Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The New Organon. Jul 15, Roy Lotz rated it really liked it Shelves: footnotes-to-plato , history-of-science , anglophilia. The title more or less says it all. For this book is an attempt to recast the method of the sciences in a better mold. Whereas Aristotle spends pages and pages enumerating the various types of syllogisms, Bacon dismisses it all with one wave of the hand—away with such scholarly nonsense!
More specifically, what is needed is a great deal of experiments, the results of which the careful scientist can sort into air-tight conclusions. Down with the syllogism; up with experiment. Down with the schoolmen; up with the scientists. Little did I know that Bacon did just that, and it is this book. In fact, his writing style can be almost sickening, so dense is it with aphorism, so rich is it with metaphor, so replete is it with compressed thought.
Indeed, if this work consisted of only the first part, it would have merited five stars, for it is a tour de force. Bacon systematically goes through all of the errors the human mind is prone to when investigating nature, leaving no stone unturned and no vices unexamined, damning them all in epigram after epigram.
The reader hardly has time to catch his breath from one astonishing insight, when Bacon is on to another. We have the Idol of the Tribe, which consist of the errors humans are wont to make by virtue of their humanity. For our eyes, our ears, and our very minds distort reality in a systematic way—something earlier philosophers had, so far as I know, neglected to account for.
We have then the Idols of the Cave, which are the foibles of the individual person, over and above the common limitations of our species. Of these may include certain pet theories, preferences, accidents of background, peculiarities of taste. And then finally we have the Idols of the Market Place, which are caused by the deceptive nature of language and words, as well as the Idols of the Theater, which consists of the various dogmas present in the universities and schools. Bacon also displays a remarkable insight into psychology.
And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. Part two, on the other hand, is a tedious, rambling affair, which makes the patient reader almost forget the greatness of the first half. Here, Bacon moves on from condemning the errors of others to setting up his own system.
In his opinion, scientific enquiry is a simple matter of tabulation: make a table of every situation in which a given phenomenon is always found, and then make a table of every situation in which a given phenomenon is never found; finally, make a table of every situation in which said phenomenon is sometimes found, shake well, and out comes your answer. The modern reader will not recognize the scientific method in this process. But the scientific method proper requires the framing of hypotheses.
The hypothesis is key, because it determines what facts need to be collected, and what relationship those facts will have with the theory in question. Otherwise, the buzzing world of facts is too lush and fecund to tabulate; there are simply too many facts. The importance of hypotheses also makes deduction far more important than Bacon acknowledges. For the aspiring experimentalist must often go through a long chain of deductive reasoning before he can determine what experiment should be performed in order to test a theory.
In short, science relies on both deductive and inductive methods, and the relationship of theory to data is far more intertwined than Bacon apparently thinks. So, to repeat myself, the title of this book more or less says it all. View all 20 comments. Mar 07, M. Rio rated it really liked it Shelves: classics , non-fiction , comps , school , philosophy , early-modern. This is just Francis Bacon calling you out for all your bad study habits. This book is amazing. It's also the case that really most of the intellectual paths one may take were sketch This book is amazing.
It's also the case that really most of the intellectual paths one may take were sketched out in ancient Greek, Indian, or Chinese philosophy. Of course Bacon's writing on science here is dated, but that is natural. Bacon did not have a time machine, after all, and it's good that he didn't, because he would probably have been severely depressed by the limited intellectual progress of human beings this many years after his lifetime, and would have stopped writing entirely.
What's amazing about this book is how sharp and concise Bacon is in his attacks on various stray intellectual paths, human follies of reason, and assorted other bullshit. Bacon's enumeration of the Idols that stand between enlightenment and us is still relevant today very sadly relevant , and his writing remains vastly important both historically and philosophically.
