Two kinds of axioms correspond to the following division ofphilosophy and the sciences: the investigation of forms ormetaphysics; and the investigation of efficient cause andmatter, which leads to the latent process and configuration inphysics. Physics itself is split up by Bacon intoMechanics, i.e., the practical, and Magic, i.e., themetaphysical.
Since for Bacon the formal necessity of the syllogism does notsuffice to set up first principles, his method comprises two basictasks: (1) the discovery of forms, and (2) the transformation ofconcrete bodies. The discovery from every case of generation and motionrefers to a latent process according to which efficient and materialcauses lead to forms; but there is also the discovery of latentconfigurations of bodies at rest and not in motion (Bacon IV ,119–20).
Bacon's interpretation of nature uses “Tablesand Arrangements of Instances” concerning the natural phenomenaunder investigation, which function as a necessary condition forcracking the code of efficient causation. His prerogativeinstances are not examples or phenomena simply taken from naturebut rather imply information with inductive potential which showpriority conducive to knowledge or to methodological relevance wheninserted into tables. The instances do not represent the order ofsensible things, but instead express the order of qualities (natures).These qualities provide the working basis for the order of abstractnatures. Bacon's tables have a double function: they areimportant for natural history, collecting the data on bodiesand virtues in nature; and they are also indispensable forinduction, which makes use of these data.
Bacon was a favored man; he belonged to the upper ranks of society. His father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was a great lawyer, and reached the highest dignities, being Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His mother’s sister was the wife of William Cecil, the great Lord Burleigh, the most able and influential of Queen Elizabeth’s ministers. Francis Bacon was the youngest son of the Lord Keeper, and was born in London, Jan. 22, 1561. He had a sickly and feeble constitution, but intellectually was a youthful prodigy; and at nine years of age, by his gravity and knowledge, attracted the admiring attention of the Queen, who called him her young Lord Keeper. At the age of ten we find him stealing away from his companions to discover the cause of a singular echo in the brick conduit near his father’s house in the Strand. At twelve he entered the University of Cambridge; at fifteen he quitted it, already disgusted with its pedantries and sophistries; at sixteen he rebelled against the authority of Aristotle, and took up his residence at Gray’s Inn; the same year, 1576, he was sent to Paris in the suite of Sir Amias Paulet, ambassador to the court of France, and delighted the salons of the capital by his wit and profound inquiries; at nineteen he returned to England, having won golden opinions from the doctors of the French Sanhedrim, who saw in him a second Daniel; and in 1582 he was admitted as a barrister of Gray’s Inn, and the following year composed an essay on the Instauration of Philosophy. Thus, at an age when young men now leave the university, he had attacked the existing systems of science and philosophy, proudly taking in all science and knowledge for his realm.
In 1591, at the age of thirty-one, he formed the acquaintance of Essex, about his own age, who, as the favorite of the Queen, was regarded as the most influential man in the country. The acquaintance ripened into friendship; and to the solicitation of this powerful patron, who urged the Queen to give Bacon a high office, she is said to have replied: “He has indeed great wit and much learning, but in law, my lord, he is not deeply read,”–an opinion perhaps put into her head by his rival Coke, who did indeed know law but scarcely anything else, or by that class of old-fashioned functionaries who could not conceive how a man could master more than one thing. We should however remember that Bacon had not reached the age when great offices were usually conferred in the professions, and that his efforts to be made solicitor-general at the age of thirty-one, and even earlier, would now seem unreasonable and importunate, whatever might be his attainments. Disappointed in not receiving high office, he meditated a retreat to Cambridge; but his friend Essex gave him a villa in Twickenham, which he soon mortgaged, for he was in debt all his life, although in receipt of sums which would have supported him in comfort and dignity were it not for his habits of extravagance,–the greatest flaw in his character, and which was the indirect cause of his disgrace and fall. He was even arrested for debt when he enjoyed a lucrative practice at the courts. But nothing prevented him from pursuing his literary and scientific studies, amid great distractions,–for he was both a leader at the bar and a leader of the House of Commons; and if he did not receive the rewards to which he felt entitled, he was always consulted by Elizabeth in great legal difficulties.
In Bacon's follow-up paper, RedargutioPhilosophiarum, he carries on his empiricist project by referringto the doctrine of twofold truth, while in De Principiis atqueOriginibus he rejects alchemical theories concerning thetransformation of substances in favor of Greek atomism. But in the sametext he sharply criticizes his contemporary Telesio for propagating anon-experimental halfway house empiricism. Though Telesio proves to bea moderate ‘modern’, he clings to the Aristotelianframework by continuing to believe in the quinta essentia andin the doctrine of the two worlds, which presupposes two modes ofnatural law (one mode for the sublunary and another for the superlunarysphere).
