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Insights of Francis Bacon's Philosophy scientific

FRANCIS BACON ( 1561-1626)

Take a deep dive into the philosophy of Francis Bacon & explore some insightful ideas & theories about religion, knowledge, science, & quotes.

Francis Bacon's Philosophy scientific

 Bacon has been called the father of empiricism. He argued for the possibility of scientific knowledge based only upon inductive reasoning and careful observation of events in nature. An accomplished lawyer, politician, essayist and inventor, Sir Francis Bacon was a prominent figure in 17th century England. He is remembered for his philosophical writings on philosophy, science, and mathematics. In his works, Bacon introduced groundbreaking ideas challenging traditional views of knowledge and education as well as advocating for empiricism as a means of gathering new information.

A stone statue of English Philosopher Francis Bacon

Who is Francis bacon and what did he do

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English essayist, philosopher, scientist, statesman and jurist, considered as one of the significant prose writers of the seventeenth century.  his philosophy is in many ways unsatisfactory, has permanent importance as the founder of modern inductive method and the pioneer in the attempt at logical systematization of scientic procedure. The present unit focuses on the life and literary works by Bacon, before we explore one of his essays titled “Of Garden” in the next unit. Thomas Sprat in his History of the Royal Society of London (1667) appreciated Bacon’s precise and powerful literary style thus, “the [Bacon] was a Man of strong, clear and powerful Imaginations: his Genius was searching and inimitable: and of this: I need give no other proof, then his Style itself”  as mentioned in the work titled Francis Bacon and Renaissance Prose (1968) by B. Vicker. 

It is important to note that Bacon is considered a pioneer of ‘essay’ or ‘essay-writing’, particularly owing to his contributions as an essayist. His volume of essays encompasses important aspects of life and living, philosophy and practicality, information and knowledge. Let us then go through the brief discussion on the life and the times in which Francis Bacon lived and wrote.

bacon background

He was a son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and his aunt was the wife of Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burghley; he thus grew up in the atmosphere of state affairs. He entered Parliament at the age of twenty-three, and became adviser to Essex. None the less, when Essex fell from favour he helped in his prosecution. For this he has been severely blamed: Lytton Strachey, for example, in his Elizabeth and Essex, represents Bacon as a monster of treachery and ingratitude. This is quite unjust. He worked with Essex while Essex was loyal, but abandoned him when continued loyalty to him would have been treasonable; in this there was nothing that even the most rigid moralist of the age could condemn.

 Interesting facts about Francis bacon

In spite of his abandonment of Essex, he was never completely in favour during the lifetime of Queen Elizabeth. With James's accession, however, his prospects improved. In 1617 he acquired his father's office of Keeper of the Great Seal, and in 1618 he became Lord Chancellor. But after he had held this great position for only two years, he was prosecuted for accepting bribes from litigants. He admitted the truth of accusation, pleading only that presents never influenced his decision. As to that, any one may form his own opinion, since there can be no evidence as to the decisions that Bacon would have come to in other circumstances. He was condemned to a fine of £40,000, to imprisonment in the Tower during the king's pleasure, to perpetual banishment from court and inability to hold office. This sentence was only very partially executed. He was not forced to pay the fine, and he was kept in the Tower for only four days. But he was compelled to abandon public life, and to spend the remainder of his days in writing important books. 

The ethics of the legal profession, in those days, were somewhat lax. Almost every judge accepted presents, usually from both sides. Nowadays we think it atrocious for a judge to take bribes, but even more atrocious, after taking them, to decide against the givers of them. In those days, presents were a matter of course, and a judge showed his "virtue" by not being influenced by them. Bacon was condemned as an incident in a party squabble, not because he was exceptionally guilty. He was not a man of outstanding moral eminence, like his forerunner Sir Thomas More, but he was also not exceptionally wicked. Morally, he was an average man, no better and no worse than the bulk of his contemporaries. After five years spent in retirement.

Sir Francis bacon death of cause was a chill caught while experimenting on refrigeration by stuffing a chicken full of snow. on 9 April 1626 he died. 

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Aristotle logic


john locke empiricist

mathematics and astronomy

Philosophy of Francis bacon

Bacon's most important book, The Advancement of Learning, is in many ways remarkably modern. He is commonly regarded as the originator of the saying "Knowledge is power," and though he may have had predecessors who said the same thing, he said it with new emphasis. The whole basis of his philosophy was practical: to give mankind mastery over the forces of nature by means of scientific discoveries and inventions. For Bacon, knowledge was the main source of truth and power. He believed that if knowledge and understanding could be shared it would create a powerful effect on society. With his focus on empiricism as the method of obtaining information, Bacon sought to bring science and scholarship closer to reality. In his work Novum Organum he proposed the use of scientific experiments and observations to test ideas instead of relying upon Aristotle's deduction-based approach. 

