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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Francis Bacon: What is the scientific method?


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Paul van Somer I


Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is an influential philosopher best known his scientific method and is analysis of knowledge. Bacon has also been called the father of empiricism. Historian Clifford Conner says,


"The 'Baconian' sciences were the kind Francis Bacon had in mind when he issued a call to revitalize science by basing it on craftsmen's knowledge of nature. Bacon is remembered as the most effective critic of the traditional learning promulgated the elite institutions of his day... Bacon advocated compiling a 'history of arts' or encyclopedia of crafts knowledge." (A People's History of Science, 2005)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Bacon.


What is the scientific method?


"Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy to explain; and it is this. I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty. The evidence of the sense, helped and guarded by a certain process of correction, I retain. But the mental operation which follows the act of sense, I for the most part reject; and instead of it, I open and lay out a new and certain path for the mind to proceed in, starting directly from the simple sensuous perception." (Novum Organum, 1620)


"Since my logic aims to teach and instruct the understanding, not that it may with the slender tendrils of the mind snatch at and lay hold of abstract notions (as the common logic does), but that it may in very truth dissect nature, and discover the virtues and actions of bodies, with their laws as determined in matter; so that this science flows not merely from the nature of the mind, but also from the nature of things." (Novum Organum, 1620)


"Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. 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. " (Novum Organum, 1620)


Error in understanding


"Truth will sooner come out from error than from confusion." (Novum Organum, 1620)


"The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. And though there be many things in nature which are singular and unmatched, yet it devises for them parallels and conjugates and relatives which do not exist." (Novum Organum, 1620)