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CHAPTER X.: OF THE ART OF INVENTION. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 8 (Chrestomathia, Essays on Logic and Grammar, Tracts on Poor Laws, Tracts on Spanish Affairs) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). In 11 vols. Volume 8.
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OF THE ART OF INVENTION.
Of Invention in General.
To teach, to learn, and to invent,—these are so many processes or operations, applicable alike to every branch of art or science.
To practice is a sort of operation exclusively applicable to arts; not applicable to any branch of discipline, otherwise than in so far as some portion of art is contained in it; between teaching and invention a sort of reciprocality is, moreover, observable; among the subjects of the art of teaching, may be the art of invention; among the subjects of the art of invention may be the art of teaching.
As between these two,—first, in the order of existence, must have come the art of invention; since whatsoever comes to be taught, must first have been invented before it could have been taught.
Of this chapter, the object is to afford such helps as, by the powers of an individual mind,—of the individual mind in question, are capable of being given to invention,—understand, of course, to invention in so far as it is useful,—to invention, in every quarter of the field of thought and action to which it can be applied.
A chapter which takes this for its subject, may be compared to the work of the handicraft, who, having to make a utensil or instrument of new construction, finds occasion, in the first place, to contrive and fabricate one or more of the tools, or other instruments, which he has to employ in making it.
Invention supposes art. The inventor of any branch of an art is the first individual by whom it is practised; or, if between conception and actual practice, there be a difference, insomuch as that of the art which a man was the first to practise, not he himself, but some other individual had been the first to conceive, the first individual by whom it had been conceived.
A new art, or a new mode of practising an art already invented; either of these may the invention have had for its subjects. Of this distinction, the indication may, for clearness’ sake, be in this or that instance not altogether without its use; although, in many instances, to draw the line between the two cases may be found a matter of such difficulty that, in those instances, the distinction may be seen to be rather a nominal, or verbal, than a real one; the words not finding an individual case to which they can be applied with truth.
Among the helps capable of being given to invention, some will be seen alike applicable to all arts; others to no other than this or that particular species of art.
Inventions applicable to all arts are thereby applicable to all sciences. Of this proposition, the truth depends upon, and follows from that of a proposition already brought to view, viz. that, between art and science, there exists throughout the whole field of thought and action, a constant conjunction: for every science a correspondent art, and for every art a correspondent science.
Helps applicable to Arts in General without Exception or Distinction.
In this view, a few rules present themselves as capable of being found, to some minds in the way of original instruction, to all minds in the way of memento or reminiscence, not altogether without their use; in some instances, by affording positive helps, in others by the indication of certain obstacles, the force of which will be to be encountered, which, in any tract of the field of invention, the labourer will find standing in his way, and opposing his progress; obstacles, of the existence, and force, and operation of which it concerns him to be well apprized, lest, when the time comes, they find him unprepared.
Memento 1. Whatever be the art which, or in which, you think to invent, keep steadily in view the particular end at which it aims, the effect the production of which it has for its object. Keep your eyes fixed upon the end. In two Latin words, Respice finem.
Memento 2. Beware of intellectual servility. In other words, take reason not custom for your guide: the reason of the thing, including the nature of the effect meant to be produced, not confining yourself to the pursuing of the practice, to the performance of those operations, and those only, by which alone the effect is as yet wont to be produced. Sit non mos sed Ratio dux.
Memento 3. Be on your guard against the confederated enemies of all good, and thereby of all new good: viz. 1. Indigenous Intellectual weakness. 2. Sinister interest. 3. Interest-begotten prejudice. 4. Adoptive prejudice. When they cannot oppose by force these will oppose by discouragement, discouraging by opinion and advice.
Memento 4. In relation to every part of your subject, and every object connected with it, render your ideas as clear as possible. Lux undique fiat.
Memento 5. For means and instruments, employ analogy. Analogias undique indagato.
Memento 6. In your look-out for analogies, for surveying that quarter of the field of thought and action to which the art in question belongs, employ the logical ladders, the ladders made of nest of aggregates placed in logical subalternation. In analogiarum indagatione scalis logicis utere.
Memento 7. Inquire and learn whatsoever, for the production of the effect in question, has been already in use or in prospect. Jam acta et tentata discite.
Memento 8. In such your survey of existing inventions, look out in preference for the latest of all, not looking backwards but for some special reason. Postrema exquirito.
Memento 9. Quodlibet cum quolibet. To everything forget not to apply anything. Suppose that of an indefinite multitude of objects, which in consideration of certain properties or qualities, in respect of which they are found or supposed to agree, and certain others, in respect of which they have been found or supposed to disagree, having all of them been placed in one or other of two classes, some article belonging to the one class has, with success, (i.e. with some new effect, which either has been found to be, or affords a prospect of being found to be, advantageous,) been apapplied, no matter in what manner, nor to what purpose in particular, to some article belonging to the other class; in like manner, frame a general resolution not to be departed from in any instance, but for some special cause, (applying to that instance,) to apply to each article belonging to the one class every article belonging to the other.
