FRANCIS BACON

 

From Essential Selections in Early Modern Philosophy, by James Fieser

Home: www.utm.edu/staff/jfieser/class

Copyright 2015, updated 3/1/2015

 

Contents

Essays (from Essays, 1597)

Induction (from New Organon, 1620)

The Ideal University (from The New Atlantis, 1627)

The High Cost of Doing Philosophy: Bacon's Death

 

 

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was born in London into an aristocratic family. He became a member of Parliament and a counselor to the Queen, but was frustrated by his failure to acquire a political position of substantial influence. In 1621 he was accused of bribery and corruption, to which he ultimately signed a confession of guilt, and was unable to return to politics. Although the initial punishment included fines and imprisonment, these were later reduced. Nevertheless, he was unable to return to politics. He spent the remaining five years of his life writing histories and refining his overhaul of the sciences. He died from bronchitis which he contacted while conducting a winter experiment to see if stuffing a dead fowl with snow would inhibit the rotting process. The selections below are from three of Bacon’s publications. First is his Essays (1597), which brought him literary fame during his life. In the passages here he describes how disputes within religions damage their reputation, the impossibility of truly doubting God’s existence, and the advantages and disadvantages of having children.

            In The New Organon (1620) he proposes a scientific method of induction to replace the deductive logic of Aristotle. As the name of Aristotle’s book on logic was “Organon”, the very title of the book Bacon’s book announces his intention to replace Aristotle’s system. He describes four sources of bias in science which inhibit progress, which he calls idols of the tribe (biases from human nature), idols of the cave (biases from individual constitution), idols of the marketplace (biases from words), and idols of the theater (biases from accepted philosophers). The goal of science, he argues, is to discover the “forms” of things, that is, an underlying essential feature that gives various objects a specific character. For example, the form of heat is the violent, irregular motion of particles, and we find this underlying form in all hot things. Thus, such violent and irregular motions of particles is the essence of what heat itself is and its scientific nature.

            The inductive process of discovering the forms involves three tables of comparison. First is the “Table of Presence” (agreement) whereby we examine instances in which the same phenomenon is present, and note what other circumstances are in common. For example, to understand the forms involved with heat, we examine all hot things and see what circumstance is in common (for example motion). Second is the “Table of Absence,” which involves examining instances in which a phenomenon is absent, and noting what circumstances are in common. To understand heat, for example, we must examine a list of cold things too, and see what features are irrelevant to the production of heat (for example, density). Third, , the “Table of Degrees” involves examining instances in which a phenomenon is present in varying degrees, noting what circumstances also vary. For example, to understand heat, we look at things which are at different temperatures and note what circumstances are present in varying degrees (for example, slow to rapid irregular motion of particles). By constructing all three Tables of Instances, we thereby eliminate irrelevant properties (such as density) and pinpoint the essential properties (such as irregular motion of particles). This, for Bacon, is true induction.

            The final passages are from an unfinished utopian novel that Bacon wrote near the end of this life titled “The New Atlantis,” which was published posthumously in 1627. It describes a fictitious island off the coast of Peru called Bensalem, which contains a sophisticated institution of learning where they perform experiments and make discoveries that are unknown to the Europeans.

 

ESSAYS (from Essays, 1597)

 

The Negative Consequences of Religious Disputes (from “Of Unity in Religions”)

Religion being the chief band of human society is a happy thing, [especially] when itself is well contained within the true band of unity. The quarrels and divisions about religion were evils unknown to the heathen. The reason was because the religion of the heathen consisted rather in rites and ceremonies than in any constant belief. For you may imagine, what kind of faith theirs was, when the chief doctors and fathers of their church were the poets. But the true God has this attribute, that he is a jealous God; and therefore his worship and religion will endure no mixture, nor partner. We shall therefore speak a few words concerning the unity of the church: what are the fruits thereof, what the bounds, and what the means.

