- Bacon, Francis
- (1561–1626)English statesman. As a philosopher of science the first notable example of the empiricist tendency of English thought, but perhaps more importantly the prophet and protector of the dawning scientific revolution. He was a precocious child born into a leading family, and rapidly rose in the law, although not without questionable incident, as when at the behest of Elizabeth I he prosecuted the Earl of Essex, one of his earliest and principal patrons. His legal philosophy was one of absolute duty to the sovereign, which cannot have hindered his rise to the position of Lord Chancellor. In 1620, however, he was disgraced for bribery and spent his remaining years in seclusion. His collected works run to fourteen volumes, and include Essays (1597), The Advancement of Learning (1605), the Novum Organon (1620), and the New Atlantis (published posthumously, 1660).Bacon was the first writer to try to delineate the proper methods of successful science, to enable science to become a craft or industry producing benefits for humanity rather than the haphazard pursuit of occasional eccentrics. Although the ‘Baconian method’ is sometimes identified with simple induction by enumeration (the generalizing from instances of phenomena to experimental laws), in fact Bacon provided a sophisticated taxonomy of scientific methods, in most respects anticipating such later results as Mill's methods, and certainly including an understanding that the search for laws was an imaginative and intellectual rather than a mechanical empirical exercise. His work included a running battle against the false approaches of metaphysics, and against superstition (his own attitude to religion certainly included some sceptical elements, and he regarded the whole matter as unimportant compared to science: ‘the research into final causes, like a virgin dedicated to God, is barren and produces nothing’). Diderot said of Bacon that his work amounted to a map of what men had to learn; he has often been 35 described in terms of a prophet standing on the edge of the promised land of scientific knowledge. See also Baconian method, idols of the mind.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.