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Page

Réfer. : SC0306A
Auteur : Boyle Robert.
Titre : The sceptical Chymist.
S/titre : or chymico-physical Doubts & Paradoxes,
Touching the experiments....
Editeur : Printed for J. Crooke. London.
Date éd. : 1661 .


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CONTENTS
PAGE INTRODUCTORY PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 PHYSIOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS TOUCHING THE EXPERIMENTS
WONT TO BE EMPLOYED TO EVINCE EITHER THE FOUR PERI- PATETICK ELEMENTS, OR THE THREE CHYMICAL PRINCIPLES OF MIXT BODIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
THE FIRST PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
THE SECOND PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
THE THIRD PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
THE FOURTH PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
THE FIFTH PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
THE SIXTH PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
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INTRODUCTORY PREFACE TO THE FOLLOWING TREATISE

To give the reader an account, why the following treatise
is suffered to pass abroad so maimed 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 in the chymical doctrine, of the material principles of
mixt bodies. This discourse some years after falling
into the hands of some learned men, had the good luck to
be so favourably received and advantagiously spoken of
by them, that having had more than ordinary invitations
given me to make it public, I thought fit to review it,
that I might retrench some things that seemed not so fit
to be shewn to every reader, and substitute some of those
other things that occurred to me of the trials 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 belonged
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 some other dialogues,
which for certain reasons are not' herewith published, I
resolved to supply, as well as I could, the contents of a
paper belonging to the second of the following discourses,
which I could not possibly retrieve, though it were the chief
of them all. And having once more tried the opinion of
friends, but not the same, about tins imperfect work, I
found it such, that I was content in compliance with their
desires, that not only it should be published, but that it
should be published as soon as conveniently might be.
I had indeed all along the dialogues spoken of myself as

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2 The Sceptical Chymist
of a third person; for they containing discourses which
were among the first treatises that I ventured long ago
to write of matters philosophical, I had reason to desire,
with the pointer, to latere pone tabulam, and hear what
men would say of them, before I owned myself 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 should be known to come from
a person altogether a stranger to chymical affairs. And
I made the less scruple to let them come abroad uncompleated;
partly because my affairs and pre-ingagements
to publish divers other treatises allowed me small hopes of
being able in a great while to complete those dialogues,
and partly because I am not unapt to think, that they may
come abroad seasonably enough, though not for the
author's 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 despised it; and
to be pretended to by many who never cultivated it, that
they may be thought not to be ignorant of it: whence it is
come to pass, that divers chymical notions about matters
philosophical are taken for granted and employed, and
so adopted by very eminent writers both naturalists
and physicians. 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 a multitude of accidents relating to the
human body, which will scarcely be clearly and 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 catholic 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

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Introductory Preface 3
of the chymists touching their three hypostatical principles,
till they have a little examined it, and considered
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
scattered among many chymical books: and to find
these associated experiments so delivered as that an
ordinary reader, if he be but acquainted with the usual
chymical termes, may easily enough understand them;
and even a wary one may safely rely on them. These
things I add, because a person anything versed 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 trials. Insomuch that some of them scarce
ever speak so candidly, as when they make use of that
known chymical sentence: Ubi palam locuti fumus, ibi
nihil diximus. 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
relied upon. For though unwillingly, yet I must for the
truth sake, and the reader's, 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

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4 The Sceptical Chymist
I can easily name, if it be required, have of late suffered
themselves to be so far imposed upon, as to publish and
build upon chymical experiments, which questionless they
never tried; for if they had, they would, as well as I, have
found them not to be true. And indeed it were to be
wished, that now that those begin to quote chymical
experiments that are not themselves acquainted with
chymical operations, men would leave off that indefinite
way of vouching the chymists say this, or the chymists
affirm that, and would rather for each experiment they
alleged name the author or authors upon whose credit
they relate it; for, by this means they would secure
themselves from the suspicion of falsehood (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 delivered, whilst they employ not their own great
names to countenance doubtful relations; and they
will also do justice to the inventors or publishers of the
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 imployed in saying something for Carneades, and something for
myself.
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 sceptic. And if he
anywhere seem to slight his adversaries tenents and arguments,
he, is willing to have it looked upon as what he was
induced 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 considered 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,

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Introductory Preface 5
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 considered, that it
is not necessary that an the things a sceptic 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 several 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
wayes 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 in question. And if
he propose many that are each of them probable, he does
the more ratify his doubts, by making it appear the more
difficult to be sure, that that way which they all differ
from is the true. And our Carneades by holding the negative,
has this advantage, that if among all the instances
he brings to invalidate the vulgar doctrine of those he
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 reckoned 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
produced 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

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6 The Sceptical Chymist
Carneades must as well oppose their hypothesis as that
of the spagyrist, he was fain to fight his adversaries with
his own weapons, those of the peripatetic being improper
if not hurtful for a person of his tenets; 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 unskilful way of oppugning,
they have too often exposed themselves to the derision of
their adversaries, for writing so confidently against what
they appeare so little to understand.
And lastly, Carneades hopes he shall do the ingenious this piece of service, that by having thus drawn the
chymists' doctrine out of their dark and smokie 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
be allowed calmly and after due information to disbelieve
it, or those abler chymists, that are zealous for the reputation
of it, will be obliged to speak plainer than hitherto
has been done, and maintain it by better experiments and
arguments than those Carneades hath examined: 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, of being ready to be better informed,
so he expects either to be indeed informed, 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 himselfe a name, or for what other end soever, wilfully
or carelessly mistake the state of the controversie, or the
sense of his arguments, or shall rail instead of arguing, as
hath been done of late in print by divers chymists; or
lastly, shall write against them in a canting way, I mean
shall express himselfe in ambiguous or obscure termes, or
argue from experiments, not intelligibly enough delivered,
Carneades professes that he values his time so much, as

