6 Bacon - Francis Bacon, Novum Organum: Or True Directions...

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Francis Bacon, Novum Organum: Or True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature (1620) Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was a prominent English lawyer and royal favorite of King James I. He served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor, but was found guilty of corruption in 1621 and expelled from office. He was a controversial figure, running up massive debts, frequently being accused of homosexuality, and at the age of forty-five marrying a fourteen-year-old bride. He also, though, found time to develop a profound critique of contemporary scientific practice, arguing that the only true knowledge is inductive, starting with accumulation of facts and building slowly toward more general conclusions. Baconian inductivism is often contrasted with Cartesian deductivism as one of the twin pillars of modern science . His major work was the Novum Organum (1620), aiming to replace Aristotle’s books on logic (known in the 17 century by the Latin title Organum ) with a new approach to logic . AUTHOR'S PREFACE Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm by spoiling and putting an end to other men's efforts than good by their own. Those on the other hand who have taken a contrary course, and asserted that absolutely nothing can be known—whether it were from hatred of the ancient sophists, or from uncertainty and fluctuation of mind, or even from a kind of fullness of learning, that they fell upon this opinion—have certainly advanced reasons for it that are not to be despised; but yet they have neither started from true principles nor rested in the just conclusion, zeal and affectation having carried them much too far. The more ancient of the Greeks (whose writings are lost) took up with better judgment a position between these two extremes—between the presumption of pronouncing on everything, and the despair of comprehending anything; and though frequently and bitterly complaining of the difficulty of inquiry and the obscurity of things, and like impatient horses champing at the bit, they did not the less follow up their object and engage with nature, thinking (it seems) that this very question—viz., whether or not anything can be known—was to be settled not by arguing, but by trying. And yet they too, trusting entirely to the force of their understanding, applied no rule, but made everything turn upon hard thinking and perpetual working and exercise of the mind. Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy to explain; and it is this. I propose
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This note was uploaded on 05/03/2010 for the course IHUM 69 taught by Professor Morris during the Spring '10 term at Stanford.

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6 Bacon - Francis Bacon, Novum Organum: Or True Directions...

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