Francis bacon on religion

Bacon believed that there should be no dispute between science and religion, as he saw them both as paths to knowledge. He instead argued that the two could coexist, if only they were used in conjunction with one another. He wrote, "I had rather believe all the fables in the Talmud and the Koran than that this universal frame is without a mind..." Here Bacon boldly states his belief that the universe is not without order or purpose but has a rational, divine intelligence behind it.

He held that philosophy should be kept separate from theology, not intimately blended with it as in scholasticism. He accepted orthodox religion; he was not the man to quarrel with the government on such a matter. But while he thought that reason could show the existence of God, he regarded everything else in theology as known only by revelation. Indeed he held that the triumph of faith is greatest when to the unaided reason a dogma appears most absurd. Philosophy, however, should depend only upon reason. He was thus an advocate of the doctrine of "double truth," that of reason and that of revelation. This doctrine had been preached by certain Averroists in the thirteenth century, but had been condemned by the Church. The "triumph of faith" was, for the orthodox, a dangerous device. Bayle, in the late seventeenth century, made ironical use of it, setting forth at great length all that reason could say against some orthodox belief, and then concluding "so much the greater is the triumph of faith in nevertheless believing." How far Bacon's orthodoxy was sincere it is impossible to know. 

Bacon viewed the concept of infinity as essential for understanding both religion and the natural world. He argued that the existence of an unknown, infinite power - namely God - is necessary for humans to understand their place in the universe. This infinite power displayed through religious symbolism and natural phenomena alike, allowed Bacon to view nature with newfound appreciation for its divinity. He believed that allowing oneself to contemplate the mystery of infinity was integral to a successful spiritual life. Thus, Bacon's embrace of infinity provided a way for him to reconcile his scientific worldview with his religious beliefs by uniting them through this effortless cosmic force.

Francis bacon scientific method

Bacon believed in the spirit of the new Renaissance humanism and true to the spirit of enquiry, he was a ‘skeptic’ in hism thought or we could say that he was an individual who doubted or questioned accepted opinions. His ‘empirical’ or ‘inductive’ method of knowledge which emphasised on the relevance of experience, proof and physical observation led to the development of the scientific-method and modern sciences. In order to discover and verify nature’s truth, the ‘empirical’ method also known as the ‘Baconian method’, encouraged experimentation, systematic analysis and physical observation.

Bacon's philosophy was heavily influenced by his belief in the importance of empirical study. He argued that humans should observe and investigate all available evidence in order to develop practice-based theories and gain an understanding of natural phenomena. Bacon believed that this form of reasoning could lead to more accurate and reliable conclusions than simply relying on deductive methods, such as logic alone. By placing a greater emphasis on data observation, Bacon ushered in a new era of scientific thought.

Francis bacon inductive method

Bacon was the first of the long line of scientifically minded philosophers who have emphasized the importance of induction as opposed to deduction. Like most of his successors, he tried to find some better kind of induction than what is called "induction by simple enumeration." Induction by simple enumeration may be illustrated by a parable. There was once upon a time a census officer who had to record the names of all householders in a certain Welsh village. The first that he questioned was called William Williams; so were the second, third, fourth, . . . At last he said to himself: "This is tedious; evidently they are all called William Williams. I shall put them down so and take a holiday." but he was wrong; there was just one whose name was John Jones. This shows that we may go astray if we trust too implicitly in induction by simple enumeration.  Bacon believed that he had a method by which induction could be made something better than this. 

He wished, for example, to discover the nature of heat, which he supposed (rightly) to consist of rapid irregular motions of the small parts of bodies. His method was to make lists of hot bodies, lists of cold bodies, and lists of bodies of varying degrees of heat. He hoped that these lists would show some characteristic always present in hot bodies and absent in cold bodies, and present in varying degrees in bodies of different degress of heat. By this method he expected to arrive at general laws, having, in the first instance, the lowest degree of generality. From a number of such laws he hoped to reach laws of the second degree of generality, and so on. A suggested law should be tested by being applied in new circumstances; if it worked in these circumstances it was to that extent confirmed. Some instances are specially valuable because they enable us to decide between two theories, each possible so far as previous observations are concerned; such instances are called "prerogative" instances. 

Bacon not only despised the syllogism, but undervalued mathematics, presumably as insufficiently experimental. He was virulently hostile to Aristotle, but thought very highly of Democritus. Although he did not deny that the course of nature exemplifies a Divine purpose, he objected to any admixture of teleological explanation in the actual investigation of phenomena; everything, he held, should be explained as following necessarily from efficient causes. 

He valued his method as showing how to arrange the observational data upon which science must be based. We ought, he says, to be neither like spiders, which spin things out of their own insides, nor like ants, which merely collect, but like bees, which both collect and arrange. This is somewhat unfair to the ants, but it illustrates Bacon's meaning. 