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Introductory Preface 7
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 for myself.
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 style more fashionable than
that of mere scholars is wont to be, I hope shall be
excused 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 introduced
as speakers, the language should be more smooth
and the expressions more civil than is usual in the more
scholastic 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 lie 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 I have
made my sceptic sometimes speak slightingly 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 compared
with what the prince of the Romane orators himself
makes both great persons and friends say of one another's
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 slighting their adversaries tenets

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8 The Sceptical Chymist
to be met with in the discourses of those with whom
Carneades disputes. Nor need I make the interlocutors
speak otherwise than freely in a dialogue, wherein it was
sufficiently intimated that I meant not to declare my own
opinion of the arguments proposed, much lesse of the
whole controversy itselfe, otherwise than as it may by an
attentive reader be guessed 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 (1) dialogues
betwixt the same speakers (though they treat not immediately
of the elements) which have long lain by me,
and expect the entertainement that these present discourses
will meet with. And indeed they will much
mistake me, that shall conclude from what I now publish,
that I am at defiance with chymistry, or would make my
readers so. I hope the Specimina I have lately published
of an attempt to shew the usefulness of chymical experiments
to contemplative philosophers, will give those that
read them other thoughts of me, and 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
chymist's art (though I am no friend to many that disgrace
it by professing it), and persuade 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 whome 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


1 The Dialogues here meant are those about Heat, Fire, Flame, etc. (seen by two secretaries of the Royal Society), that the author
somewhere complaines to have been missing with other things of
his presently after the hasty removal of his goods by night in the
great fire of London.

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Introductory Preface 9
an occasion and a kind of necessity to the more knowing
artists to lay aside a little of their over-great reservedness,
and 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 make bold to add, that
we shall much undervalue chymistry, if we imagine that
it cannot teach us things far more useful, not only to
physic, but to philosophy, than those that are hitherto
know to vulgar chymists. And yet as for inferior spagyrists
themselves, they have by their labours deserved so
well of the commonwealth of learning, that methinks 'tis
pity they should ever misse the truth which they have
so industriously sought. And though I be no admirer of
the theorical part of their art, yet my conjectures will
much deceive me, if the practical part be, not hereafter
much more cultivated than hitherto it has been, and do
not both employ philosophy and philosophers, and hope to
make men such. Nor would I, that have been 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 proposed hypothesis
than to propose an hypothesis not liable to objections,
(besides this I say) 'tis no such great matter; if whereas
beginners in chymistry are commonly at once imbued
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 consequently with other eyes than the
generality of learners; and should be more disposed to
accommodate the phaenomena that occurred to me to other
notions than to those of the spagirists. And having at
first entertained a suspicion that the vulgar principles were
lesse general and comprehensive, or lesse considerately
deduced from chymical operations, than was believed, it
was not uneasie for me both to take notice of divers phaenomena,

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10 The Sceptical Chymist
overlooked by prepossest persons, that seemed
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 practised
chymistry longer perchance than I have yet lived, may
have far more experience than I of particular processes.
To conclude, whether the notions I have proposed, and
the experiments I have communicated, be considerable,
or not, I willingly leave others to judge; and this only I
shall say for myself, that I have endeavoured 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 spagirical philosophers to illustrate
it: which if they do, and that either the chymical opinion,
or the peripatetic, or any other theory of the elements
differing from that I am most inclined to, shall be intelligibly
explicated, and duly proved to me; what I have
hitherto discoursed will not hinder it from making a
proselyte of a person that loves fluctuation of judgment
little enough to be willing to be eased of it by anything
but error.

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PHYSIOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
TOUCHING THE EXPERIMENTS WONT TO BE EMPLOYED TO EVINCE EITHER THE FOUR PERIPATETICK ELEMENTS, OR THE THREE CHYMICAL PRINCIPLES OF MIXT BODIES

PART OF THE FIRST DIALOGUE
I PERCEIVE that divers of my friends have thought it very
strange to hear me speak so irresolvedly, as I have been
wont to do, concerning those things which some take to
be the elements, and others to be, the principles of all
mixt bodies. But I blush not to acknowledge that I
much less scruple to confess that I doubt when I do so,
than to profess that I know what I do not: and I should
have much stronger expectations than I dare yet entertain,
to see philosophy solidly established, if men would more
carefully distinguish those things that they know from
those that they ignore or do but think, and then explicate
clearly the things they conceive they understand, acknowledge
ingenuously what it is they ignore, and profess so
candidly their doubts, that the industry of intelligent
persons might be set on work to make further enquiries,
and the easiness of less discerning men might not be
imposed on. But because a more particular accompt
will probably be expected of my unsatisfiedness not only
with the peripatetic, but with the chymical doctrine of
the primitive ingredients of bodies: it may possibly serve
to satisfy others of the excusableness of my dissatisfaction
to peruse the ensuing relation of what passed a while since
at a meeting of persons of several opinions, in a place that
need not here be named; where the subject, whereof
we have been speaking, was amply and variously discoursed
of.

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12 The Sceptical Chymist
It was on one of the fairest dayes of this summer that the inquisitive Eleutherius came to invite me to make a visit
with him to his friend Carneades. I readily consented to
this motion, telling him that if he would but permit me to
go first and make an excuse at a place not far off, where I
had at that hour appointed to meet, but not about a
business either of moment, or that could not well admit
of a delay, I would presently wait on him, because of my
knowing Carneades to be so conversant with nature and
with furnaces, and so unconfined to vulgar opinions, that
he would probably by some ingenious paradox or other
give our mindes at least a pleasing exercise, and perhaps
enrich them with some solid instruction, Eleutherius
then first going with me to the place where my apology
was to be made, I accompanied him to the lodging of
Carneades, where when we were come, we were told by
the servants that he was retired with a couple of friends
(whose names they also told us) to one of the arbours in his
garden, to enjoy under its coole shades a delightful protection
from the yet troublesome heat of the sun.
Eleutherius being perfectly acquainted with that garden immediately led me to the arbour, and relying on the
intimate familiarity that had been long cherished betwixt
him and Carneades; in spite of my reluctancy to what
might look like an intrusion upon his privacy, drawing me
by the hand, he abruptly entered the arbour, where we
found Carneades, Philoponus, and Themistius, sitting
close about a little round table, on which, besides paper,
pen, and inke, there lay two or three open books; Carneades
appeared not at all troubled at this surprise, but rising
from the table, received his friend with open looks and
armes, and welcoming me also with his wonted freedom
and civility, invited us to rest ourselves by him, which,
as soon as we had exchanged with his two friends (who
were ours also) the civilities accustomed on such occasions,
we did. And he presently after we had seated ourselves,
shutting the books that lay open, and turning to us with
a smiling countenance, seemed ready to begin some such
unconcerning discourse as is wont to pass, or rather waste,
the time in promiscuous companies,