Parts of this book read like very, very early analytic philosophy. Bacon is, at least, very good at understanding the role of philosophy and the role of science in intellectual progress. Through these pages it becomes keenly aware that Francis Bacon was a top notch observationalist. His in depth analysis of heat and cold are fascinating to the modern mind. The permutations he arrives at put to shame any wikipedia entry that could be mounted on the matter. Perhaps the most striking element to this book is the rigourous sense of faith which stands tall alongside his earnest desire for inductive reasoning as a method to 'penetrate nature'.
Across the text Bacon makes reference to V Through these pages it becomes keenly aware that Francis Bacon was a top notch observationalist. Across the text Bacon makes reference to Virgil, Galileo, Plato, "He who can properly define and divide is to be considered a god" , Aristotle, and ancient Greek Philosophers, including, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Xenophanes, Philolaus, he omits Pythagoras for being superstitious On why we must doubt our knowing from the onset, Bacon discusses the difference betweeen an immediate apprehension of true nature, which he believes is restricted to divine and possibly angelic intelligences, whereas humans, he urges, must make use of a different kind of approach.
Even so do we wish our philosophy to make its way quietly into those minds that are fit for it, and of good capacity; for we have no need of contention where we differ in first principles, and in our very notions, and even in our forms of demonstration. The book concludes with a poetic homage to Man's fall from grace, and means for partial return, a poetic touch, no doubt.
For creation did not become entirely and utterly rebellious by the curse, but in consequence of the Divine decree, 'in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread', she is compelled by our labors not assuredly by our disputes or magical ceremonies , at length to afford mankind in some degree his bread, that is to say, to supply man's daily wants. Jun 23, Imene Philosophia added it. The New Organon forms part of the great renewal, or Instauratio magna, an ambitious practical and theoretical project to overhaul and reform the way in which man investigates nature.
Bacon divides his project into six parts: one a summary of current knowledge, two the New Organon itself, which sets out the method to be followed and seeks to prepare the mind for investigation, three a complete natural history, that will provide the foundations for this investigation, four examples of the kind The New Organon forms part of the great renewal, or Instauratio magna, an ambitious practical and theoretical project to overhaul and reform the way in which man investigates nature.
Bacon divides his project into six parts: one a summary of current knowledge, two the New Organon itself, which sets out the method to be followed and seeks to prepare the mind for investigation, three a complete natural history, that will provide the foundations for this investigation, four examples of the kind of investigation Bacon's method would produce, five specific practical discoveries that he has made, which serve as a kind of interest payment before the "capital" sum of the complete theory is known, six the real philosophy, completely explained.
Bacon doubts his own ability to complete the project, particularly the last section; he calls for royal patronage to help realize the project. As he imagines it, however, the Great Renewal will reform both epistemology the philosophy of knowledge and practice. It will alter the way we think about truth in nature, and how we try to uncover that truth. Sep 23, Andrew Ferguson rated it really liked it. One of the foundational texts of Western thought for a reason. Sure it is the definition of dated and some of its assertions about nature and physics are flat out wrong, but that's because Bacon literally pioneered the method of scientific inquiry that went on to give humanity the answers.
The manner in which Bacon splits the "wisdom of the ancients" from modern scientific inquiry is ruthlessly efficient and should be required reading for anyone who says all has already been discovered. The open One of the foundational texts of Western thought for a reason. The opening preface of the book contains some choice insights that are still relevant today for anyone looking to understand the complexities of the world in which we all live.
There is no doubt Francis Bacon had a huge influence on philosophy, philosophy of science and science. And that is the greatest strength and greatest weakness of this book, it is a mix of philosophy and science were Bacon never full reached apex or either of those two disciplines. There are two more reasons why I gave grade 4. First, he tried to categorize a lot of natural phenomes unfortunately a lot of it didn't stand the test of time.
Probably the biggest reason I didn't like this book as much I There is no doubt Francis Bacon had a huge influence on philosophy, philosophy of science and science. Probably the biggest reason I didn't like this book as much I hope I would is Bacon the politician.
