Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and the renewal of Philosophy. Important Baconian ideas:. Reliance on the evidence of the senses and instruments (e.g. telescope, microscope); Progress through technology;
Novum Organon (cf. Organon of Aristotle)
Recall our thesis that the emergence of early-modern science and philosophy
“Many shall pass to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
The ship passes between the Pillars of Hercules, traditional symbol of limits of learning
Frontispiece, Great Instauration (1620)
Bacon did exempt some ancient philosophers,
-he lacked “a store of things sufficiently large to formulate true axioms” (Bacon, Outline of a natural and experimental history, 224);
-“…no one should be impressed because in Aristotle’s books On Animals and in his Problems and other treatises there is often discussion of experiments. He had in fact made up his mind beforehand, and did not properly consult experience …” (emph. added; NO, Bk I, LXIII).
Aristotle’s defects show the path to follow:
Induction corrects Aristotle’s error of
“…premature human reasoning, which anticipates inquiry, and is abstracted from the facts rashly and sooner than is fit…” (emph. added; GI, 17).
“The art which I introduce…is a kind of logic, though the difference between it and the ordinary logic is great, indeed immense” (emph. added; GI, 21).
“The syllogism consists of propositions; propositions of words, and words are the tokens and signs of notions. Now if the very notions of the mind…be improperly and overhastily abstracted from facts, vague, not sufficiently definite…the whole edifice tumbles. I therefore reject the syllogism…not only as regards principles, but also as regards middle propositions; which…are barren of works” (emph. added; GI, 21-2).
“…logicians borrow the principles of each science from the science itself; secondly, they hold in reverence the first notions of the mind…” (GI, 22).
-“I perform the office of a true priest of the sense (from which all knowledge in nature must be sought…)” (GI, 24)
-We may not use our senses well: “observation [can be] careless, irregular and led by chance” (GI, 26).
-“…but then at the same time [the senses] supply the means of discovering their own errors” (GI, 24).
Idols of the tribe (all humans): we
-think nature is more orderly than it actually is, and presuppose order where it is not to be found “…the universe to the eye of the human understanding is framed like a labyrinth; presenting as it does on every side so many ambiguities of way, such deceitful resemblances of objects and signs, natures so irregular in their lines, and so knotted and entangled” (GI, 13).
Bacon hereby questions an assumption considered self-evident for centuries by natural philosophers and theologians.
Idols of the tribe, cont.
-refuse to accept potential truth of counter-examples (e.g elliptical orbits, heliocentrism)
-extrapolate from a few cases (Aristotle)
- rely on abstractions
-believe to be true what we want to be true
-Idols of the cave (particular mentality of each person): being a grouper or splitter, liking old things or new ones, preferring form or matter;
-Idols of the market-place (deficiencies of language): multiple names for things; fictitious names.
“Neither the bare hand nor the unaided intellect has much power; the work is done by tools…” [cf. scholastic logic] (NO, I, ii).
-Navigation: magnetic compass
-Medicine: herbal, chemical (Paracelsians), anatomy
-Optics, e.g. telescopes, microscopes
-Alchemy (ancestor of chemistry): laboratory technique, apparatus
(also has transformation of nature as its goal)
-Hydraulics: use of water power, e.g. water wheels,
canal construction, diversions
“…the end which this science…proposes…is the invention not of arguments [cf. the scholastics] but of arts…”. [which ones?]
“a history [i.e. description]…of nature under constraint and vexed…when by art and the hand of man she is forced out of her natural state, and squeezed and moulded” (GI, 28; emph. added).
“The End of our Foundation [Salomon’s House] is the Knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible” (emph. added; NA, 71). [what is possible?]
-restoration of the “commerce between the mind of man and the nature of things…to its perfect and original condition” (Proœmium)
-”confine the sense w/n the limit of things divine”, yet avoid thinking “the inquisition [investigation] of nature is…interdicted or forbidden” (GI, 16)
-”true ends of knowledge”: “benefit and use of life” (a work of charity, chief Christian virtue) (GI, 16)
(emph. added; Bacon, New Organon, xc)
The solution? New academies (like Salomon’s House):
-Royal Society, 1666 (London)
-Royal Academy of Sciences, 1669 (Paris)