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Physiological Considerations 13
But Eleutherius guessing at what he meant to do, prevented him by telling him, I perceive, Carneades, by the
books that you have been now shutting, and much more
by the posture wherein I found persons so qualified to
discourse of serious matters, and so accustomed to do it,
that you three were, before our coming, engaged in some
philosophical conference, which I hope you will either
prosecute, and allow us to be partakers of, in recompense
of the freedome we have used in presuming to surprise you,
or else give us leave to repair the injury we should otherwise
do you, by leaving you to the freedom we have interrupted,
and punishing ourselves for our boldness by
depriving ourselves of the happiness of your company.
With these last words he and I rose up, as if we meant to
be gone: but Carneades suddenly laying hold on his arme,
and stopping him by it, smilingly told him, We are not so
forward to lose good company as you seem to imagine;
especially since you are pleased to desire to be present at
what we shall say about such a subject as that you found
us considering. For that, being the number of the
elements, principles, or material ingredients of bodies,
is an enquiry whose truth is of that importance, and of that
difficulty, that it may as well deserve, as require, to be
searched into by such skilful indagators of nature as yourselves.
And therefore we sent to invite the bold and
acute Leucippus to lend us some light by his atomical
paradox, upon which we expected such pregnant hints,
that 'twas not without a great deal of trouble that we
had lately word brought us that he was not to be found;
and we had likewise begged the assistance of your presence
and thoughts, had not the messenger we employed to
Leucippus informed us that as he was going he saw you
both pass by towards another part of the town; and this
frustrated expectation of Leucippus his company, who
told me but last night that he would be ready to give me
a meeting where I pleased to-day, having very long suspended
our conference about the freshly mentioned subject,
it was so newly begun when you came in, that we shall
scarce need to repeat anything to acquaint you with what
had passed betwixt us before your arrival, so that I cannot

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14 The Sceptical Chymist
but look upon it as a fortunate accident that you should
come so seasonably, to be not hearers alone, but we hope
interlocutors at our conference. For we shall not only
allow of your presence at it, but desire your assistance in
it; which I add both for other reasons, and because
though these leamed gentlemen (says he, turning to his
two friends) need not fear to discourse before any
auditory, provided it be intelligent enough to understand
them, yet for my part (continues he with a new smile)
I shall not dare to vent my unpremeditated thoughts
before two such critics, unless by promising to take your
turnes of speaking, you will allow me mine of quarrelling
with what has been said. He and his friends added
divers things to convince us that they were both desirous
that we should hear them, and resolved against our doing
so unless we allowed them sometimes to hear us. Eleutherius,
after having a while fruitlessly endeavoured to
obtain leave to be silent, promised he would not be so
alwayes, provided that he were permitted according to
the freedom of his genius and principles to side with one
of them in the managing of one argument, and, if he saw
cause, with his antagonist, in the prosecution of another,
without being confined to stick to any one party or opinion,
which was after some debate accorded him. But, I conscious
of my own disabilities, told them resolutely that I
was as much more willing, as more fit, to be a hearer than
a speaker among such knowing persons, and on so abstruse
a subject. And that therefore I beseeched them without
necessitating me to proclaim my weaknesses, to allow me
to lessen them by being a silent auditor of their discourses:
to suffer me to be at which I could present them no motive,
save that their instructions would make them in me a more
intelligent admirer. I added that I desired not to be idle
whilst they were imployed, but would if they pleased, by
writing down in shorthand what should be delivered, preserve
discourses that I knew would merit to be lasting.
At first Carneades and his two friends utterly rejected
this motion; and all that my resoluteness to make use
of my ears, not tongue, at their debates could do, was
to make them acquiesce in the proposition of Eleutherius,

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Physiological Considerations 15
who thinking himself concerned, because he brought me
thither, to afford me some faint assistance, was content
that I should register their arguments that I might be
the better able after the conclusion of their conference to
give them my sense upon the subject of it (the number
of elements or principles), which he promised I should do
at the end of the present debates, if time would permit,
or else at our next meeting. And this being by him undertaken
in my name, though without my consent, the company
would by no means receive my protestation against
it, but casting, all at once, their eyes on Carneades, they
did by that and their unanimous silence, invite him to
Begin; which (after a short pause, during which he turned
himself to Eleutherius and me) he did in this manner.
Notwithstanding the subtile reasonings I have met with in the books of the peripatetics, and the pretty experiments
that have been shewed me in the laboratories of chymists.
I am of so diffident or dull a nature, as to think that if
neither of them can bring more cogent arguments to evince
the truth of their assertion than are wont to be brought,
a man may rationally enough retain some doubts concerning
the very number of those material ingredients of
mixt bodies, which some would have us call elements,
and others principles. Indeed when I considered that the
tenets concerning the elements are as considerable
amongst the doctrines of natural philosophy, as the
elements themselves are among the bodies of the universe,
I expected to find those opinions solidly established, upon
which so many others are superstructed. But when I
took the pains impartially to examine the bodies themselves
that are said to result from the blended elements,
and to torture them into a confession of their constituent
principles, I was quickly induced to think that the number
of the elements has been contended about by philosophers
with more earnestness than success. This unsatisfiedness
of mine has been much wondered at by
these two gentlemen (at which words he pointed at
Themistius and Philoponus), who though they differ
almost as much betwixt themselves about the question
we are to consider, as I do from either of them, yet they