What I mean by that, Bacon acted like a politician with his attacks on Aristotle. I understand he disagrees with his philosophical thought, but he is spent so much time in this book to attack a person who is dead for years. Furthermore, Aristotle is one of the greatest minds in human history and when you insult him you better bring something that will surpass him otherwise you insult yourself and he didn't come close to surpass Aristotle.
Jan 05, Hunter rated it it was ok Shelves: early-modern , read-excerpts-for-class , philosophy. Read selections for a modern philosophy class. Mar 22, A. We could say that Francis Bacon, a seventeenth century scholar, certainly revolutionized Western thought by proposing new forms of researching the "natural philosophies".
His inductive method predicate, first, freeing the human mind of its "idols", that distract and corrupt it, and then, by cautious and comparative observations, formulating new general laws, which would illuminate the path to new discoveries. As for the book itself, reading it was somewhat difficult, for two reasons in my view: We could say that Francis Bacon, a seventeenth century scholar, certainly revolutionized Western thought by proposing new forms of researching the "natural philosophies".
As for the book itself, reading it was somewhat difficult, for two reasons in my view: first, I've never read the Aristotle's books of Natural Sciences and, consequently, I know nothing about the scholastic thought to which Bacon is opposite; second, the examples he provides are a bit confusing because of the way he describes them, especially his concepts of "form" and "matter". Maybe it's too much abstraction for me, but I think I could grasp the main idea of the text.
Read this in a sitting a month ago. I thought it was pretty amazing how much his scientific vision corresponds to our modern one. I guess he laid some serious foundations for modern scientific epistemology and research. Sep 04, Heather rated it did not like it.
Apr 16, Arkar Kyaw rated it it was ok. Edgy fedora tipper. Shitposting at its best. Bacon's most immediate philosophical context is that of Aristotelian philosophy, which was still one of the prevalent intellectual currents of Bacon's day. Aristotle's Physics, which emphasized the role of a complex system of causes, form and matter, offered a theoretical rather than experimental picture of the natural world. Medieval Aristotelian philosophers, collectively known as the scholastics, sought to interpret and update Aristotle's system.
However, absolute consensus around Aristotle c Bacon's most immediate philosophical context is that of Aristotelian philosophy, which was still one of the prevalent intellectual currents of Bacon's day. However, absolute consensus around Aristotle clearly did not exist, even in the universities. When Bacon was at Cambridge, attacks on Aristotle's logic by the French thinker Ramus were being debated.
Recent scholarship emphasizes the wide range of opinions that can be classed as "Aristotelian. This reaction was indeed a severe one; Bacon's key aim throughout The New Organon was to replace what he believed to be Aristotle's universal truths with the idea that truth had to be discovered.
Bacon's involvement with contemporary experimental philosophy is also important. From comments in The New Organon itself, and from his letters, we know that Bacon took a keen interest in scientific developments and discoveries, despite his criticism of purely "empirical" philosophy. His discussions of Galileo's theory of tides, Gilbert's concept of magnetism, and of the use of the recently-developed microscope, show a philosopher in touch with contemporary developments.
Bacon also performed and directed his own experiments, some of which were more successful than the chicken-freezing enterprise that hastened his demise. The modern view of Bacon emphasizes the role of scientific practice in his work, and his links to contemporary experimenters.
The immediate reception of The New Organon was varied. James I famously claimed not to understand a word of the book, and the scientist William Harvey accused him of writing philosophy "like a Lord Chancellor"; that is, of arguing in a manipulative, political way.
On a similarly negative note, John Chamberlain agreed with the judgment that "a fool could not have written such a work, and a wise man would not. He was adopted by them as a kind of philosophical patron saint, and figures like Robert Hooke tried to model their own investigations on Baconian lines. Bacon's later influence is debatable. Certainly, the modern "scientific method" bears no resemblance to Bacon's inductive method. On these grounds, his project can be judged to have failed. But although no modern scientist uses inductive methods, Bacon is still credited with influencing the development of modern science.
