Observations upon experimental philosophy to which is added The description of a new blazing world
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674.
Page  41

6. Of Scepticisme, and some other Sects of the An∣cient.

THere are several sorts of Scepticks different from each other; for though almost every one of the ancient Philosophers has his own opinions in Natural Philosophy, and goes on his own grounds or princi∣ples, yet some come nearer each other, then others do; and though Heraclitus, Democritus, Protagoras, and others, seem to differ from the Scepticks, yet their opi∣nions are not so far asunder, but they may all be refer∣red to the same sect.

Heraclitus is of opinion, That contraries are in the same thing; and Scepticks affirm, That contraries ap∣pear in the same thing; but I believe they may be partly both in the right, and partly both in the wrong. If their opinion be, that there are, or appear contraries in Nature, or in the essence of Matter, they are both in the wrong; but if they believe that Matter has diffe∣rent and contrary actions, they are both in the right; for there are not onely real, but also apparent, or seem∣ing contraries in Nature, which are her irregularities; to wit, when the sensitive and rational parts of Matter do not move exactly to the nature of their particu∣lars: As for example, Honey is sweet to those that are sound, and in health; but bitter to those that have the over-flowing of the Gall: where it is to be observed, Page  42 that Honey is not changed from its natural propriety, but the motions of the Gall being irregular, make a false copy, like as mad men who think their flesh is stone; or those that apprehend a Bird for a Stone, a Man for a Tree, &c. neither the Flesh, nor Stone, nor Tree are changed from their own particular natures; but the motions of humane sense in the sentient, are irregular, and make false copies of true objects; which is the rea∣son that an object seems often to be that, which really it is not. However, those irregularities are true corpo∣real motions; and thus there are both real and seeming contraries in Nature; but as I mentioned before, they are not contrary matters, but onely contrary actions.

Democritus says, That Honey is neither bitter, nor sweet, by reason of its different appearance to diffe∣rently affected persons; but if so, then he is like those that make neutral beings, which are between body, and no body, which is a Paradox to regular reason.

The Cyrenaick Sect affirms, That all bodies are of an incomprehensible nature; but I am not of their o∣pinion: for although the interior, corporeal figurative motions are not subject to every Creatures perception, yet in Nature they are not incomprehensible: As for example, the five senses in man are both knowing and ignorant, not onely of each others perception, but of the several parts of exterior objects; for the Eye one∣ly perceives the exterior figure, magnitude and colour, and not the Nose; the Nose perceives its scent, but Page  43 not its colour and magnitude; the Ear perceives neither its magnitude, colour, nor scent, but onely its sound, and so forth. The like may be said of the infinite per∣ceptive parts of Nature, whereby they are both obscu∣red and discovered to particulars, and so may be truly known in general, but not in particular by any finite Creature, or part of Nature.

The Academicks say, That some Fancies are credi∣ble, others incredible; and of those that are credible, some are credible onely, and some credible, and cir∣cumcurrent: As for example, A Rope lying loosely in a dark room, a man receives a credible fancy from it, and runs away; another considering it more exactly, and weighing the circumstances, as that it moves not, that it is of such a colour, and the like, to him it ap∣pears a rope, according to the credible and circumcur∣rent fancy. To which I answer: A mistake is an ir∣regularity of sense, and sometimes of reason too; if sense be onely mistaken, and not reason, reason recti∣fies sense; and if reason be onely mistaken, and not sense, then sense rectifies reason; but when both sense and reason are mistaken, the irregularity doth either last longer, or changes into regularity by the informa∣tion of some other circumstances, and things which may rectifie sometimes the irregular motions both of sense and reason; that is, the sensitive and rational mo∣tions of other parts may rectifie those irregularities.

I could make many more Observations, not onely Page  44 upon the aforementioned, but several others of the an∣cient Philosophers; but my design is not to refute their opinions, but, as I mentioned in the beginning, to shew the difference between theirs, and my own; and by this we may see, that irregularities do not onely appear in our present age, but have been also in times past; nay, ever since Nature has been, or else there would never have been such extravagant opinions con∣cerning the Truth of Nature.

But the chief which I observe is, That most of the Ancient make a commixture of natural, and superna∣tural; corporeal, and incorporeal beings; and of ani∣mate, and inanimate bodies: some derive reason from fancy; and some introduce neutral beings, which are neither corporeal, nor incorporeal, but between both; especially they do make general principles of particular effects, and abstract Quality, Motion, Accidents, Fi∣gure, Place, Magnitude, &c. from Matter, which causes so many confusions and differences in their opi∣nions; nor can it be otherwise, because of the irre∣gularities and divisions of Natures corporeal actions; and most of our Moderns do either follow altogether the opinions of the ancient Philosophers, putting them onely into a new dress, or patch them up with some of their own, and so make a Gallimafry in Natural Phi∣losophy.