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16 The Sceptical Chymist
both agree very well in this, that there is a determinate
number of such ingredients as I was just now speaking
of, and that what that number is I say not, may be (for
what may not such as they persuade ?), but is wont to be
clearly enough demonstrated both by reason and experience.
This has occasioned our present conference. For
our discourse this afternoon, having fallen from one subject
to another, and at length settled on this, they proffered
to demonstrate to me, each of them the truth of his opinion,
out of both the topics that I have freshly named. But
on the former (that of reason strictly so taken) we declined
insisting at the present, lest we should not have time
enough before supper to go through the reasons and
experiments too. The latter of which we unanimously
thought the most requisite to be seriously examined. I
must desire you then to take notice, gentlemen (continued
Carneades), that my present business doth not oblige
me so to declare my own opinion on the subject in question
as to assert or deny the truth either of the peripatetic or
the chymical doctrine concerning the number of the
elements, but only to shew you that neither of these
doctrines hath been satisfactorily proved by the arguments
commonly alledged on its behalfe. So that if I
really discern (as perhaps I think I do) that there may be
a more rational account than ordinary, given of one of
these opinions, I am left free to declare myself of it, notwithstanding
my present engagement, it being obvious to
all your observation; that a solid truth may be generally
maintained by no other than incompetent arguments.
And to this declaration I hope it will be needless to add,
that my task obliges me not to answer the arguments that
may be drawn either for Themistius's or Philoponus's
opinion from the topic of reason, as opposed to experiments;
since 'tis these only that I am to examine, and
not all these neither, but such of them alone as either of
them shall think fit to insist on, and as have hitherto been
wont to be brought either to prove that 'tis the four
peripatetic elements, or that 'tis the three chymical principles
that all compounded bodies consist of. These
things (adds Carneades) I thought myself obliged to

@

Physiological Considerations 17
premise, partly lest you should do these gentlemen (pointing
at Themistius and Philoponus, and smiling on them)
the injury of measuring their parts by the arguments they
are ready to propose, the lawes of our conference confining
them to make use of those that the vulgar of philosophers
(for even of them there is a vulgar) has drawn up
to their hands; and partly that you should not condemn
me of presumption for disputing against persons over
whom I can hope for no advantage, that I must not derive,
from the nature or rules of our controversy, wherein I
have but a negative to defend, and wherein too I am like
on several occasions to have the assistance of one of my
disagreeing adversaries against the other.
Philoponus and Themistius soon returned this compliment with civilities of the like nature, in which Eleutherius
perceiving them engaged, to prevent the further
loss of that time of which they were not like to have very
much to spare, he minded them that their present business
was not to exchange compliments, but arguments:
and then addressing his speech to Carneades, I esteem it
no small happiness (says he) that I am come here so
luckily this evening. For I have been long disquieted
with doubts concerning this very subject which you are
now ready to debate. And since a question of this importance
is to be now discussed by persons that maintain
such variety of opinions concerning it, and are both so
able to enquire after truth, and so ready to embrace
it by whomsoever and on what occasion soever it is
presented them; I cannot but promise myself that I
shall before we part, either lose my doubts or the hopes of
ever finding them resolved; Eleutherius paused not here;
but to prevent their answer, added almost in the same
breath; and I am not a little pleased to find that you are
resolved on this occasion to insist rather on experiments
than syllogismes. For I, and no doubt you, have long
observed, that those dialectical subtleties, that the schoolmen
too often employ about physiological mysteries, are
wont much more to declare the wit of him that uses them,
than increase the knowledge or remove the doubts of
sober lovers of truth. And such captious subtleties do

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18 The Sceptical Chymist
indeed often puzzle and sometimes silence men, but rarely
satisfy them. Being like the tricks of jugglers, whereby
men doubt not but they are cheated, though oftentimes
they cannot declare by what flights they are imposed on.
And therefore I think you have done very wisely to make
it your business to consider the phaenomena relating to the
present question, which have been afforded by experiments,
especially since it might seem injurious to our
senses, by whose mediation we acquire so much of the
knowledge we have of things corporal, to have recourse
to far-fetched and abstracted ratiocinations, to know
what are the sensible ingredients of those sensible things
that we daily see and handle; and are supposed to have
the liberty to untwist (if I may so speak) into the primitive
bodies they consist of. He annexed that he wished
therefore they would no longer delay his expected satisfaction
if they had not, as he feared they had, forgotten
something preparatory to their debate; and that was to
lay down what should be all along understood by the
word principle or element. Carneades thanked him for his
admonition, but told him that they had not been unmindful
of so requisite a thing. But that being gentlemen
and very far from the litigious humour of loving to
wrangle about words, or terms, or notions as empty, they
had before his coming in readily agreed promiscuously
to use when they pleaded, elements and principles as terms
equivalent: and to understand both by the one and the
other, those primitive and simple bodies of which the
mixt ones are said to be composed, and into which they
are ultimately resolved. And upon the same account
(he added) we agreed to discourse of the opinions to be
debated, as we have found them maintained by the
generality of the assertors the four elements of the one
party, and of those that receive the three principles on
the other, without tying ourselves to enquire scrupulously
what notion either Aristotle or Paracelsus, or this or that
interpreter or follower of either of those great persons,
framed of elements or principles; our design being to
examine, not what these or those writers thought or
taught, but what we find to be the obvious and most