His philosophical reputation was greatest in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but has declined ever since. Many later historians agreed that his criticism of Aristotle, and his emphasis on experiments and practice were important steps, but these historians also argued that the concept of induction was outdated and represented a false step in the development of the modern scientific method.
The most recent Bacon scholarship is less judgmental, and emphasizes Bacon's historical and theoretical contexts. Most informed historians agree that criticizing Bacon because his method did not survive the test of time, or because of his "moral failings" is a mistake. The nineteenth century's obsession with vindicating Bacon of political corruption at the expense of studying his philosophy has disappeared.
Whether Bacon would have welcomed this development is unclear. Bacon begins with explanation and self-justification. He explains the genesis of his work by his own realization that the intellectual errors of the past need to be swept away. He writes in the first person, and identifies himself with his project absolutely. In a sense, he stakes his own reputation on it. In the preface, Bacon argues that he saw "every other ambition as lower than the work in hand.
Although he devoted a great deal of time to political business, at heart he believed that he made his greatest contribution to human life as a philosopher. The dedication to King James I of England is an attempt to flatter James and gain personal advancement. James's intellectual interests he wrote books on witchcraft, theology and tobacco were well known, and he saw himself as a model of a scholar-prince. Bacon attempts to gain personal advancement always a major concern , but also patronage for his great scientific project.
The work, which was involved in his scheme to "renew" the sciences, would have been vastly expensive, and certainly beyond the means of the permanently indebted Bacon. In this preface and in letters written to James at the time, Bacon imagines prince and philosopher collaborating on this project, with James suggesting useful revisions.
The King admitted, however, that Bacon's "last book, like the peace of God, passeth all understanding. The remainder of the section is essentially an outline of Bacon's broader project. It represents the beginning of his fierce polemic against authority and traditional learning. Bacon was not the first writer to break with the "ancients," or classical Greek and Roman authors, but it is important to recognize how radical his suggestions were. Most of the European education system from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance was built on a foundation of classical texts.
For a long time, the writings of Aristotle were the key source of knowledge about the natural world. The idea that the best way to study nature was by experiments and experience was not self-evident and had to be invented. A great deal of scholarship in the arts and sciences consisted of commentaries on classical texts.
Considerable effort was expended in trying to reconcile ancient wisdom with modern experience. The concept of authority is central to this deferential treatment of the past. Authors who were particularly famous or celebrated were given a high intellectual status. They had a power beyond the force of their arguments. Their teaching was accepted as true on little external evidence. For many writers, citing authority was enough to clinch an argument. The fact that Aristotle believed that some people were "slaves by nature" could be an argument for the oppression of indigenous peoples, for instance.
Various texts had the kind of authority that the Bible retains for some people today. The establishment of this authority was not simple, however. It was a gradual process with many arguments. The force of Bacon's attack should not blind us to the fact that considerable scholarly effort went into erecting the apparatus of authority.
Bacon seeks to destroy this apparatus completely. He makes it clear that he does not want to argue with the ancients about nature and science, but rather to ignore them altogether and start afresh. He calls for a completely clean slate, as far as such a thing is possible. This call for renewal in a way exempts Bacon from immediate criticism, as he cleverly makes clear.
Other philosophers cannot criticize him using the principles of the old system, he argues, because he does not recognize them. Instead, they should read his new work carefully, and work within his new method. This is a clever, but not necessarily convincing, argument intended to diffuse criticism. Critics could of course argue that they judged his system from some universal viewpoint, or that his system is no more valid than theirs.
Bacon calls his work "natural philosophy" to emphasize the role that the practical study of nature has in it, but his project is only similar to, not identical with, modern "science. This argument may seem strange to modern readers, who are used to the idea of a conflict between science and religion. To Bacon and his contemporaries, there is no contradiction between the idea that God created the world, and the use of scientific methods to investigate the world.
Indeed, the prerequisite of a good philosophical method for investigating nature is that it does not challenge the existence of God. One could argue that Bacon is merely covering up his true position, but this misses the point. To most seventeenth century thinkers, a "scientific" method was a way of investigating God's creation. Bacon's plan of the "Great Renewal" is a clear statement of his aims for the project. Apart from The New Organon itself, however, little of the whole enterprise was completed.