            The fruits of unity (next to the well pleasing of God, which is all in all) are two: the one towards those that are without the church, the other towards those that are within. For the former, it is certain that heresies and schisms are of all others the greatest scandals, yea more than corruption of manners. For as in the natural body a wound, or solution of continuity, is worse than a corrupt humor; so [too] in the spiritual. So that nothing, does so much keep men out of the church and drive men out of the church as breach of unity. Therefore whenever it comes to that pass that one says “Ecce in deserto” [in the desert], another says “Ecce in penetralibus” [in the secret chambers]—that is, when some men seek Christ in the conventicles of heretics, and others, in an outward face of a church—that voice had need continually to sound in men’s ears, “Nolite exire”, Go not out [and do not believe it]. The doctor of the Gentiles [i.e., St. Paul] (the propriety of whose vocation, drew him to have a special care of those without) said “if a heathen come in and hear you speak with several tongues, will he not say that you are mad?” And certainly it is little better when atheists and profane persons do hear of so many discordant, and contrary opinions in religion; it does avert them from the church, and makes them to sit down in the chair of the scorners. . . .

 

The Impossibility of truly Denying God (from “Of Atheism”)

I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend [i.e., “The Golden Legend” of saints’ lives], and the Talmud, and the Koran, than that this universal frame is without a mind. And therefore, God never wrought [a] miracle to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true that a little philosophy inclines man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy brings men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looks upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them and go no further; but when it beholds the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity. Nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism does most demonstrate religion; that is, the [atomist] school of Leucippus and Democritus and Epicurus. For it is a thousand times more credible, that four mutable elements, and one immutable fifth essence, duly and eternally placed, need no God [a theory attributed to Aristotle], than that an army of infinite small portions, or seeds unplaced [i.e., atoms], should have produced this order and beauty without a divine marshal. The Scripture says, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”; it is not said, “The fool hath thought in his heart”—so as he rather says it by rote to himself, as that he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it or be persuaded of it. For none deny there is a God but those for whom it makes [i.e., it is useful] that there were no God. It appears in nothing more—that atheism is rather in the lip, than in the heart of man—than by this: that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it, within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened by the consent of others. Nay more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fares with [i.e., as compared with] other sects. And, which is most of all, you shall have of them that will suffer for atheism, and not recant; whereas if they did truly think, that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves? . . .

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Having Children (from “Of Parents and Children”)

The joys of parents are secret; and so are their griefs and fears. They cannot utter the one; nor they will not utter the other. Children sweeten labors; but they make misfortunes more bitter. They increase the cares of life; but they mitigate the remembrance of death. The perpetuity by generation is common to beasts; but memory, merit, and noble works, are proper to men. And surely a man shall see the noblest works and foundations have proceeded from childless men, which have sought to express the images of their minds, where those of their bodies have failed. So the care of posterity is most in them, that have no posterity. They that are the first raisers of their houses, are most indulgent towards their children; beholding them as the continuance, not only of their kind, but of their work; and so both children and creatures.

            The difference in affection of parents towards their several children is many times unequal; and sometimes unworthy; especially in the mothers; as Solomon says, “A wise son rejoices the father, but an ungracious son shames the mother.” A man shall see, where there is a house full of children, one or two of the eldest respected, and the youngest made wantons; but in the midst, [there are] some that are as it were forgotten, who many times, nevertheless, prove the best. The illiberality [i.e., stinginess] of parents in allowance towards their children is a harmful error; [it] makes them base; acquaints them with shifts [i.e., shifty people]; makes them sort with mean company; and makes them surfeit [i.e., indulge] more when they come to plenty. And therefore the proof is best, when men keep their authority towards the children, but not their purse. . . .

 

INDUCTION (from New Organon, 1620)

 

Deduction Bad, Induction Good

            1:1. Man, who is the servant and interpreter of nature, can act and understand no further than he has observed in either the operation or the contemplation of the method and order of nature.

            1:12. The [deductive] logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions, rather than to help the search after truth. So it does more harm than good.

            1:13. The syllogism is no match for the subtlety of nature. Thus, it is not applied to the first principles of sciences, and is applied in vain to intermediate axioms. It commands assent therefore to the [concluding] proposition, but does not take hold of the thing [in nature].