The sort of special cause here in question will be one of these two, viz. 1. Apparently preponderant probability of not producing any new result at all. 2. Apparently preponderant probability that the new result, if any, will, instead of proving preponderantly advantageous, prove preponderantly disadvantageous.
N. B.—Among physical arts and sciences, the branch of art and science to which this rule or memento is in a particular degree applicable, is the Chemical, including, in so far as they belong to it, the several subordinate and practical branches of art and science which come under its department, e. g. cookery, pharmacy, agriculture, architecture, in so far as concerns materials.
Memento 10. In taking a survey of practice, distinguish in it as many distinguishable points as the nature of the case appears to afford, and on each of these points, try its utility and propriety, by its relation to the end.
Examples.—The field of medical practice is a field in which many examples, indicative of the utility of this rule, might be collected. In the comparatively ancient system of pharmacy may be found medicines, in the composition of which there were drugs, to the amount of twenty or thirty different sorts, of which, by comparatively recent observation, experience, and experiment, all but two or three have been found either wholly inoperative, or unconducive to the end.
In every part of the field of practice in which the practice has not yet been thus directed, and its several distinguishable parts or points confronted with the proper end, uninfluencing circumstances, and even obstructive circumstances, i. e. obstacles, may be seen confounded with promotive causes, and the result, be it what it may, ascribed without distinction to their conjunct agency; and, in this way, the character of promotive causes ascribed to un-influencing and even to obstructive causes.
Of this mode of confusion, examples will naturally be to be found in abundance in the system of government established in every country, and in particular in that branch which regards constitutional law. Of whatsoever degree of prosperity the state may be supposed to be in the enjoyment of, as many abuses and imperfections as in the theory or practice of it have place, will by all those who profit by them, be of course placed more or less confidently and explicitly upon the list of promotive causes.*
On the subject of each of these mementos, a few observations present themselves as capable of having their use. In the course of them it will, it is believed, be seen that of all of them, howsoever at first view the contrary might in some instances be supposed, there is not one that is not in a manner, more or less pointed, applicable to every track which, in the field of thought and action, it is in the power of art and invention, not excepting science, to take.
The two first mementos demand a joint consideration.
The end? It may be asked, exists there any man, who, be the art what it may, in the practice of it, ever omits so much as for a moment either to keep his eyes fixed upon the end, or to keep a look-out for the fittest and most promising means?
Oh, yes; with the exception of the inventive few, who are few indeed, every man. The end, yes, of the end, he is not altogether unregardful: but as to means, the means which he sees pursued by others, by all those from whose discourse and practice his notions on the subject have been derived, these are the means which, from first to last, he has been in the habit of regarding as not only conducive to the end, but, if not the only ones that are so in any degree, at any rate those which are so in a higher degree than any others which the nature of the case admits of.
Let reason be fruitful, custom barren: such indeed is the advice which on this subject has been delivered. Delivered? but by whom?—by Bacon; by the man whose mind was of almost all minds the most unlike to others. In regard to fruitfulness, how stands the matter as between Reason and Custom in the world at large? Reason breeds like a pole-cat; Custom like a doe-rabbit.
Third Memento.† The more stupid a man is, especially if in his mind, stupidity be, as it is not unapt to be, accompanied by self-conceit, the more improbable it will appear to him, that to the invention in question, be it what it may, any such characters as those of useful and meritorious, would be found to belong to it. So difficult as the art is in its present state, so great the expense which, in the articles of genius and industry, which it must have cost to the men of former times to bring the art up to its present mark in the scale of perfection, so great the multitudes that for so many ages must have been occupied in the endeavour to give to it every degree of perfection of which it is susceptible,—is it in any degree—is it preponderently probable that, by the man in question, (who in his exterior has probably nothing to distinguish him to his advantage, and whose weaknesses, whatever they may be, being indicated by Envy and Jealousy, are laid open to general observation,) so important an addition to the art should really have been made. Such are the observations by which the consideration is diverted from modern invention.
Fourth Memento. Clarification of ideas—If the subject be of the physical class, render the images, which you form of it in your mind, as correct and complete as possible.
If the subject be of the psychical class, in so far as the words employed in discoursing of it are names of fictitious entities, take the only course by which it is possible for a man to give perfect clearness to the ideas of which they serve to constitute the signs, viz., by searching out the real entities in which these names of fictitious entities have their source.
On some subjects, in some instances, without the use of words, a man may exercise invention, drawing his materials and instruments from the stock of ideas already laid up in his own mind.