@

Physiological Considerations 19
general opinion of those who are willing to be accounted
favourers of the peripatetic or chymical doctrine concerning
this subject.
I see not (says Eleutherius) why you might not immediately begin to argue, if you were but agreed which of
your two friendly adversaries shall be first heard. And it
being quickly resolved on that Themistius should first
propose the proofs for his opinion, because it was the
antienter, and the more general, he made not the company
expect long before he thus addressed himself to
Eleutherius, as to the person least interested in the
dispute.
If you have taken sufficient notice of the late confession which was made by Carneades, and which (though his
civility dressed it up in Complimental expressions) was
exacted of him by his justice, I suppose you will be easily
made sensible, that I engage in this controversie with
great and peculiar disadvantages, besides those which his
parts and my personal disabilities would bring to any
other cause to be maintained by me against him. For
he justly apprehending the force of truth, though speaking
by no better a tongue than mine, has made it the chief
condition of our duel, that I should lay aside the best
weapons I have, and those I can best handle; whereas if I
were allowed the freedom, in pleading for the four elements,
to employ the arguments suggested to me by
reason to demonstrate them, I should almost as little
doubt of making you a proselyte to those unsevered
teachers, Truth and Aristotle, as I do of your candour and
your judgment. And I hope you will however consider,
that that great favourite and interpreter of nature,
Aristotle, who was (as his Organum witnesses) the greatest
master of logic that ever lived, disclaimed the course
taken by other petty philosophers (antient and modem),
who not attending the coherence and consequences of
their opinions, are more solicitous to make each particular
opinion plausible independently upon the rest, than
to frame them all so, as not only to be consistent together,
but to support each other. For that great man in his
vast and comprehensive intellect, so framed each of his

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20 The Sceptical Chymist
notions, that being curiously adapted into one systeme,
they need hot each of them any other defence than that
which their mutual coherence gives them: as 'tis in an
arch, where each single stone, which if severed from the
rest would be perhaps defenceless, is sufficiently secured
by the solidity and entireness of the whole fabric of which
it is a part. How justly this may be applied to the present
case, I could easily shew you, if I were permitted to declare
to you, how harmonious Aristotle's doctrine of the elements
is with his other principles of philosophy; and how
rationally he has deduced their number from that of the
combinations of the four first qualities from the kinds of
simple motion belonging to simple bodies, and from I
know not how many other principles and phaenomena of
nature, which so conspire with his doctrine of the elements,
that they mutually strengthen and support each other.
But since 'tis forbidden me to insist on reflections of
this kind, I must proceed to tell you, that though the
assertors of the four elements value reason so highly,
and are furnished with arguments enough drawn from
thence, to be satisfied that there must be four elements.
though no man had ever yet made any sensible trial
to discover their number, yet they are not destitute of
experience to satisfie others that are wont to be more
swayed by their senses than their reason. And I shall
proceed to consider the testimony of experience, when I
shall have first advertised you, that if men were as perfectly
rational as 'tis to be wished they were, this sensible
way of probation would be as needless as 'tis wont to be
imperfect. For it is much more high and philosophical
to discover things a priore than a posteriore. And therefore
the peripatetics have not been very solicitous to
gather experiments to prove their doctrines, contenting
themselves with a few only, to satisfy those that are not
capable of a nobler conviction. And indeed they employ
experiments rather to illustrate than to demonstrate
their doctrines, as astronomers use sphaeres of pasteboard,
to descend to the capacities of such as must be taught by
their senses, for want of being arrived to a clear apprehension
of purely mathematical notions and truths. I

@

Physiological Considerations 21
speak thus, Eleutherius (adds Themistius), only to do right
to reason, and not out of diffidence of the experimental
proof I am to alledge. For though I shall name but one,
yet it is such a one as will make all other appear as needless
as itself will be found satisfactory. For if you but
consider a piece of green wood burning in a chimney, you
will readily discern in the disbanded parts of it the four
elements, of which we teach it and other mixt bodies to be
composed. The fire discovers itself in the flame by its own
light; the smoake by ascending to the top of the chimney,
and there readily vanishing into air, like a river losing
itself in the sea, sufficiently manifests to what element it
belongs and gladly returnes. The water in its own form
boiling and hissing at the ends of the burning wood
betrays itself to more than one of our senses; and the
ashes by their weight, their firiness, and their dryness,
put it past doubt that they belong to the element of
earth. If I spoke (continues Themistius) to less knowing
persons, I would perhaps make home excuse, for building
upon such an obvious and easie analysis, but 'twould be, I
fear, injurious, not to think such an apology needless to
you, who are too judicious either to think it necessary that
experiments to prove obvious truths should be far-fetched,
or to wonder that among so many mixt bodies that are
compounded of the four elements, some of them should
upon a slight analysis manifestly exhibite the ingredients
they consist of. Especially since it is very agreeable to the
goodness of nature to disclose, even in some of the most
obvious experiments that men make, a truth so important
and so requisite to be taken notice of by them.
Besides that our analysis by how much the more obvious
we make it, by so much the more suitable it will be to the
nature of that doctrine which 'tis alledged to prove, which
being as clear and intelligible to the understanding as
obvious to the sense, 'tis no marvel the learned part of
mankind should so long and so generally imbrace it. For
this doctrine is very different from the whimseys of
chymists and other modem innovators, of whose hypotheses
we may observe, as naturalists do of less perfect
animals, that as they are hastily formed, so they are