            1:18. The discoveries which have previously been made in the sciences are such as lie close to common notions, scarcely beneath the surfaces. In order to penetrate into the inner and further recesses of nature, it is necessary that both notions and axioms be derived from things by a more sure and guarded way. It is necessary that a better and more certain method of intellectual operation be introduced altogether.

            1:19. There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies away from the senses and particulars, and instead starts with the most general principles. It simply assumes that the truth of these is settled and immovable. From these general principles it proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle principles. And this way is now in fashion. The other way derives general principles from the senses and particulars, rising gradually and continually, so that it arrives at the most general principles last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried.

            1:20. The understanding left to itself follows the first way, which proceeds according to logical order. For the mind longs to spring up to positions of higher generality so that it may find rest there. After a little while it wearies of experiment. But this evil is increased by [deductive] logic, because of the order and solemnity of its disputations.

            1:21. The understanding left to itself in a sober, patient, and, grave mind, especially if it is not hindered by received doctrines, tries a little that other way [through induction], which is the right one. However, it has little progress since the understanding is uneven and quite unfit to contend with the obscurity of things – unless it is directed and assisted.

            1:22. Both ways set out from the senses and particulars, and rest in the highest generalities. But the difference between them is infinite. For, the first way just glances at experiment and particulars in passing. The second way dwells duly and orderly among them. The first way, again, begins at once by establishing certain abstract and useless generalities. The second way rises by gradual steps to that which is prior and better known in the order of nature. . . .

            1.105. In forming axioms, we must invent a different form of induction from that hitherto in use; not only for the proof and discovery of principles (as they are called), but also of minor, intermediate, and, in short, every kind of axioms. The induction which proceeds by simple enumeration is childish, leads to uncertain conclusions, and is exposed to danger from one contradictory instance, deciding generally from too small a number of facts, and those only the most obvious. But a really useful induction for the discovery and demonstration of the arts and sciences, should separate nature by proper rejections and exclusions, and then conclude for the affirmative, after collecting a sufficient number of negatives. Now this has not been done, nor even attempted, except perhaps by Plato, who certainly uses this form of induction in some measure, to sift definitions and ideas. But much of what has never yet entered the thoughts of man must necessarily be employed, in order to exhibit a good and legitimate mode of induction or demonstration, so as even to render it essential for us to bestow more pains upon it than have hitherto been bestowed on syllogisms. The assistance of induction is to serve us not only in the discovery of axioms, but also in defining our notions. Much indeed is to be hoped from such an induction as has been described.

            1.106. In forming our axioms from induction, we must examine and try whether the axiom we derive are only fitted and calculated for the particular instances from which it is deduced, or whether it be more extensive and general. If it be the latter, we must observe, whether it confirm its own extent and generality by giving surety, as it were, in pointing out new particulars, so that we may neither stop at actual discoveries, nor with a careless grasp catch at shadows and abstract forms, instead of substances of a determinate nature: and as soon as we act thus, well authorized hope may with reason be said to beam upon us.

 

The Four Idols for Eliminating Bias: Tribe, Cave, Marketplace, Theater

            1:39. There are four classes of Idols which invade people’s minds. To these for distinction’s sake I have assigned names, calling the first class Idols of the Tribe, the second, Idols of the Cave, the third, Idols of the Marketplace, the fourth, Idols of the Theater.

            1:40. The formation of ideas and axioms by true induction is no doubt the proper remedy to be applied for the keeping off and clearing away of idols. To point them out, however, is of great use. For the doctrine of Idols is to the Interpretation of Nature what the doctrine of the refutation of sophisms is to common logic.

            1:41. The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of people. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense is of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.

            1:42. The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual person. For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature. This owes either to his own proper and peculiar nature, or to his education and conversation with others, or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires, or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled, or the like. So that the spirit of humanity (according as it is limited to different individuals) is in fact a variable thing and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance. For this reason, it was well observed by Heraclitus that people look for sciences in their own lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.

