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The New Organon

Francis Bacon

The Great Renewal

Important Themes, Ideas and Arguments

The Great Renewal, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary

"The Great Renewal," as a whole, aims to restore the relationship between mind and nature. Age-old errors need to be corrected. A general renewal of the sciences is needed, starting from the correct foundations. Bacon explains his haste to publish a plan of his renewal of the sciences, and his own opinion of its great value.

In his Dedication to James I, Bacon links James's reign to the renewal of sciences. He hopes that James will help to build up a natural and experimental history on Bacon's model, so that philosophy and science can at last have secure foundations.

In his preface to the "Great Renewal," Bacon says that men exaggerate their resources and underestimate their power. We need to free ourselves from our devotion to ancient learning, particularly that of Ancient Greece. Contemporary science has stalled in pointless controversies. The popular nature of science means that great geniuses are often forced to bow to the judgment of the multitude. Traditional learning is barren of results, full of questions, slow to improve but claiming perfection. Few people have dared to go beyond received opinion. Those who engage in mechanical experiments lack a methodology or series of rules. Those who have concentrated on experience alone have achieved little. But logic has not proved useful to science either.

We need a sure method to guide us through the complicated forest of nature. A better and more complete use of the mind and the understanding is needed before we can properly investigate nature. Bacon claims that his method emphasizes humility, because it values things themselves. His method is valuable not because it draws on ancient authors, or because it refutes them. Rather, Bacon believes that he has united the rational and empirical faculties. Bacon prays that greater understanding does not draw men away from God, or cause atheism and pride to arise in them. Inquiries into nature are not forbidden by God, but knowledge must be used with charity, for the improvement of life. Bacon asks that people see his work as the foundation for human progress and empowerment, not as dogma. He asks them to put away their prejudices and participate in the great renewal. It is a task that cannot be accomplished in a lifetime. Also, people should consider how far they can criticize Bacon, as he in fact questions their very processes of reasoning.

Bacon's project consists of six parts: one) The divisions of the sciences, two) The New Organon, or the Directions for the Interpretation of Nature, three) Phenomena of the Universe, or a Natural and Experimental History towards the foundation of philosophy, four) The Ladder of the Intellect, five) Forerunner, or Anticipation of Second Philosophy, six) Second Philosophy, or Practical Science.

The first section is a summary of the current state of scientific knowledge. It may depart from current classifications. The second section is an account of the better use of reason in the investigation of things. Bacon seeks to apply an entirely different art of logic. His new logic differs in its end, order of demonstration and starting point. It uses induction rather than the syllogism. Men's minds are occupied by various idols, which must be combated. To establish the truth, reason needs to judge only by induction. Therefore the teaching that makes the mind receptive to truth refutes philosophies, proofs and natural human reason. When this has been achieved, the relationship between mind and the universe will have been established. The third section deals with the experience and natural history that must form the foundations of philosophy. A new kind of natural history is needed to shed light on causes. Bacon aims to describe not only free nature, but also nature subjected to the experiments of the mechanical, liberal and practical arts. He also gives a history of the various powers. Bacon's natural history, cleansed of foolish ideas and experiences, will provide a firm basis for understanding nature. In the fourth section, Bacon will give examples of investigation and discovery according to his method. This is essentially a detailed application of the second part. The fifth section has immediate value, like interest gained before capital is redeemed. It is an account of various discoveries made by the ordinary method of interpretation. It acts as a temporary shelter for the mind, but does not rely on Bacon's true method. The sixth and final section reveals and expounds the philosophy that comes from Bacon's correct form of inquiry. Bacon believes that the task is beyond him, however. Its completion will come in the distant future, and is not imaginable now. Knowledge of nature can be achieved only by obedience to her; more knowledge of Nature than can be achieved through work and inference is not possible. Bacon asks for God's protection for his work.

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by anon_2223129944, November 27, 2014

"Bacon's scathing attack on current philosophy and on the scientific method."
As I recall, Bacon attacked the philosophical thinking and scholasticism of his day, but his work DESCRIBED what has become known as the scientific method, which had not been formalized previously. Also, while he emphasized beginning with inductive reasoning, he warned AGAINST leaving off at gathering data and generalizing from it. Not only was (as noted) experimentation important, but so was DEDUCTIVE reasoning, in its proper place. Bacon also suggested t... Read more

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