witty people the Egyptians were, is suffici∣ently known out of ancient Histories, which may in∣form us of many more. But I perceive the knowledg of several ages and times, is like the increase and decrease of the Moon; for in some ages Art and Learning flourishes better then in others, and therefore it is not onely an injury, but a sign of ill-nature, to exclaim a∣gainst ancient Learning, and call it Pedantry; for if the ancients had not been, I question whether we should have arrived to that knowledg we boast of at this present; for they did break the Ice, and shew'd us the way in many things, for which we ought to be thankful, rather then reward them with scorn. Neither ought Artists, in my opinion, to condemn Contem∣plative Philosophy, nay, not to prefer the Experi∣mental part before her; for all that Artists have, they are beholden for it to the conceptions of the ingenious Student, except some few Arts which ascribe their original to change; and therefore speculation must needs go be fore practice; for how shall a man practise, if he does not know what or which way to practise? Reason must direct first how sense ought to work, and so much as the Rational knowledg is more noble then the Sensi∣tive, Page  4 so much is the Speculative part of Philosophy more noble then the Mechanical. But our age being more for deluding Experiments then rational arguments, which some cal a tedious babble, doth prefer Sense before Reason, and trusts more to the deceiving sight of their eyes, and deluding glasses, then to the perception of clear and regu∣lar Reason; nay, many will not admit of rational argu∣ments, but the bare authority of an Experimental Philo∣sopher is sufficient to them to decide all Controversies, & to pronounce the Truth without any appeal to Reason; as if they onely had the Infallible Truth of Nature, and ingrossed all knowledg to themselves. Thus Reason must stoop to Sense, and the Conceptor to the Artist, which will be the way to bring in Ignorance, instead of advancing knowledg; for when the light of Rea∣son begins to be Eclipsed, darkness of Understanding must needs follow.