            1:43. There are also Idols formed by the communication and association of people with each other. I call these Idols of the Marketplace because of the exchange and association of people there. For it is by discourse that people associate. And words are imposed according to the understanding of the common people. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. The matter is not set right by the definitions or explanations of some things which educated people use to guard and defend themselves. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.

            1:44. Lastly, there are Idols which have immigrated into people’s minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the Theater, because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage-plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion. Nor is it only of the systems now in vogue, or only of the ancient sects and philosophies, that I speak. For many more plays of the same kind may yet be composed and in like artificial manner set forth; since errors which are most widely different have nevertheless causes for the most part alike. Neither again do I mean this only of entire systems, but also of many principles and axioms in science, which by tradition, credulity, and negligence have come to be received.

 

Four Rules for a Devising a Good Theory to Discover the Forms

            2:3. If a person is acquainted with the [general] cause of any nature in certain subjects (such as whiteness or heat) his knowledge is imperfect. And if he is able to bring about an effect on certain substances only (of those susceptible of such an effect), then his power is similarly imperfect. Now, if a person’s knowledge is confined to the efficient and material causes (which are unstable causes, and merely vehicles, or causes which convey the form in certain cases) he may arrive at new discoveries in reference to substances in some degree similar to one another, and selected beforehand. But he does not touch the deeper boundaries of things. But whoever is acquainted with forms, embraces the unity of nature in the most dissimilar substances. He is able therefore to detect and bring to light things never yet done. This could not be accomplished by innovation of nature, nor industry in experimenting, nor accident itself, and would never have occurred to the thought of man. Thus, truth in speculation and freedom in operation result from the discovery of forms.

            2:4. The two roads to human practice and to human knowledge lie close together, and are nearly the same. Nevertheless, because of the dangerous and ingrained habit of dwelling on abstractions, it is safer to begin with practice and raise the sciences from those foundations which have relation to practice. We should let our active part itself be the seal which prints and determines our contemplative counterpart. Suppose a person wanted to generate and impose a nature on a given object. We must consider what kind of rule or direction or guidance he would most wish for, and express this rule in the simplest and least intricate language. Suppose, for example, that a person wanted to impose the yellow color of gold upon a silver object, or an increase in weight (observing the laws of matter), or impose transparency on an opaque stone, or tenacity on glass, or vegetation on some substance that is not vegetable. We must therefore consider what kind of rule or guidance he would most desire. First, he will undoubtedly wish to be directed to something which will not deceive him in the result nor fail him in the experiment. Secondly, he will wish for a rule which will not tie him down to specific means and particular modes of operation. For it is possible that he might not have those means available, nor be able to conveniently procure them. And if there are other means and other methods for producing the required nature (besides the one recommended) these may perhaps be within his reach. And yet he will be excluded by the narrowness of the rule, and get no good from them. Thirdly, he will desire something to be shown him, which is not as difficult as the thing proposed to be done, but comes nearer to practice.

            Thus a true and perfect rule of operation and direction will be that it is certain, free, and leads to action. And this is the same thing with the discovery of the true form. For the form of a nature [e.g., violent, irregular motion] is such that, given the form, the nature necessarily follows [e.g., heat]. Therefore it is always present when the nature is present, and universally applies it, and is consistently inherent in it. Again, the form is such that if it is taken away, then the nature necessarily disappears. Therefore it is always absent when the nature is absent, and implies its absence, and inheres in nothing else. A final feature [of a good rule for discovering forms] is that the true form deduces the given nature from some source of being which is inherent in more natures, and which is better known in the natural order of things than the form itself [i.e., violent, irregular motion of particles are necessary and sufficient conditions for heat]. For a true and perfect axiom of knowledge and direction will be that another nature will be discovered which is convertible with the given nature, and yet is a limitation of a more general nature, as of a true and real genus.