@

22 The Sceptical Chymist
commonly short-lived. For so these, as they are often
framed in one week, are perhaps thought fit to be laughed
at the next; and being built perchance but upon two or
three experiments are destroyed by a third or fourth,
whereas the doctrine of the four elements was framed by
Aristotle after he had leasurely considered those theories
of former philosophers which are now with great
applause revived as discovered by these latter ages; and
had so judiciously detected and supplied the errors and
defects of former hypotheses concerning the elements,
that his doctrine of them has been ever since deservedly
embraced by the lettered part of mankind: all the philosophers
that preceded him having in their several ages
contributed to the compleatness of this doctrine, as those
of succeeding times have acquiesced in it. Nor has an
hypothesis, so deliberately and maturely established, been
called in question till in the last century Paracelsus and
some few other sooty empirics, rather than (as they are
fain to call themselves) philosophers, having their eyes
darkened, and their braines troubled with the smoak of
their own furnaces, began to rail at the peripatetic
doctrine, which they were too illiterate to understand,
and to tell the credulous world, that they could see but
three ingredients in mixt bodies; which to gain themselves
the repute of inventors, they endeavoured to disguise
by calling them, instead of earth, and fire, and
vapour, salt, sulphur, and mercury; to which they gave
the canting title of hypostatical principles. But when they
came to describe them; they shewed how little they understood
what they meant by them, by disagreeing as much
from one another, as from the truth they agreed in opposing:
for they deliver their hypotheses as darkly as their
processes and 'tis almost as impossible for any sober man
to find their meaning, as 'tis for them to find their elixir.
And indeed nothing has spread their philosophy, but their
great brags and undertakings; notwithstanding all which
(says Themistius smiling), I scarce know anything they
have performed worth wondering at, save that they have
been able to draw Philoponus to their party, and to engage
him to the defence of an unintelligible hypothesis, who

@

Physiological Considerations 23
knowes so well as he does, that principles ought to be like
diamonds, as well very clear as perfectly solid.
Themistius having after these last words declared by his silence that he had finished his discourse, Carneades
addressing himself, as his adversary had done, to Eleutherius,
returned this answer to it. I hoped for a demonstration,
but I perceive Themistius hopes to put me off
with an harangue, wherein he cannot have given me a
greater opinion of his parts, than he has given me distrust
for his hypothesis, since for it even a man of such learning
can bring no better arguments. The rhetorical part of his
discourse, though it make not the least part of it, I shall
say nothing to, designing to examine only the argumentative
part, and leaving it to Philoponus to answer those
passages wherein either Paracelsus or chymists are concerned:
I shall observe to you, that in what he has said
besides, he makes it his business to do these two things
The one to propose and make out an experiment to
demonstrate the common opinion about the four elements;
and the other to insinuate divers things which he thinks
may repair the weakness of his argument, from experience,
and upon other accounts bring some credit to the otherwise
defenceless doctrine he maintains.
To begin then with his experiment of the burning wood, it seems to me to be obnoxious to not a few considerable
exceptions.
And first, if I would now deal rigidly with my adversary, I might here make a great question of the very way of
probation which he and others employ, without the least
scruple, to evince that the bodies commonly called mixt
are made up of earth, air, water, and fire, which they are
pleased also to call elements; namely that upon the supposed
analysis made by the fire, of the former sort of
concretes, there are wont to emerge bodies resembling
those which they take for the elements. For not to
anticipate here what I foresee I shall have occasion to
insist on, when I come to discourse with Philoponus concerning
the right that fire has to pass for the proper and
universal instrument of analysing mixt bodies, not to
anticipate that, I say, if I were disposed to wrangle, I

@

24 The Sceptical Chymist
might alledge, that by Themistius his experiment it would
appear rather that those he calls elements are made of
those he calls mixt bodies, than mixt bodies of the
elements. For in Themistius's analysed wood, and in
other bodies dissipated and altered by the fire, it appears,
and he confesses, that which he takes for elementary fire
and water are made out of the concrete; but it appears
not that the concrete was made up of fire and water.
Nor has either he, or any man, for ought I know of his
persuasion, yet proved that nothing can be obtained from
a body by the fire that was not pre-existent in it.
At this unexpected objection, not only Themistius, but the rest of the company appeared not a little surprised;
but after a while Philoponus conceiving his opinion, as
well as that of Aristotle, concerned in that objection, You
cannot sure (says he to Carneades) propose this difficulty,
not to call it cavil, otherwise than as an exercise of wit,
and not as laying any weight upon it. For how can that
be separated from a thing that was not existent in it?
When, for instance, a refiner mingles gold and lead, and
exposing this mixture upon a cuppel to the violence of
the fire, thereby separates it into pure and refulgent gold
and lead (which driven off together with the dross of the
gold is thence called lythargyrium auri), can any man
doubt that sees these two so differing substances separated
from the mass, that they were existent in it before it was
committed to the fire?
I should (replies Carneades) allow your argument to prove something, if, as men see the refiners commonly take
beforehand both lead and gold to make the mass you
speak of, so we did see nature pull down a parcel of the
element of fire, that is fancied to be placed I know not
how many thousand leagues off, contiguous to the orb of
the moon, and to blend it with a quantity of each of the
three other elements, to compose every mixt body, upon
whose resolution the fire presents us with fire, and earth,
and the rest. And let me add, Philoponus, that to make
your reasoning cogent, it must be first proved, that the
fire does only take the elementary ingredients. asunder,
without otherwise altering them. For else 'tis obvious,

@

Physiological Considerations 25
that bodies may afford substances which were not pre-
existent in them; as flesh too long kept produces maggots,
and old cheese mites, which I suppose you will not affirm
to be ingredients of lose bodies. Now that lire does not
alwayes barely separate the elementary parts, but sometimes
at least alter also the ingredients of bodies, if I did
not expect ere long a better occasion to prove it, I might
make probable out of your very instance, wherein there
is nothing elementary separated by the great violence of
the refiner's fire: the gold and lead which are the two
ingredients separated upon the analysis being confessedly
yet perfectly mixt bodies, and the litharge
being lead indeed, but such lead as is differing in consistence
and other qualifies from what it was before. To
which I must add that I have sometimes seen, and so
questionless have you much oftener, some parcels of
glasse adhering to the test or cuppel, and this glass, though
emergent as well as the gold or litharge upon your analysis,
you will not I hope allow to have been a third ingredient of
the mass out of which the fire produced it.
Both Philoponus and Themistius were about to reply, when Eleutherius apprehending that the prosecution of
this dispute would take up time which might be better
employed, thought fit to prevent them by saying to
Carneades: You made at least half a promise, when you
first proposed this objection, that you would not (now at
least) insist on it, nor indeed does it seem to be of absolute
necessity to your cause that you should. For though
you should grant that there are elements, it would not
follow that there must be precisely four. And therefore
I hope you will proceed to acquaint us with your other
and more considerable objections against Themistius's
opinion, especially since there is so great a disproportion in
bulke betwixt the earth, water, and air, on the one part,
and those little parcels of resembling substances that
the fire separates from concretes on the other part, that I
can scarce think that you are serious, when to lose no
advantage against your adversary, you seem to deny it
to be rational to conclude these great simple bodies to
be the elements, and not the products of compounded ones.

