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To suppose for truth the thing that is in question. This is that which Aristotle calls begging of the question, which we manifestly see to be contrary to reason : since in all arguments, that which serves for proof, ought to be more clear and known than the thing which we would prove. Nevertheless Galileus accuses Aristotle, and that justly, of falling into this error, when he would prove by the following argument, that the earth is the centre of the world.
'Tis the nature of heavy things to tend to the centre of the world, and of light things to keep at a distance from it.
Now experience shows us, that heavy things tend to the centre of the earth, and light things keep at a distance from it.
Therefore the centre of the earth is the centre of the world.
It is most apparent that there is in this argument a manifest begging of the principle. For we find that heavy things tend to the centre of the earth; but where did Aristotle learn, that they tend to the centre of the world, unless he supposed the centre of the earth and the centre of the world to be the same? which is the conclusion that he would prove by this argument.
To this sophism may be referred those arguments which are drawn from a principle different from what is in the question, but which is known to be no less contested by the opponent. For instance: there are two maxims equally constant among the Catholics. The one, that all points of faith cannot be proved by scripture alone. The other, that children are capable of baptism. Therefore an Anabaptist would argue ill, to prove against the Catholics that they are in the wrong to believe that children are capable of baptism, because we find nothing to prove it in scripture, because that would suppose that we ought to believe no article of faith but what is in the scripture, which is denied by the Catholics.
Lastly, we may refer to this Sophism all those arguments by which we endeavour to prove one thing unknown, by another altogether as much unknown; or a thing uncertain, by another thing as much, or more uncertain.
SOPHISM 3. To take for the cause that which is not the cause. This sophism is very usual among men, and they fall into it several ways. The one through the bare ignorance of the real causes of things. Thus philosophers have attributed a thousand effects to the fear of a vacuum, which at this day and by most ingenious experiments is demonstrably proved to have no other cause than the ponderosity of the air. The same philosophers teach us, that vessels full of water crack when the water is frozen, because the water closes itself, and leaves a void place which nature cannot endure; whereas it is well known that those vessels break, because the water when congealed takes up more space than when fluid, which is the reason that ice swims upon water.
To this njay be referred that other sophism, when we make use of remote causes, and such as prove nothing, to prove things either clear of themselves, false, or doubtful, as when Aristotle would prove that there are three simple motions, because there are three dimensions, though it be a very difficult thing to find a conclusion from the premises.
The same philosopher attempts to prove, that the Heaven is unalterable and incorruptible, because it moves circularly. But first, it is not well discovered yet what circularity of motion has to do with the corruption or alteration of bodies. In the second place, there is less reason to be given why a circular motion should be less conducive to corruption than motion in a right line.
In the second place, we fall into this sort of sophistry through that silly vanity that makes us ashamed to confess our ignorance; from whence it happens, that we rather choose to forge imaginary causes of the thing for which we are asked the reason, than to con
fess that we know it not; and it is an ingenious kind of way whereby we confess our ignorance. For when we see the effect of a cause unknown, we dissemble that we have discovered it when we have joined to this effect a general word of virtue, or faculty, which forms in our mind no other idea but only that the effect has some cause, which we knew before we found out that word. For example, there is nobody but knows that the arteries beat, that iron cleaves to the adamant, that senna purges, and poppy stupifies. They who make no profession of knowledge, and who are not ashamed of ignorance, freely confess that they know the effects, but understand not the cause; whereas others that would blush to say so, and pretend to have discovered the real cause of effects, presently cry there is a pulsific virtue in the arteries, a magnetic virtue in the adamant, a purgative virtue in senna, and a soporific virtue in poppy. Now is not this quaintly resolved ? And might not the Chinese, with as much facility, have extricated themselves from all their admiration of our clocks when first brought into their country ? For they might have said they knew perfectly the reason of what others were so puzzled at, by affirming that it was only by an indicative virtue, that this engine marked out the hours upon the plane, and by a sonorific quality that the bell struck. Certainly they might have passed for as learned persons in the knowledge of clocks, as our philosophers in the causes of the beating of the arteries.
There are also certain other words that serve to render men learned at a small expense, as sympathy, antipathy, and occult qualities. Yet they that use them would utter nothing of falsehood provided they annexed the general notion of the cause to the respective words ; whether it be internal or external, dispositive or active. For certain it is, that there is an active quality in the magnet, for the sake of which the iron moves to that rather than to any other stone, which men have agreed to call magnetic virtue. So that the deception consists in this, either that they imagine themselves to be more learned than others, for having found out the word; or else, being able to express the cause in general terms, they lead people to believe that they apprehend it in their understandings.
But there are others who obtrude upon us for real causes of nature, pure chimeras, as the astrologers; who refer all causes to the influences of the stars. And these are they forsooth who have found out that there must of necessity be an immoveable heaven above all the rest of the spheres, which they allow motion, because the earth produces divers things in different climates.
They reason thus : there can be no causes of such variety of productions but the influences of a heaven, which, being immoveable, has always the same aspects upon the same parts of the earth.
Thus one of these doctors, having undertaken to prove the immobility of the earth, makes it one of the principal demonstrations of that fact, that if the earth turned about the sun, the influences of the stars would be carried obliquely, which would cause great disorder in the world.
With these influences they strangely terrify the people, so that when they see any comet appear, or that any great eclipse happens, then the world must be turned topsy-turvy; and woe to Spain, Germany, or Sweden, or some other country which they have most a pick at; though there be no reason that either comets or eclipses should have any considerable effect upon the earth, or that general causes, as they are, should operate more certainly in one part than in another, or threaten a king or a prince more than a mechanic, besides that we find a hundred comets that were never infamous for any of the dire effects laid to their charge.
For what if pestilences, wars, deaths of princes, do sometimes happen after the appearance of comets and eclipses, they as often happen without any such signals. Besides, these things are so general and common, that it is much if they do not happen in some part of the world every year. So that they who conjecture at random that such a comet threatens the
death of some great personage, do not hazard their reputation over much.
But it is far worse when they give these chimerical influences for the cause of the virtuous or vicious inclinations of men, as also of the particular actions and events of their life, without having any other ground than only that among ten thousand predictions it falls out by mere chance, that some one proves true. Although if a man were to judge of these things ra. tionally, and according to good sense, he might as well say that a candle lighted in the chamber of a woman that lies in, ought to have a greater influence upon the body of the infant, than the planet Saturn, in whatever aspect or conjunction it be.
Lastly, there are some who assign chimerical causes to chimerical effects, and such are those who sup. posing that nature abhors a vacuity, and that she does her utmost to avoid it, feign more fictitious causes of this fictitious horror, the effect itself being imaginary ; seeing that nature fears nothing, and that all the effects which are attributed to this dread of nature, depend solely upon the gravity of the air. A most wonderful science indeed, which goes about to prove that which is not, by that which is not.
Therefore when we search the causes of extraordinary effects, we ought carefully first to examine whether the effects be true. For sometimes we labour to no purpose to search out the reason of things that are not. Insomucn, that there are an infinite number of questions which are to be resolved, as Plutarch resolves this propounded by himself, Why such colts as are pursued by the wolf are swifter than others. For after he has suggested several causes, he at last brings another solution, which seems to be very true and genuine. Perhaps, says he, the thing itself may be a story. And this is the method we ought to observe in philosophizing concerning sundry effects, which are attributed to the moon ; such as these, that the bones are full of marrow upon the increase of the moon, but empty when she is in her wane ; and