Bacon formulated the theory of inductive reasoning, which states that conclusions can be arrived at by careful investigation and observation. He believed that data should be carefully examined in order to establish general laws or principles. Furthermore, Bacon argued that this form of observation and experimentation could give humans greater insight into nature than any traditional methods of deduction. This inductive method of reasoning was widely accepted as a better way to understand the natural world and has helped shape modern science

Francis bacon four idols

One of the most famous parts of Bacon's philosophy is his enumeration of what he calls "idols," by which he means bad habits of mind that cause people to fall into error. Of these he enumerates five kinds. "Idols of the tribe" are those that are inherent in human nature; he mentions in particular the habit of expecting more order in natural phenomena than is actually to be found. "Idols of the cave" are personal prejudices, characteristic of the particular investigator. "Idols of the market-place" are those that have to do with the tyranny of words and the difficulty of escaping from their influence over our minds. "Idols of the theatre" are those that have to do with received systems of thought; of these, naturally Aristotle and the scholastics afforded him the most noteworthy instances. Lastly there are "idols of the schools," which consist in thinking that some blind rule (such as the syllogism) can take the place of judgement in investigation. 

Francis bacon scientific revolution

Although science was what interested Bacon, and although his general outlook was scientific, he missed most of what was being done in science in his day. He rejected the Copernican theory, which was excusable so far as Copernicus himself was concerned, since he did not advance any very solid arguments. But Bacon ought to have been convinced by Kepler, whose New Astronomy appeared in 1609. Bacon appears not to have known of the work of Vesalius, the pioneer of modern anatomy, or of Gilbert, whose work on magnetism brilliantly illustrated inductive method. Still more surprising, he seemed unconscious of the work of Harvey, although Harvey was his medical attendant. It is true that Harvey did not publish his discovery of the circulation of the blood until after Bacon's death, but one would have supposed that Bacon would have been aware of his researches. Harvey had no very high opinion of him, saying "he writes philosophy like a Lord Chancellor." No doubt Bacon could have done better if he had been less concerned with worldly success. 

Bacon's inductive method is faulty through insufficient emphasis on hypothesis. He  hoped that mere orderly arrangement of data would make the right hypothesis obvious, but this is seldom the case. As a rule, the framing of hypotheses is the most difficult part of scientific work, and the part where great ability is indispensable. So far, no method has been found which would make it possible to invent hypotheses by rule. Usually some hypothesis is a necessary preliminary to the collection of facts, since the selection of facts demands some way of determining relevance. Without something of this kind, the mere multiplicity of facts is baffling.

The part played by deduction in science is greater than Bacon supposed. Often, when a hypothesis has to be tested, there is a long deductive journey from the hypothesis to some consequence that can be tested by observation. Usually the deduction is mathematical, and in this respect Bacon underestimated the importance of mathematics in scientific investigation. 

Bacon sought to bridge the gap between the physical sciences and mathematics. He proposed a new approach to exploring scientific knowledge, which he referred to as the "instauration of learning”. Bacon strongly believed that mathematics should be used as a tool to help support science in much greater detail than ever before. For example, he suggested that mathematics could be utilized to measure fluctuations in temperature, pressure, or other phenomenon so that more reliable theories could be developed. His ideas had a significant impact on how modern science approaches empirical research and data collection today.

The problem of induction by simple enumeration remains unsolved to this day. Bacon was quite right in rejecting simple enumeration where the details of scientific investigation are concerned, for in dealing with details we may assume general laws on the basis of which, so long as they are taken as valid, more or less cogent methods can be built up. John Stuart Mill framed four canons of inductive method, which can be usefully employed so long as the law of causality is assumed; but this law itself, he had to confess, is to be accepted solely on the basis of induction by simple enumeration. The thing that is achieved by the theoretical organization of science is the collection of all subordinate inductions into a few that are very comprehensive --perhaps only one. Such comprehensive inductions are confirmed by so many instances that it is thought legitimate to accept, as regards them, an induction by simple enumeration. This situation is profoundly unsatisfactory, but neither Bacon nor any of his successors have found a way out of it.

Francis bacon work

The most important works of literary merit by Bacon are his Essays (1597-1625), the first edition was published in 1597 containing a total of ten essays and the second publication came out in 1612 with thirty-eight essays followed by a final compilation published in 1625 that contained fifty-eight essays. Some of his other philosophical, scientific, religious and historical works include On the Wisdom of the Ancients, based on ancient mythology, Colours of Good and Evil (1597), Sacred Meditations (1597), The Advancement and Proficience of Learning Divine and Human (1605), Novum Organum Scientarium (1620), The History of Henry VII (1622), The New Atlantis (1624) and Apothegms (1624).His literary volume titled Essays remains an all time classic.