@

26 The Sceptical Chymist
What you alledge (replies Carneades) of the vastness of the earth and water, has long since made me willing to
allow them to be the greatest and chief masses of matter
to be met with here below: but I think I could shew
you, if you would give me leave, that this will prove only
that the elements, as you call them, are the chief bodies
that make up the neighbouring part of the world, but not
that they are such ingredients as every mixt body must
consist of. But since you challenge me of something of a
promise, though it be not an entire one, yet I shall willingly
performe it. And indeed I intended not, when I first
mentioned this objection, to insist on it at present against
Themistius (as I plainly intimated in my way of proposing
it), being only desirous to let you see, that though I
discerned my advantages, yet I was willing to forego
some of them rather than appear a rigid adversary of a
cause so weak, that it may with safety be favourably
dealt with. But I must here profess, and desire you to
take notice of it, that though I pass on to another argument,
it is not because I think this first invalid. For you
will find in the progress of our dispute, that I had some
reason to question the very way of probation imployed
both by peripatetics and chymists, to evince the being
and number of the elements. For that there are such,
and that they are wont to be separated by the analysis
made by fire, is indeed taken for granted by both parties,
but has not (for ought I know) been so much as plausibly
attempted to be proved by either. Hoping then that
when we come to that part of our debate, wherein considerations
relating to this matter are to be treated of,
you will remember what I have now said, and that I do
rather for a while suppose than absolutely grant the
truth of what I have questioned, I will proceed to another
objection.
And hereupon Eleutherius having promised him not to be unmindful, when time should serve, of what he had
declared.
I consider then (says Carneades), in the next place, that there are divers bodies out of which Themistius will not
prove in haste that there can be so many elements as four

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Physiological Considerations 27
extracted by the fire. And I should perchance trouble
him if I should ask him what peripatetic can shew us (I
say not, all the four elements, for that would be too rigid
a question, but) any one of them extracted out of gold by
any degree of fire whatsoever. Nor is gold the only
bodie in nature that would puzzle an Aristotelian, (that is
no more) to analyse by the fire into elementary bodies,
since, for ought I have yet observed, both silver and calcined
Venetian talc, and some other concretes, not necessary
here to be named, are so fixed, that to reduce any of
them into four heterogeneous substances has hitherto
proved a task much too bard, not only for the disciples
of Aristotle, but those of Vulcan, at least, whilst the
latter have employed only fire to make the analysis.
The next argument (continues Carneades) that I shall urge against Themistius's opinion shall be this, That as
there are divers bodies whose analysis by fire cannot reduce
them into so many heterogeneous substances or ingredients
as four, so there are others which may be reduced into
more, as the blood (and divers other parts) of men and
other animals, which yield when analysed five distinct substances,
phlegme, spirit, oile, salt, and earth, as experience
has shewn us in distilling man's blood, harts-horns, and
divers other bodies that belonging to the animal-kingdom
abound with not uneasily sequestrable salt.

@
@



THE SCEPTICAL CHYMIST
THE FIRST PART
I AM (says Carneades) so unwilling to deny Eleutherius
anything, that though before the rest of the company I
am resolved to make good the part I have undertaken of
a sceptic, yet I shall readily, since you will have it so,
lay aside for a while the person of an adversary to the
peripatetics and chymists; and before I acquaint you
with my objections against their opinions, acknowledge
to you what may be (whether truly or not) tolerably
enough added, in favour of a certain number of principles
of mixt bodies, to that grand and known argument
from the analysis of compound bodies, which I may possibly
hereafter be able to confute.
And that you may the more easily examine and the better judge of what I have to say, I shall cast it into a
pretty number of distinct propositions, to which I shall
not premise anything; because I take it for granted, that
you need not be advertised that much of what I am to
deliver, whether for or against a determinate number of
ingredients of mixt bodies, may be indifferently applied
to the four peripatetic elements, and the three chymical
principles, though divers of my objections will more
peculiarly belong to these hast named, because the
chymical hypothesis seeming to be much more countenanced
by experience than the other, it will be expedient
to insist chiefly upon the disproving of that; especially
since most of the arguments that are imployed against it,
may, by a little variation, be made to conclude, at least
as strongly, against the less plausible, Aristotelian doctrine.

@

30 The Sceptical Chymist
To proceed then to my propositions I shall begin with this, that--
PROPOSITION I.--It seems not absurd to conceive that at the
first production of mixt bodies, the universal matter whereof they among other parts of the universe consisted, was actually divided into little particles of several sizes and shapes variously moved.
This (says Carneades) I suppose you will easily enough allow. For besides that which happens in the generation,
corruption, nutrition, and wasting of bodies, that which
we discover partly by our microscopes of the extream
littleness of even the scarce sensible parts of concretes,
and partly by the chymical resolutions of mixt bodies,
and by divers other operations of spagirical fires upon them,
seems sufficiently to manifest their consisting of parts very
minute and of differing figures. And that there does also
intervene a various local motion of such small bodies; will
scarce be denied; whether we chuse to grant the origine
or concretions assigned by Epicurus, or that related by
Moses. For the first, as you well know, supposes not
only all mixt bodies, but all others, to be produced by the
various and casual occursions of atomes, moving themselves
to and from by an internal principle in the immense
or rather infinite vacuum. And as for the inspired
historian, he, informing us that the great and wise Author
of things did not immediately create plants, beasts, birds,
etc., but produced them out of those portions of the pre-
existent, though created, matter, that he calls water and
earth, allows use to conceive that the constituent particles
whereof these new concretes were to consist, were variously
moved in order to their being connected into the bodies
they were, by their various coalitions and textures, to
compose.
But (continues Carneades) presuming that the first proposition needs not be longer insisted on, I will pass
on to the second, and tell you that--