 

Tables of Comparative Instances: Presence, Absence, Comparison

            2:11. The investigation of forms proceeds as follows. A nature is given [e.g., heat], and we must first of all collect and present to our understanding all known instances which have this particular nature [e.g. all hot things], even in substances which are dissimilar. And such a collection must be made in the manner of a history, without premature speculation, or any great amount of subtlety. For example let the investigation be into the form of heat.

            Instances agreeing in the nature of heat:

 

1. The rays of the sun, especially in summer and at noon.

2. The rays of the sun reflected and condensed, as between mountains, or on walls, and most of all in burning-glasses and mirrors.

3. Fiery meteors.

4. Burning thunderbolts.

5 Eruptions of flame from the cavities of mountains.

...

27. Even keen and intense cold produces a kind of sensation of burning.

28. Other instances.

 

This table I call the “Table of Essence and Presence.”

            2:12. Secondly, we must present to the understanding those instances in which a given nature [i.e., heat] is wanting. This is because, as stated above, the form should no less be absent when the given nature is absent, than present when it is present. But to note all these would be endless.

            The negatives should therefore be attached to the affirmatives, and the absence of the given nature inquired of only in those subjects that are most close to the others in which it is present and forthcoming. This I call the “Table of Deviation,” or of “Absence in Proximity.”

            Instances in proximity where the nature of heat is absent:

 

1. To the first [on the above chart]: The rays of the moon and of stars and comets are not found to be hot to the touch; indeed the severest colds are observed to be at the full moons.

...

32. To the 27th [on the above chart]: There are many actions common both to heat and cold, though in a very different manner. For children find that snow after a while seems to burn their hands. Cold preserves meat from rotting, no less than fire. Heat contracts bodies, which cold does also. But these and similar instances may more conveniently be addressed by an inquiry concerning cold.

 

            2:13. Thirdly we must present to the understanding instances in which the nature under inquiry is found in different degrees, more or less. This must be done by making a comparison either of its increase and decrease in the same subject, or of its amount in different subjects, as compared one with another. For, the form of a thing is the very thing itself. And the thing itself differs from the form no differently than as the apparent differs from the real, or the external from the internal, or the thing in reference to mankind from the thing in reference to the universe. Thus, it necessarily follows that no nature can be assumed to be the true form unless it always decreases when the nature in question decreases, and in like manner always increases when the nature in question increases. Therefore, this Table I call the “Table of Degrees” or the “Table of Comparison.”

            Table of Degrees or Comparison in heat.

 

...

25. Some ignited bodies are found to be much hotter than some flames. Ignited iron, for instance, is much hotter and more consuming than flame of spirit of wine.

26. Of substances also which are not ignited but only heated by fire, as boiling water and air confined in furnaces, some are found to exceed in heat many flames and ignited substances.

27. Motion increases heat, as you may see in bellows, and by blowing. This is in view of the fact that harder metals are not dissolved or melted by a dead or quiet fire until it is made intense by blowing.

...

 

Inductive Inference from the Three Tables

            2:15. The work and office of these three tables I call the “Presentation of Instances to the Understanding.” Once this presentation is made, induction itself must be set at work. For, upon a review of each and every instance, the problem is to find such a nature that is always present or absent [i.e., violent motion] with the given nature [e.g. heat], and always increases and decreases with it, and which is (as I have said) a particular case of a more general nature. Now if the mind attempts this affirmatively from the beginning, as when left to itself as it always is inclined to do, the result will be fancies and guesses and poorly defined notions, and axioms that must be mended everyday....

            2:16. ... Therefore, the first work of induction (as regards the discovery of forms) is the rejection or exclusion of the several natures which are not found in some instance where the given nature is present, or are found in some instance where the given nature is absent, or are found to increase some instance when the given nature decreases, or to decrease when the given nature increases. Then indeed after the rejection and exclusion has been duly made, there will remain at the bottom an affirmative, solid, true, and well defined form; all superficial opinions will have vanish into smoke. This is quickly said. But the way to come at it is winding and intricate.

