Bacon, Novum Organum

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"Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy toe xplain; and it is this. I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty." (Preface / 33)
  • retain the evidence of sense;
  • reject the mental operations that follow it

logic comes to the rescue too late -- the mind in daily life is already "occupied with unsound doctrines and best on all sides by vain imaginations" (Preface / 34)

"There remains but one course for the recovery of a sound and healthy condition -- namely, that the entire work of the understanding be commenced afresh, and the mind itself be from the very outset not left to take its own course, but guided at every step; and the business be done as if by machinery." (Preface / 34)

example of moving an obelisk by hand

"let there in short be one method for the cultivation, another for the invention, of knowledge" (Preface / 36)

  • Anticipation of the Mind -- "the conclusions of human reason as ordinarily applied in matters of nature" (I.XXVI)
  • Interpretation of Nature -- "that reason which is elicited from facts by a just and methodical process" (I.XXVI)

ends preface by encouraging the reader to use his own methods to test him (Preface / 37)

"It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried." (I.VI)
"The syllogism consists of propositions, propositions consist of words, words are symbols of notions. Therefore if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and overhastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure. Our only hope therefore lies in a true induction." (I.XIV)
"Anticipations are a ground sufficiently firm for consent, for even if men went mad all after the same fashion, they might agree one with another well enough." (I.XXVII)
"One method of delivery alone remains to use which is simply this: we must laed men to the particulars themselves, and their series and order; while men on their side must force themselves for a while to lay their notions by and begin to familiarize themselves with facts." (I.XXXVI)

Idols of the Tribe (XLV-LII)

  • "have their foundation in human nature itself" -- "the sense of man is the measure of things" (I.XLI)
  • "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" (I.XLI)
  • humans impose order and regularity where there may not be any (I.XLV)
"Matter rather than forms should be the object of our attention, its configurations and changes of configuration, and simple action, and law of action or motion; for forms are figments of the human mind, unless you will call those laws of action forms." (I.LI)

Idols of the Cave (LIII-LVIiI)

  • "idols of the individual man" -- differences between individuals (I.XLII)
  • "some minds are stronger and apter to mark the differences of things, others to mark their resemblances" (I.LV)
  • alternate studying particles that make up structures, and the structures themselves (I.LVII)
"Truth is to be sought for not in the felicity of any age, which is an unstable thing, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal." (I.LVI)
"And generally let every student of nature take this as a rule: that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with peculiar satisfaction is to be held in suspicion, and that so much that more care is to be taken in dealing with such questions to keep the understanding even and clear." (I.LVIII)

Idols of the Market Place (LIX-LX)

  • "formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other" (I.XLIII)
  • "For it is by discourse that men associate, and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding." (I.XLIII)
  • "But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies." (I.XLIII)
  • "the most troublesome of all -- idols which have crept into the understanding through the alliances of words and names" (I.LIX)
  • idols imposed by words are either names of things that don't exist, or names of things which exist but are confused and ill-defined (I.LX)
"For men believe that their reason governs words; but it is also true that words react on the understanding; and this it is that has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive. Now words, being commonly framed and applied according to the capacity of the vulgar, follow those lines of division which are most obvious to the vulgar understanding. And whenever an understanding of greater acuteness or a more diligent observation would alter those lines to suit the true divisions of nature, words stand in the way and resist the change. Whence it comes to pass that the high and formal discussions of learned men end oftentimes in disputes about words and names; with which (according to the use and wisdom of the mathematicians) it would be more prudent to begin, and so by means of definitions reduce them to order." (I.LIX)

Idols of the Theater (LXI-LXVII)

  • "all the received systems are but so many stage plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion" (I.XLIV)
  • thinking has been obscured by theology and monarchies (I.LXII)
  • "there is taken for the material of philosophy either a great deal out of a few things, or a very little out of many things; so that on both sides philosophy is based on too narrow a foundation of experiment and natural history, and decides on the authority of too few case" (I.LXII)
  • three kinds of erroneous philosophy: Sophistical, Empirical and Superstitious (I.LXII)

sciences must be fecund -- frequent use of the plant metaphor:

"If therefore those doctrines had not plainly been like a plant torn up from its roots, but had remained attached to the womb of nature and continued to draw nourishment from her, that could never have come to pass which we have seen now for twice a thousand years; namely, that the sciences stand where they did and remain almost in the same condition, receiving no noticeable increase, but on the contrary, thriving most under their first founder, and then declining." (I.LXXIV)
"the true and lawful goal of the sciences is none other than this: that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers." (I.LXXXI)
"And again, if a man turn from the workshop to the library, and wonder at the immense variety of books he sees there, let him but examine and diligently inspect their matter and contents, and his wonder will assuredly be turned the other way. For after observing their endless erpetitions, and how men are ever saying and doing what has been said and done before, he will pass from admiration of the variety to astonishment at the poverty and scantiness of the subjects which till now have occupied and possessed the minds of men." (I.LXXXV)


"But the first and most ancient seekers after truth were wont, with better faith and better fortune, too, to throw the knowledge which they gathered from the contemplation of things, and which they meant to store up for use, into aphorisms; that is, into short and scattered sentences, not linked together by an artificial method; and did not pretend or profess to embrace the entire art." (I.LXXXVI)


"Again, in the customs and institutions of schools, academies, colleges, and similar bodies destined for the abode of learned men and the cultivation of learning, everything is found adverse to the progress of science. For the lectures and exercises there are so ordered that to think or speculate on anything out of the common way can hardly occur to any man. And if one or two have the boldness to use any liberty of judgment, they must undertake the task all by themselves; they can have no advantage from the company of others. And if they can endure this also, they will find their industry and largeness of mind no slight hindrance to their fortune. For the studies of men in these places are confined and as it were imprisoned in the writings of certain authors, from whom if any man dissent he is straightway arraigned as a turbulent person and an innovator." (I.XC)
"The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own." (I.XCV)

experimenta lucifera, experiments of light -- "a variety of experiments which are of no use in themselves but simply serve to discover causes and axioms" (I.XCIX) experimenta fructifera, experiments of fruit; "they settle the questions" (I.XCIX)

"And yet hitherto more has been done in the matter of invention by thinking than by writing; and experience has not yet learned her letters. Now no course of invention can be satisfactory unless it be carried on in writing. But when this is brought into use, and experience has been taught to read and write, better things may be hoped." (I.CI)
"The understanding must not therefore be supplied with wings, but rather hung with weights, to keep it from leaping and flying. Now this has never yet been done; when it is done, we may entertain better hopes of the sciences." (I.CIV)

inventions; gunpowder, printing (I.CIX-CX)

"For new discoveries must be sought from the light of nature, not fetched back out of the darkness of antiquity." (I.CXXII)