Saturday, 5 November 2011

Sir Francis Bacon and his Instauratio Magna (the encyclopedia of all knowledge)

Sir Francis Bacon, Philospher and Scientist (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626)

Bacon has been called the father of empiricism. His works established and popularised inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method, or simply the scientific method.
His dedication probably led to his death, bringing him into a rare historical group of scientists who were killed by their own experiments.He famously died of pneumonia contracted while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat.

Bacon introduces his famous doctrine of the “idols.” These are characteristic errors, natural tendencies, or defects that beset the mind and prevent it from achieving a full and accurate understanding of nature.

Bacon identifies four different classes of idol. Each arises from a different source, and each presents its own special hazards and difficulties.

# 1. The Idols of the Tribe. These are the natural weaknesses and tendencies common to human nature. Because they are innate, they cannot be completely eliminated, but only recognized and compensated for. Some of Bacon’s examples are:

Our senses – which are inherently dull and easily deceivable. (Which is why Bacon prescribes instruments and strict investigative methods to correct them.)

Our tendency to discern (or even impose) more order in phenomena than is actually there. As Bacon points out, we are apt to find similitude where there is actually singularity, regularity where there is actually randomness, etc.

Our tendency towards “wishful thinking.” According to Bacon, we have a natural inclination to accept, believe, and even prove what we would prefer to be true.

Our tendency to rush to conclusions and make premature judgments (instead of gradually and painstakingly accumulating evidence).”

See link below for extensive description of the Four Idols of Francis Bacon:


4 idols

The frontispiece to Sir Francis Bacon's Instauratio magna (Great Instauration) of 1620 depicts a ship sailing through two classical columns into an open sea; it symbolizes moving beyond the limits of classical (i.e., ancient Greek) scholarship into a realm of potential unlimited natural knowledge.

Instauratio Magna (the encyclopedia of all knowledge) was created by Francis Bacon.
Bacon planned to present the world with a complete division and systematic classification of all sciences, which he used as a general term for human knowledge. The project was never completed, but the parts that were published had tremendous impact on European thought.

The first part, De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum, was published in 1623. It was a Latinized and expanded version of his work Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Profane,which had appeared already in 1605 and was the first important work on phhilosophy written in English.

The second part, Novum Organum, was published in 1620 and thus preceeded the Latin version of the first part but was developed from its English version. In Bacon's own words it contains "true directions concerning the interpretation of nature."

Its first book investigates the causes for human error and distinguishes four categories, which he calls idols of the mind. The idols of the tribe are faults of the human intellect found universally with all mankind. Idols of the cave are intellectual faults of individuals. Idols of the marketplace are the result of inaccuracies of language, and idols of the theatre are misconceptions of philosophy.

Divisions of human learning as set out in Bacon's Advancement of Learning.In addition to this, in The Wisdom Of The Ancients, written by Francis Bacon in 1609.

Book II of the Novum Organum describes the author's "new method", which is essentially inductive: Finding the truth is not achieved through the collection of supporting observations but by elimination.

Bacon's systematization of all human knowledge is contained in Book II of Advancement of Learning and in Books II - IX of De Augmentis Scientiarum. It begins with three basic divisions of intellectual endevour: memory, imagination and reason. To these are assigned the sciences of history, poetry and philosophy. Bacon ignores poetry after a cursory discussion. He divides history into natural history (the history of things) and civil history (the history of ideas). Further subdivision leads to physics and metaphysics (theoretical science) and their practical or technological counterparts, mechanics and "natural magic."

Knowledge was not to be acquired merely for its own sake, which is learning, but for its use, which is intelligence. The principal end of philosophy is to improve the state of man; the merit of all learning is to be determined by its measure of usefulness.

No comments:

Post a Comment