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On the other hand, it must be added that Bacon did not present himself or his method as the final authority on the investigation of nature or, for that matter, on any other topic or issue relating to the advance of knowledge.

Like Leonardo and Goethe, he produced important work in both the arts and sciences. Like Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, he combined wide and ample intellectual and literary interests from practical rhetoric and the study of nature to moral philosophy and educational reform with a substantial political career. Like his near contemporary Machiavelli, he excelled in a variety of literary genres — from learned treatises to light entertainments — though, also like the great Florentine writer, he thought of himself mainly as a political statesman and practical visionary: a man whose primary goal was less to obtain literary laurels for himself than to mold the agendas and guide the policy decisions of powerful nobles and heads of state.

Like nearly all public figures, he was controversial. Similarly adulatory if more prosaic assessments were offered by learned contemporaries or near contemporaries from Descartes and Gassendi to Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle. The response of the later Enlightenment was similarly divided, with a majority of thinkers lavishly praising Bacon while a dissenting minority castigated or even ridiculed him.

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In a similar gesture, Kant dedicated his Critique of Pure Reason to Bacon and likewise saluted him as an early architect of modernity. Hegel, on the other hand, took a dimmer view. While no historian of science or philosophy doubts his immense importance both as a proselytizer on behalf of the empirical method and as an advocate of sweeping intellectual reform, opinion varies widely as to the actual social value and moral significance of the ideas that he represented and effectively bequeathed to us.

On the other hand, those who view nature as an entity in its own right, a higher-order estate of which the human community is only a part, tend to perceive him as a kind of arch-villain — the evil originator of the idea of science as the instrument of global imperialism and technological conquest. He praises Bacon as the great inventor of the idea of science as both a communal enterprise and a practical discipline in the service of humanity.

Clearly somewhere in between this ardent Baconolotry on the one hand and strident demonization of Bacon on the other lies the real Lord Chancellor: a Colossus with feet of clay. In the end we can say that he was one of the giant figures of intellectual history — and as brilliant, and flawed, a philosopher as he was a statesman.

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David Simpson Email: dsimpson condor. The final edition of his Essayes, or Counsels. The remarkable Sylva Sylvarum, or A Natural History in Ten Centuries a curious hodge-podge of scientific experiments, personal observations, speculations, ancient teachings, and analytical discussions on topics ranging from the causes of hiccups to explanations for the shortage of rain in Egypt. His utopian science-fiction novel The New Atlantis, which was published in unfinished form a year after his death. Literary Works Despite the fanatical claims and very un-Baconian credulity of a few admirers, it is a virtual certainty that Bacon did not write the works traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare.

The Scientific Method (In Our Time)

Scientific and Philosophical Works It is never easy to summarize the thought of a prolific and wide-ranging philosopher. The Advancement of Learning Relatively early in his career Bacon judged that, owing mainly to an undue reverence for the past as well as to an excessive absorption in cultural vanities and frivolities , the intellectual life of Europe had reached a kind of impasse or standstill.

Sterile results — i. The Idols of the Tribe. Which is why Bacon prescribes instruments and strict investigative methods to correct them. Our tendency to discern or even impose more order in phenomena than is actually there.


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As Bacon points out, we are apt to find similitude where there is actually singularity, regularity where there is actually randomness, etc. Our tendency to rush to conclusions and make premature judgments instead of gradually and painstakingly accumulating evidence. The Idols of the Cave. Examples include: Special allegiance to a particular discipline or theory. High esteem for a few select authorities. The Idols of the Market Place.

The Idols of the Theatre. And although the metaphor of a theatre suggests an artificial imitation of truth, as in drama or fiction, Bacon makes it clear that these idols derive mainly from grand schemes or systems of philosophy — and especially from three particular types of philosophy: Sophistical Philosophy — that is, philosophical systems based only on a few casually observed instances or on no experimental evidence at all and thus constructed mainly out of abstract argument and speculation. Bacon cites Scholasticism as a conspicuous example. Empirical Philosophy — that is, a philosophical system ultimately based on a single key insight or on a very narrow base of research , which is then erected into a model or paradigm to explain phenomena of all kinds.

Bacon cites the example of William Gilbert, whose experiments with the lodestone persuaded him that magnetism operated as the hidden force behind virtually all earthly phenomena. He cites Pythagoras and Plato as guilty of this practice, but also points his finger at pious contemporary efforts, similar to those of Creationists today, to found systems of natural philosophy on Genesis or the book of Job.

Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer. The Dialectic of Enlightenment. Anderson, F. Bury, J. The Idea of Progress. London: MacMillan, Eiseley, Loren. New York: Scribners, Fish, Stanley E. Gaukroger, Stephen. Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early-modern Philosophy. Cambridge, U. Merchant, Carolyn. San Francisco: Harper and Row, Mumford, Lewis.

Technics and Civilization. Lampert, Laurence. New Haven, Conn. Rifkin, Jeremy. Biosphere Politics. Mill, in his System of Logic , puts forward instead a narrower view of induction as the essence of scientific method. For Mill, induction is the search first for regularities among events. Among those regularities, some will continue to hold for further observations, eventually gaining the status of laws. One can also look for regularities among the laws discovered in one domain, i.

These five methods look for circumstances which are common among the phenomena of interest, those which are absent when the phenomena are, or those for which both vary together. The methods advocated by Whewell and Mill, in the end, look similar. Both involve induction and generalization to covering laws. They differ dramatically, however, with respect to the necessity of the knowledge arrived at; that is, at the meta-methodological level see the entries on Whewell and Mill entries.

The quantum and relativistic revolutions in physics in the early 20 th century had a profound effect on methodology. The conceptual foundations of both of these physical theories were taken to show the defeasibility of even the most seemingly secure commonsense intuitions about space, time and physical bodies.

The Very Idea of Modern Science: Francis Bacon and Robert Boyle

Certainty of knowledge about the natural world was therefore recognized as unattainable, and instead a renewed empiricism was sought, which rendered science fallible but at the same time rationally justified. In support of this, analysis of the reasoning of scientists emerged according to which the aspects of scientific method which were of primary importance were the means of testing and confirming of theories.

A distinction in methodology was made between the contexts of discovery and of justification.


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  7. The distinction could be used as a wedge between, on the one hand the particularities of where and how theories or hypotheses are arrived at and, on the other, the underlying reasoning scientists use whether or not they are aware of it when assessing theories and judging their adequacy on the basis of the available evidence.

    By and large, for most of the 20 th century, philosophy of science focused on the second context, although philosophers differed on whether to focus on confirmation or refutation as well as on the many details of how confirmation or refutation could or could not be brought about. By the mid th century these attempts at defining the method of justification and the context distinction itself came under pressure.

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    During the same period, philosophy of science developed rapidly, and from section 4 this entry will therefore shift from a primarily historical treatment of the scientific method towards a primarily thematic one. Advances in logic and probability held out promise of the possibility of elaborate reconstructions of scientific theories and empirical methods. Insofar as that system referred to the world, it did so because some of its basic sentences could be understood in terms of observations or operations which one could perform to test them.

    The rest of the theoretical system, including sentences using theoretical or unobservable terms like electron or force would then either be meaningful because they could be reduced to observations, or they had purely logical meanings called analytic, like mathematical identities. This has been referred to as the verifiability criterion of meaning.

    According to the criterion, any statement not either analytic or verifiable was strictly meaningless. Although the view was endorsed by Carnap in , he would later come to see it as too restrictive Carnap Another familiar version of this idea is operationalism of Percy William Bridgman. In The Logic of Modern Physics Bridgman asserted that every physical concept could be defined in terms of the operations one would perform to verify the application of that concept.

    Making good on the operationalisation of a concept even as simple as length, however, can easily become enormously complex for measuring very small lengths, for instance or impractical measuring large distances like light years. He pointed out that universal generalizations, such as most scientific laws, were not strictly meaningful on the criterion.

    Verifiability and operationalism both seemed too restrictive to capture standard scientific aims and practice. And the tenuous connection between these reconstructions and actual scientific practice was criticized in another way.

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    In both approaches, what are scientific methods are instead recast in methodological roles. Measurements, for example, were looked to as ways of giving meanings to terms. The aim of the philosopher of science was not to understand the methods per se , but to use them to reconstruct theories, their meanings, and their relation to the world.

    When scientists perform these operations, however, they will not report that they are doing them to give meaning to terms in a formal axiomatic system. This disconnect between methodology and the details of actual scientific practice would seem to violate the empiricism the Logical Positivists, or Bridgman, were committed to.

    The view that methodology should correspond to practice to some extent has been called historicism, or intuitionism. We turn to these criticisms and responses in section 3. Positivism also had to contend with the recognition that a purely inductivist approach, along the lines of Bacon-Newton-Mill, was untenable. There was no pure observation, for starters.

    All observation was theory laden. Theory is required to make any observation, therefore not all theory can be derived from observation alone.