The third section of the renewal was perhaps the most ambitious; it was intended as a huge data-bank of information about the natural world. It would require a huge effort to complete, but would allow the investigator to base his induction on firm foundations.
It is for this project that Bacon hopes to gain royal patronage. The fourth section is vaguely described, but appears to be a series of examples of the inductive method giving partial explanations of natural phenomena. These preliminary explanations and systems would be replaced by the kind of total explanation of the natural world that Bacon imagines in the sixth section.
The fifth section is intended as a kind of lure for wealthy investors who need to turn a quick profit. In order to encourage investment in his wider project, Bacon aims to reveal discoveries with immediate practical and commercial value to reward potential backers. He is clear that his grand philosophical system needs financial backing, and that it must be "marketed" in a skillful way if it is to succeed.
Perhaps the key message of this section is that The New Organon is very much a work in progress. It forms part of a broader project that was never completed, and is itself fragmentary. The one rushes up from the sense and particulars to axioms of the highest generality and, from these principles and their indubitable truth, goes on to infer and discover middle axioms; and this is the way in current use. The other way draws axioms from the sense and particulars by climbing steadily and by degrees so that it reaches the ones of highest generality last of all; and this is the true but still untrodden way.
After many similar aphoristic reiterations of these important concepts, Bacon presents his famous Idols. Novum organum , as suggested by its name, is focused just as much on a rejection of received doctrine as it is on a forward-looking progression. In Bacon's Idols are found his most critical examination of man-made impediments which mislead the mind's objective reasoning.
They appear in previous works but were never fully fleshed out until their formulation in Novum organum :. For people falsely claim that human sense is the measure of things, whereas in fact all perceptions of sense and mind are built to the scale of man and not the universe. Bacon includes in this idol the predilection of the human imagination to presuppose otherwise unsubstantiated regularities in nature. An example might be the common historical astronomical assumption that planets move in perfect circles.
These "belong to the particular individual. For everyone has besides vagaries of human nature in general his own special cave or den which scatters and discolours the light of nature. Now this comes either of his own unique and singular nature; or his education and association with others, or the books he reads and the several authorities of those whom he cultivates and admires, or the different impressions as they meet in the soul, be the soul possessed and prejudiced, or steady and settled, or the like; so that the human spirit as it is allotted to particular individuals is evidently a variable thing, all muddled, and so to speak a creature of chance This type of idol stems from the particular life experiences of the individual.
Variable educations can lead the individual to a preference for specific concepts or methods, which then corrupt their subsequent philosophies. Bacon himself gives the example of Aristotle, "who made his natural philosophy a mere slave to his logic". Aphorism These are "derived as if from the mutual agreement and association of the human race, which I call Idols of the Market on account of men's commerce and partnerships.
For men associate through conversation, but words are applied according to the capacity of ordinary people. Therefore shoddy and inept application of words lays siege to the intellect in wondrous ways" Aphorism Bacon considered these "the greatest nuisances of them all" Aphorism Because humans reason through the use of words they are particularly dangerous, because the received definitions of words, which are often falsely derived, can cause confusion.
He outlines two subsets of this kind of idol and provides examples Aphorism These idols manifest themselves in the unwise acceptance of certain philosophical dogmas, namely Aristotle's sophistical natural philosophy named specifically in Aphorism 63 which was corrupted by his passion for logic, and Plato's superstitious philosophy, which relied too heavily on theological principles. After enumerating the shortcomings of the current and past natural philosophies, Bacon can now present his own philosophy and methods.
Bacon retains the Aristotelian causes, but redefines them in interesting ways. While traditionally the final cause was held as most important among the four material, formal, efficient, and final , Bacon claims that it is the least helpful and in some cases actually detrimental to the sciences aph.