            2:20. . . . From the instances taken collectively, as well as singly, the nature whose limit is heat appears to be motion. This is chiefly exhibited in flame, which is in constant motion, and in warm or boiling liquids, which are likewise in constant motion. It is also shown in the excitement or increase of heat by motion, as by bellows and draughts.

 

THE IDEAL UNIVERSITY (from The New Atlantis, 1627)

 

Experiments with Animals, Sounds, and Smells

You shall understand (my dear friends) that amongst the excellent acts of that king [i.e., King Altabin, law giver of the island of Bensalem], one above all has the pre-eminence. It was the erection and institution of an Order or Society, which we call Salomon’s House; the noblest foundation (as we think) that ever was upon the earth; and the lantern of this kingdom. It is dedicated to the study of the works and creatures of God. . . . The end of our foundation 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. . . .

            We have also parks and enclosures of all sorts of beasts and birds which we use not only for view or rareness, but likewise for dissections and trials; that thereby we may take light what may be wrought upon the body of man. Wherein we find many strange effects; as continuing life in them, though divers parts, which you account vital, be perished and taken forth; resuscitating of some that seem dead in appearance; and the like. We try also all poisons and other medicines upon them, as well of surgery, as physic [i.e., medicine]. By art likewise, we make them greater or taller than their kind is; and contrariwise dwarf them, and stay their growth: we make them more fruitful and bearing than their kind is; and contrariwise barren and not generative. Also we make them differ in color, shape, activity, many ways. We find means to make commixtures and copulations of different kinds; which have produced many new kinds, and them not barren, as the general opinion is. We make a number of kinds of serpents, worms, flies, fishes, of putrefaction; whereof some are advanced (in effect) to be perfect creatures, like beasts or birds; and have sexes, and do propagate. Neither do we this by chance, but we know beforehand, of what matter and commixture what kind of those creatures will arise. . . .

            We have also sound-houses, where we practice and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you have not, of quarter-sounds, and lesser slides of sounds. Divers instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have, together with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep; likewise great sounds extenuate and sharp; we make divers tremblings and warblings of sounds, which in their original are entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which set to the ear do further the hearing greatly. We have also divers strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and as it were tossing it: and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller, and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.

            We have also perfume-houses; wherewith we join also practices of taste. We multiply smells, which may seem strange. We imitate smells, making all smells to breathe outs of other mixtures than those that give them. We make divers imitations of taste likewise, so that they will deceive any man’s taste. And in this house we contain also a confiture-house; where we make all sweet-meats, dry and moist; and divers pleasant wines, milks, broths, and salads; in far greater variety than you have.

 

THE HIGH COST OF DOING SCIENCE: BACON’S DEATH

 

It was the Servant's Fault (from John Aubry, Brief Lives)

Mr. Hobbes told me that the cause of his Lordship's death was trying an experiment. As he was taking the air in a coach with Dr Witherborne (a physician) towards Highgate, snow lay on the ground, and it came into my lord's thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow, as in salt. They were resolved they would try the experiment at once. They alighted out of the coach, and went into a poor woman's house at the bottom of Highgate Hill, and bought a hen, and made the woman gut it, and then stuffed the body with snow, and my lord did help to do it himself. The snow so chilled him, that he immediately fell so extremely ill, that he could not return to his lodgings, but went to the Earl of Arundel's house at Highgate, where they put him into a good bed warmed with a pan, but it was a damp bed that had not been laid-in about a year before, which gave him such a cold that in two or three days, as I remember Mr Hobbes told me, he died of suffocation.

 

It was not the Servant's Fault (from Letter, Bacon to Arundel)

My very good Lord,—I was likely to have had the fortune of Caius Plinius the elder, who lost his life by trying an experiment about the burning of the mountain Vesuvius. For I also was desirous to try an experiment or two touching the conservation and induration of bodies. For the experiment itself, it succeeded remarkably well; but in the journey between Highgate and London I was taken with a fit of casting, as I know not whether it was the stone, or some surfeit, or cold, or, indeed, a touch of them all three. But when I came to your lordship's house, I was not able to go back, and therefore was forced to take up my lodging here, where your housekeeper is very careful and diligent about me, which I assure myself your lordship will not only pardon towards him, but think the better of him for it. For, indeed, your lordship's house was happy to me; and I kiss your noble hands for the welcome which I am sure you give me to it.