In Redargutio Philosophiarum Bacon reflects on his method,but he also criticizes prejudices and false opinions, especially thesystem of speculation established by theologians, as an obstacle to theprogress of science (Farrington 1964, 107), together with anyauthoritarian stance in scholarly matters.
Bacon's manuscripts already mention the doctrine of the idolsas a necessary condition for constituting scientia operativa.In Cogitata et Visa he compares deductive logic as used by thescholastics to a spider's web, which is drawn out of its ownentrails, whereas the bee is introduced as an image of scientiaoperativa. Like a bee, the empiricist, by means of his inductivemethod, collects the natural matter or products and then works them upinto knowledge in order to produce honey, which is useful for healthynutrition.
Concerning (1) Bacon praises Aristotle for his excellent handling ofthe matter, but he also mentions Plato honorably. Fallacies ofinterpretation (2) refer to “Adventitious Conditions or Adjunctsof Essences”, similar to the predicaments, open to physical orlogical inquiry. He focuses his attention on the logical handling whenhe relates the detection of fallacies of interpretation to the wronguse of common and general notions, which leads to sophisms. In the lastsection (3) Bacon finds a place for his idols, when he refers to thedetection of false appearances as
According to Bacon, man would be able to explain all the processesin nature if he could acquire full insight into the hidden structureand the secret workings of matter (Pérez-Ramos 1988, 101).Bacon's conception of structures in nature, functioning accordingto its own working method, concentrates on the question of how naturalorder is produced, namely by the interplay of matter and motion. InDe Principiis atque Originibus, his materialistic stance withregard to his conception of natural law becomes evident. TheSummary Law of Nature is a virtus(matter-cum-motion) or power in accordance with matter theory, or
Bacon's notion of form is made possible by integration intohis matter theory, which (ideally) reduces the world of appearances tosome minimal parts accessible and open to manipulation by theknower/maker. In contrast to Aristotle, Bacon's knowing-why typeof definition points towards the formulation of an efficientknowing-how type (Pérez-Ramos 1988, 119). In this sense aconvergence between the scope of definition and that of causation takesplace according to a ‘constructivist epistemology’. Thefundamental research of Graham Rees has shown that Bacon'sspecial mode of cosmology is deeply influenced by magic andsemi-Paracelsian doctrine. For Bacon, matter theory is the basicdoctrine, not classical mechanics as it is with Galileo. Consequently,Bacon's purified and modified versions of chemistry, alchemy, andphysiology remain primary disciplines for his explanation of theworld.
Bacon looked forward to the next reign and tried to get in contact withJames VI of Scotland, Elizabeth's successor. During James'reign Bacon rose to power. He was knighted in 1603 and was created alearned counsel a year later. He took up the political issues of theunion of England and Scotland, and he worked on a conception ofreligious toleration, endorsing a middle course in dealing withCatholics and nonconformists. Bacon married Alice Barnhem, theyoung daughter of a rich London alderman in 1606. One year later he wasappointed Solicitor General. He was also dealing with theories of thestate and developed the idea, in accordance with Machiavelli, of apolitically active and armed citizenry. In 1608 Bacon became clerk ofthe Star Chamber; and at this time, he made a review of his life,jotting down his achievements and failures. Though he still was notfree from money problems, his career progressed step by step. In theperiod from 1603 to 1613 Bacon was not only busy within Englishpolitics. He also created the foundations of his philosophical work bywriting seminal treatises which prepared the path for theNovum Organum and for the Instauratio Magna.In 1613 he became Attorney General and began the rise to the peak ofhis political career: he became a member of the Privy Council in 1616,was appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal the following year—thus achieving the same position as his father—and was grantedthe title of Lord Chancellor and created Baron of Verulam in 1618. In1621, however, Bacon, after being created Viscount of St Alban, wasimpeached by Parliament for corruption. He fell victim to an intriguein Parliament because he had argued against the abuse of monopolies,indirectly attacking his friend, the Duke of Buckingham, who was theking's favorite. In order to protect Buckingham, the kingsacrificed Bacon, whose enemies had accused him of taking bribes inconnection with his position as a judge. Bacon saw no way out forhimself and declared himself guilty. His fall was contrived byhis adversaries in Parliament and by the court faction, for which hewas a scapegoat to save the Duke of Buckingham not only from publicanger but also from open aggression (Mathews 1996). He lost all hisoffices and his seat in Parliament, but retained his titles and hispersonal property. Bacon devoted the last five years of his life—the famous quinquennium—entirely to his philosophicalwork. He tried to go ahead with his huge project, the InstauratioMagna Scientiarum; but the task was too big for him to accomplishin only a few years. Though he was able to finish important parts ofthe Instauratio, the proverb, often quoted in his works,proved true for himself: Vita brevis, ars longa. He died inApril 1626 of pneumonia after experiments with ice.