For Bacon, it is the formal cause which is both the most illusive and most valuable, although each of the causes provides certain practical devices. By forms and formal causes, Bacon means the universal laws of nature. To these Bacon attaches an almost occult like power:.
But he who knows forms grasps the unity of nature beneath the surface of materials which are very unlike. Thus is he able to identify and bring about things that have never been done before, things of the kind which neither the vicissitudes of nature, nor hard experimenting, nor pure accident could ever have actualised, or human thought dreamed of.
And thus from the discovery of the forms flows true speculation and unrestricted operation aphorism 3. In this second book, Bacon offers an example of the process that of what he calls true induction. In this example, Bacon attempts to grasp the form of heat. The first step he takes is the surveying of all known instances where the nature of heat appears to exist. To this compilation of observational data Bacon gives the name Table of Essence and Presence.
The next table, the Table of Absence in Proximity , is essentially the opposite—a compilation of all the instances in which the nature of heat is not present. Because these are so numerous, Bacon enumerates only the most relevant cases. Lastly, Bacon attempts to categorise the instances of the nature of heat into various degrees of intensity in his Table of Degrees. The aim of this final table is to eliminate certain instances of heat which might be said to be the form of heat, and thus get closer to an approximation of the true form of heat.
Such elimination occurs through comparison. For example, the observation that both a fire and boiling water are instances of heat allows us to exclude light as the true form of heat, because light is present in the case of the fire but not in the case of the boiling water. Through this comparative analysis, Bacon intends to eventually extrapolate the true form of heat, although it is clear that such a goal is only gradually approachable by degrees.
Indeed, the hypothesis that is derived from this eliminative induction, which Bacon names The First Vintage , is only the starting point from which additional empirical evidence and experimental analysis can refine our conception of a formal cause. The "Baconian method" does not end at the First Vintage. Bacon described numerous classes of Instances with Special Powers, cases in which the phenomenon one is attempting to explain is particularly relevant.
These instances, of which Bacon describes 27 in Novum Organum , aid and accelerate the process of induction. They are "labour-saving devices or shortcuts intended to accelerate or make more rigorous the search for forms by providing logical reinforcement to induction. Aside from the First Vintage and the Instances with Special Powers, Bacon enumerates additional "aids to the intellect" which presumably are the next steps in his "method.
These additional aids, however, were never explained beyond their initial limited appearance in Novum Organum. It is likely that Bacon intended them to be included in later parts of Instauratio magna and simply never got to writing about them.
As mentioned above, this second book of Novum organum was far from complete and indeed was only a small part of a massive, also unfinished work, the Instauratio magna. Both thinkers were, in a sense, some of the first to question the philosophical authority of the ancient Greeks. Bacon and Descartes both believed that a critique of preexisting natural philosophy was necessary, but their respective critiques proposed radically different approaches to natural philosophy.
Two over-lapping movements developed; "one was rational and theoretical in approach and was headed by Rene Descartes; the other was practical and empirical and was led by Francis Bacon. On the one hand, Descartes begins with a doubt of anything which cannot be known with absolute certainty and includes in this realm of doubt the impressions of sense perception, and thus, "all sciences of corporal things, such as physics and astronomy. In this method of deduction, the philosopher begins by examining the most general axioms such as the Cogito , and then proceeds to determine the truth about particulars from an understanding of those general axioms.
Conversely, Bacon endorsed the opposite method of Induction, in which the particulars are first examined, and only then is there a gradual ascent to the most general axioms. While Descartes doubts the ability of the senses to provide us with accurate information, Bacon doubts the ability of the mind to deduce truths by itself as it is subjected to so many intellectual obfuscations, Bacon's "Idols.
So, in a basic sense the central difference between the philosophical methods of Descartes and those of Bacon can be reduced to an argument between deductive and inductive reasoning and whether to trust or doubt the senses. However, there is another profound difference between the two thinkers' positions on the accessibility of Truth. Descartes professed to be aiming at absolute Truth. It is questionable whether Bacon believed such a Truth can be achieved.