 

Questions for Review

1. According to Bacon in his Essays, what are the negative consequences of religious disputes?

2. In his Essays, what are Bacon’s views of atheism?

3. According to Bacon in his Essays, what are some of the positive and negative consequences of having children?

4. According to Bacon in New Organon, what is so bad about deduction?

5. Explain each of Bacon’s four idols (i.e., of the Tribe, Cave, Marketplace, Theater)

6. What, for Bacon are the four rules for arriving at a good theory for discovering the forms?

7. Explain Bacon’s tables of presence, absence and degrees

8. Explain how, according to Bacon, inductive inferences proceeds from the three tables.

9. According to Bacon in The New Atlantis, what are some of the experiments done on animals?

10. According to Bacon in The New Atlantis, what are some of the experiments done in the sound and perfume houses on the island of Bensalem?

 

Questions for Analysis

1. Describe Bacon’s account of atheism and discuss whether you agree.

2. Was Bacon too hard on the value of deductive logic in science? Explain.

3. John Stuart Mill makes the following criticism of Bacon: "Bacon's greatest merit can not therefore consist, as we are so often told that it did, in exploding the vicious method pursued by the ancients of flying to the highest generalizations first, and deducing the middle principles from them; since this is neither a vicious nor an exploded, but the universally accredited method of modern science, and that to which it owes its greatest triumphs. The error of ancient speculation did not consist in making the largest generalizations first, but in making them without the aid or warrant of rigorous inductive methods, and applying them deductively without the needful use of that important part of the Deductive Method termed Verification" (System of Logic, 1843, 6.5.5). Explain Mill’s criticism and how Bacon might reply.

4. Biologist Steven J. Gould states the following about Bacon’s four idols: “Bacon argued that we must filter sensory data about this world through mental processors and that these internal mechanisms always operate imperfectly because idols gum up the works. Discovery, therefore, arises from a complex intermeshing of these inside and outside components and not by the accumulated input of facts from the outside world, continually processed by a universal and unchanging machinery of internalized scientific logic” (“Bacon Brought Home,” 1999). Is Gould correct in his understanding of Bacon’s method of induction? Explain.

5. Philosopher C.D. Broad states the following about Bacon’s idols: “Bacon admits that the three kinds of Idol just mentioned [i.e., tribe, market place, cave] cannot be altogether eliminated. The best that Logic can do is to point them out to us and thus put us on our guard against them” (“The Philosophy of Francis Bacon,” 1926). Is this a good interpretation of Bacon? Explain.

6. Bacon’s notion of forms was unique to him and was ultimately dismissed by later philosophers of science as an unhelpful metaphysical entity. Philosopher C.D. Broad explains the metaphysical nature of Bacon’s notion of forms: “That heat consists of violent irregular molecular movement is a proposition of Metaphysics. That mixing sulphuric acid with water generates heat is a proposition of Physics. The particular substances, water and sulphuric acid, are the material causes; the process of mating them is the efficient cause. The notions of material and efficient cause, as used by Bacon, are thus perfectly clear. But what does he mean by a formal cause? When we ask: ‘What is the formal cause of heat?’ we are asking, not directly how to produce heat, but what heat really is in Nature apart from man and his sensations” (“The Philosophy of Francis Bacon,” 1926). Is this a good interpretation of Bacon’s concept of forms? Explain.

7. In his article “Bacon’s Forms and Maker’s Knowledge” (2006), Antonio Pérez-Ramos suggests that the central notion of Bacon’s conception of forms “establishes that to know something (a natural phenomenon) amounts to being able to (re)produce that very phenomenon on any material substratum susceptible of manifesting it.” Does this reduce the metaphysical component of Bacon’s theory of the forms and make it more scientific? Explain.