PROPOSITION II.--Neither is it impossible that of these minute
particles divers of the smallest and neighbouring ones
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The Sceptical Chymist 31
were here and there associated into minute masses or clusters, and did by their coalitions constitute great store of such little primary concretions or masses as were net easily dissipable into such particles as composed them.
To what may be deduced, in favour of this assertion from the nature of the thing itself, I will add something
out of experience, which though I have not known it used
to such a purpose, seems to me more fairly to make out
that there may be elementary bodies, than the more
questionable experiments of peripatetics and chymists
prove that there are such. I consider then that gold will
mix and be colliquated not only with silver, copper, tin
and lead, but with antimony, regulus martis and many
other minerals, with which it will compose bodies very
differing both from gold, and the other ingredients of the
resulting concretes. And the same gold will also by
common aqua regis, and (I speak it knowingly) by divers
other menstruums, be reduced into a seeming liquor, insomuch
that the corpuscles of gold will, with those of
the menstruum, pass through cap-paper, and with them
also coagulate into a crystalline salt. And I have
further tried, that with a small quantity of a certain saline
substance I prepared, I can easily enough sublime gold into
the form of red crystals of a considerable length; and
many other wayes may gold be disguised, and help to constitute
bodies of very differing natures both from it and
from one another, and nevertheless be afterward reduced
to the self-same numerical, yellow, fixt, ponderous, and
malleable gold it was before its commixture. Nor is it
only the fixedst of metals, but the must fugitive, that I
may employ in favour of our proposition: for quicksilver
will with divers metals compose an amalgam, with divers
menstruums it seems to be turned into a liquor, with
aqua fortis it will be brought into either a red or white
powder or precipitate, with oil of vitriol into a pale
yellow one, with sulphur it will compose a blood-red and
volatile cinaber, with some saline bodies it will ascend in
form of a salt which will be dissoluble in water; with

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32 The Sceptical Chymist
regulus of antimony and silver I have seen it sublimed into
a kinde of crystals, with another mixture I reduced it into
a malleable body, into a hard and brittle substance by
another: and some there are who affirm, that by proper
additaments they can reduce quicksilver into oil, nay into
glass, to mention no more. And yet out of all these
exotic compounds, we may recover the very same running
mercury that was the main ingredient of them, and was
so disguised in them. Now the reason (proceeds Carneades)
that I have represented these things concerning
gold and quicksilver, is, that it may not appear
absurd to conceive, that such little primary masses or
clusters as our proposition mentions, may remain undissipated,
notwithstanding their entering into the composition
of various concretions, since the corpuscle of gold and
mercury, though they be not primary concretions of the
most minute particles of matter, but confessedly mixt
bodies, are able to concure plentifully to the composition
of several very differing bodies, without losing their own
nature or texture, or having their cohesion violated by
the divorce of their associated parts or ingredients.
Give me leave to add (says Eleutherius) on this occasion, to what you now observed, that as confidently as some
chymists, and other modem innovators in philosophy are
wont to object against the peripatetics, that from the
mixture of their four elements there could arise but an inconsiderable
variety of compound Bodies ; yet if the
Aristotelians were but half as, well versed in the works of
nature as they, are in the writings of their master, the
proposed objection would not so, calmly triumph, as for
want of experiments they are fain to suffer it to do. For
if we assigne to the corpuscles, whereof each element consists,
a peculiar size and shape, it may easily enough be
manifested, that such differingly figured corpuscles may
be mingled in such various proportions, and may be connected
so many several ways, that an almost incredible
number of variously qualified concretes may be composed
of them. Especially since the corpuscles of one
element may barely, by being associated among themselves,
make up little masses of differing size and figure from their

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The Sceptical Chymist 33
constituent parts; and since also to the strict union of
such minute bodies there seems oftentimes nothing
requisite, besides the bare contact of a great part of their
surfaces. And how great a variety of phaenomena the
same matter, without the addition of any other, and only
several ways disposed or contexed, is able to exhibit, may
partly appear by the multitude of differing engins which
by the contrivances of skilful mechanilians, and the
dexterity of expert workmen, may be made of iron alone.
But in our present case being allowed to deduce compound
bodies from four very differently qualified sorts of matter,
he who shall but consider what you freshly took notice of
concerning the new concretes resulting from the mixture of
incorporated minerals, will scarce doubt but that the four
elements managed by nature's skill may afford a multitude
of differing compounds.
I am thus far of your minde (says Carneades) that the Aristotelians might with probability deduce a much
greater number of compound bodies from the mixture of
their four elements, than according to their present
hypothesis they can; if instead of vainly attempting to
deduce the variety and proprieties of all mixt bodies
from the combinations and temperaments of the four
elements, as they are (among them) endowed with the
four first qualities, they had endeavoured to do it by the
bulk and figure of the smallest parts of those supposed
elements. For from these more catholic and fruitful
accidents of the elementary matter may spring a great
variety of textures, upon whose account a multitude of
compound bodies may very much differ from one another.
And what I now observe touching the four peripatetic
elements, may be also applied, mutatis mutandis (as
they speak), to the chymical principles. But (to take notice
of that by the by) both the one and the other must, I fear,
call in to their assistance something that is not elementary,
to excite or regulate the motion of the parts of the matter,
and dispose them after the manner requisite to the constitution
of particular concretes. For that otherwise
they are like to give us but a very imperfect account of the
origine of very many mixt bodies, it would, I think, be no

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