Sir Francis Bacon - Biography and Works

Francis Bacon (1561- 1626) an English lawyer, statesman and philosopher, traditionally regarded as the first important figure in the history of British empiricism and in the development of the modern scientific world-view. He planned to write a major work, Instauratio magna, but only parts of it were completed. One, De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum 1623 (On the dignity and growth of the sciences) was a revised version of The Advancement of Learning 1605 (the first major philosophical work written in English – the second was Hobbes's Leviathan).

Sir Francis Bacon (1561- 1626)

The title of another part, the Novum Organum 1620 (The New Organon), gave a clear hint that the predominant aristotelianism ought to be superseded. Science should aim at collecting empirical data and use them for inductive generalizations, instead of seeking explanations in terms of final causes (i.e. purposes). In a simile, he likens the proper scientific method to that of bees, who collect systematically and erect a structure, in contrast to the ants, who amass a disordered heap and spiders, who spin beautiful webs that have no contact with reality. The aim of the inquiry is practical: knowledge of nature gives us power over it.

Bacon draws attention to the remarkable changes wrought by the invention of printing, gunpowder, and the magnet. In order to achieve success, the sources of error have to be understood. One source is a hasty generalization. There are also common habits that tend to lead us astray: Bacon gives a famous account of the four kinds of “Idols”; The Idols of the Cave, The Idols of the Tribe, The Idols of the Theater, and The Idols of the Market Place.

Bacon believes that poetry has a very allegorical dimension. Poetry has got allegorical dimension, hence it can be used as fables to teach. It can be used as fables to teach in its best. He contrasts poetry with history (a record of events, facts related to higher levels of reality). He also refers to the imagination. So, poetry is the imaginative history that it has the capacity of fulfilling desires. The dealing with good but cut off from the reality, can be unlike in poetry as the objects and our aspirations meet each other. But in history, what do you get? The same as in our real daily life!

Sir Francis Bacon Study Center

The Advancement of Learning

Mimetic Theory: Introduction