But unless, by the actual survey of sensible works, the results and fruits of inventions already executed, it is only through the medium of words, that for his assistance in the exercise of invention, he can make any use of the inventions, or practices, or works of others. Here, then, are so many collections of signs of ideas, from which, according to the degree of attention bestowed on the consideration of them, and the degree of discernment with which that attention is accompanied, the ideas which he obtains from those words will be more or less clear, ambiguous, or obscure.
In so far as the words are such as to be themselves direct representatives of clear ideas, so much the better: but even where this is in but a small degree, or not in any degree, the case, still it will frequently happen, that by the reflections and comparisons of which in his mind they are productive, they may render to him more or less assistance towards the formation of other ideas, such as shall, in a greater or less degree, be clearer than those by which they were themselves suggested.*
Fifth and Sixth Mementos. The mode and use of applying these subalternation scales are as follows, viz.:
I. Application in the descending line.
With the exception of such words as are names of individual objects, take any one of the material words that present themselves as belonging to the subject, not being the name of an individual alone, this word will be the name of a sort of objects, the name, (say,) of an aggregate. If the aggregate be the denomination of a genus, think of the several species which, by their respective names, present themselves as being contained under it. Whatsoever is predicated of the genus, will, in so far as it is truly predicated, be, with equal truth, predicable of all these several species.
II. Application in the ascending line.
In like manner look out for the name of the next superior genus; with reference to which, the genus in question is but a species, and observe, try, or conjecture, whether that which beyond doubt, has been found predicable with truth of the whole of this species, be, or promise to be, with like truth predicable of the whole, or any other part of the aggregate, designated by the name of that genus.
It is in the instance of the physical department of the field of thought and action, and more particularly to the chemical district of that department, that the applicability of this memento is most conspicuous. Upon every subject, try, or at least, think of trying, every operation; to every subject in the character of a menstruum, apply every subject in the character of a solvent, and so on.
It is to the extent in which application has been made of this memento, that chemical science is indebted for the prodigious progress which, within the compass of the present generation, has been made in it.
It is by the ideal decomposition, performed by the separate consideration of the several distinguishable operations, which respectively constitute the component parts of various mechanical arts, and thence, by the division of labour, that the great improvements, made within the last half century in manufactures, have been effected.
Seventh and Eighth Mementos. Inventions of the physical stamp, are those, in regard to which, the importance of these mementos is, generally speaking, at its highest pitch.
Discovery, practice, publication,—by these words are designated so many periods, which, in the career of invention, may, to the purpose here in question, be distinguished with practical advantage.
To the purpose of the discovery, that, generally speaking, it cannot but be of advantage to a person of an inventive turn, to be apprized of, and acquainted with whatsoever has been already invented, or thought of, in the same line, is obvious enough.
But so far as mere discovery is concerned, any inconvenience, which it can happen to a man to incur, from a want of acquaintance with anything that has already been discovered by others, is, in this case, but inconsiderable, in comparison with what is liable to have place. In the first place, so far, indeed, as for want of being pre-acquainted, with this or that discovery which has already been made by this or that other person, he fails of making this or that discovery, which, had it happened to him to have been acquainted with the existing discovery in question, he would have made: so far, here is so much lost to the individual in question, and to the world at large.
In the next place, in so far as after the discovery has been made by himself, it happens to him to learn that this same discovery has already been made by some one else; in this case, what is but natural enough is, that in proportion to what appears to be the degree of importance of the discovery, uneasiness in the shape of a pain of disappointment, should be experienced by him.
But in such a track as that of invention, no step that has ever been taken, no step, be the ulterior result of it what it may, is ever lost. Of every step, present pleasure is the accompaniment, from every step the mind derives increase of vigour; of that which is an instrument of future security and future pleasure.
Ninth Memento. Quodlibet cum quolibet.—A mechanical help will be found in the facility of confrontation. For this purpose, in so far as writing, i. e. manuscript is employed, let it be on one side only of the paper.
Reason.—Propositions, which are on different sides of the same plane, cannot invariably be confronted with each other. While that which is on page 2 is hunting for the terms of that which is on page 1, and what is intended to be compared with it, are either forgotten or become dubious.
If such is liable to be the case with the smallest members of a discourse, how much more is it with those that are larger and longer, with complex sentences and whole paragraphs.
So in printing, nothing could be more incongruous than at the back of a table intended for a synoptic one, to print anything that may require to be confronted with any part of the matter of it.
[* ] See Book of Fallacies, chap. ii. (vol. ii. p. 466.)
[† ] There is here in the MS.—“N.B. Invention is the offspring of genius;” a dictum, the influence of which it was probably intended to examine. The paragraph following is headed, “Indigenous intellectual weakness;” and, at the end of it, there is a memorandum, “go on with the three remaining natural enemies of genius.”—Ed.
[* ] Mechanics are frequently bad explainers of their inventions. Newton himself was a great inventor, not always a clear explainer.