Of Studies by Francis Bacon

The Essayist : Sir Francis Bacon was an English statesman and philosopher who believed in the power of knowledge. Bacon wrote a series of essays in the late 1500s to the early 1600s. One of those essays was called "Of Studies." The essay discusses the benefits of studying. Its purpose is to persuade us to study as well as to instruct us on how to study if one is to make the best of what one reads.

The Purpose of Education : In this essay Bacon states his depiction of education and earning. He articulated that, "studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability." Bacon felt that some people gain knowledge for pure delight. People, who acquire knowledge for delight, do so because they enjoy it. For instance, those who play sports practice and learn about their sport because they want to, not because they have to. There are, however, some people who gain knowledge for mere ornament. These people only want to improve themselves in the eyes of others.

These are the people who try to better themselves by bragging about their achievements and accomplishments in conversation with others.

Gaining knowledge: There are those who gain knowledge for ability. They want to show that they are able to do something. They learn for themselves in their free time. Ability is widely used in the area of business, those who are well educated rather than those who are not better run a company.

Bacon strives to persuade us to study, and tells us how to study if we are to make the best of what we read. He does this by using many rhetorical devices and substantiations to prove his arguments.

Bacon attempts to prove to us that “studies serve for delight, for ornament and for discourse” by showing us how education is used and can be used in our lives.

The need of Studies: Education is meant to be preparation for the real world. Bacon encourages studies, he warns that 1) too much studying leads to laziness; 2) if one uses one's knowledge too often in conversation with others, then one is showing off; and 3) to be guided solely by one's studies one becomes a scholar rather than a practical man. According to Bacon, dishonest men condemn education; stupid men admire education; but wise men use education as their real world experience dictates.

Effects of reading: Bacon returns to addressing the effects of reading, conversation, and writing: reading creates a well-rounded man; conversation makes a man think quickly; and writing, by which Bacon usually means argument essay writing, makes a man capable of thinking with logic and reason. History, Bacon argues, makes men wise; poetry, clever; mathematics, intellectually sharp; logic and rhetoric, skilled in argument.

Of truth by Francis bacon

The Essayist : Sir Francis Bacon was an English statesman and philosopher who believed in the power of knowledge. Bacon wrote a series of essays in the late 1500s to the early 1600s. One of those essays was called "Of Truth." The essay is Bacon's masterpiece that shows his keen observation of human beings with special regard to truth.

Definition of Truth: In the beginning of the essay, Bacon rightly observes that generally people do not care for truth as Pilate, the governor of the Roman Empire, while conducting the trial of Jesus Christ, cares little for truth Advancing his essay, Bacon explores the reasons why the people do not like truth. First, truth is acquired through hard work and man is ever reluctant to work hard.

Secondly, truth curtails man's freedom. More than that the real reason of man's disliking to truth is that man is attached to lies Men undergo various difficulties to learn the truth but once he does so it imposes a restriction on his thought and he wants to revert to lies. Bacon says that the love is a corrupt yet natural tendency in human beings. Like the Greek philosopher Lucian, Bacon wonders what makes a man love lies for it does not give delight as it does in poetry or does not allow profit as in business.

Greatness : Truth is like daylight but it throws only as much light on the fallacies of the world as a candle light. Truth is like a pearl which shows best in daylight but it cannot be like a diamond or carbuncle that can shine in the dark. That means truth is unable to show itself in the face of a lie just as a pearl cannot be seen in the dark. A mixture of lie with truth adds pleasure. Here Bacon speaks about imagination

The essay is not ornamental as was the practice of the Elizabethan prose writers. Bacon is simple, natural and straightforward in his essay. There is a moderate use of Latinism in the essay. There is a peculiar feature of Bacon i.e. aphorism. We find many short, crispy, memorable and witty sayings in this essay.

Francis bacon famous quote

"For a crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love."

"It is impossible to love and to be wise."

"Nuptial love makes mankind; friendly love perfects it; but wanton love corrupts and debases it."

''Why should a man be in love with his fetters, though of gold?"

"The speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but love."

"There is in man's nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and make men become humane and charitable, as it is seen sometimes in friars. Nuptial love make mankind, friendly love perfect it, but wanton love corrupt and embase it."
"The stage is more beholding to love than the life of man. For as to the stage, love is ever matter of comedies and now and then of tragedies; but in life it doth much mischief, sometimes like a Siren, sometimes like a Fury."

"Science is but an image of the truth."

"Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible. "  

"Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority."

"Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion."

“The Novum Organon,: Or a True Guide to the Interpretation of Nature”
Truth is a good dog; but always beware of barking too close to the heels of an error, lest you get your brains kicked out."

"It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tost upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth . . . and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below."

"Truth comes out of error more readily than out of confusion."

"What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. "

"No pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of truth." 

"The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search for truth. So it does more harm than good. "

"There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried."

"Truth is a naked and open daylight"

"Truth  is the sovereign good of human nature."

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