Ideas from 'The Advancement of Learning' by Francis Bacon [1605], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Advancement of Learning/New Atlantis' by Bacon,Francis [OUP 1966,-]].

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1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Metaphysics is the best knowledge, because it is the simplest
                        Full Idea: That knowledge is worthiest which is charged with least multiplicity, which appeareth to be metaphysic
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.6)
                        A reaction: A surprising view, coming from the father of modern science, but essentially correct. Obviously metaphysics aspires to avoid multiplicity, but it is riddled not only with complexity in its researches, but massive uncertainties.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 4. Metaphysics as Science
Natural history supports physical knowledge, which supports metaphysical knowledge
                        Full Idea: Knowledges are as pyramides, whereof history is the basis. So of natural philosophy, the basis is natural history, the stage next the basis is physic; the stage next the vertical point is metaphysic.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.6)
                        A reaction: The father of modern science keeps a place for metaphysics, as the most abstract level above the physical sciences. I would say he is right. It leads to my own slogan: science is the servant of philosophy.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 5. Metaphysics beyond Science
Physics studies transitory matter; metaphysics what is abstracted and necessary
                        Full Idea: Physic should contemplate that which is inherent in matter, and therefore transitory; and metaphysic that which is abstracted and fixed
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.3)
                        A reaction: He cites the ancients for this view, with which he agrees. One could do worse than hang onto metaphysics as the study of necessities, but must then face the attacks of the Quineans - that knowledge of necessities is beyond us.
Physics is of material and efficient causes, metaphysics of formal and final causes
                        Full Idea: Physic inquireth and handleth the material and efficient causes; and metaphysic handleth the formal and final causes.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.3)
                        A reaction: Compare Idea 12119. This divides up Aristotle's famous Four Causes (or Explanations), outlined in 'Physics' II.3. The concept of 'matter', and the nature of 'cause' seem to me to fall with the purview of metaphysics. Interesting, though.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
We don't assume there is no land, because we can only see sea
                        Full Idea: They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.5)
                        A reaction: Just the sort of pithy remark for which Bacon is famous. It is an obvious point, but a nice corrective to anyone who wants to apply empirical principles in a rather gormless way.
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 3. Experiment
Science moves up and down between inventions of causes, and experiments
                        Full Idea: All true and fruitful natural philosophy hath a double scale or ladder, ascendent and descendent, ascending from experiments to the invention of causes, and descending from causes to the invention of new experiments.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.1)
                        A reaction: After several hundred years, I doubt whether anyone can come up with a better account of scientific method than Bacon's.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 5. Commensurability
Many different theories will fit the observed facts
                        Full Idea: The ordinary face and view of experience is many times satisfied by several theories and philosophies.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VIII.5)
                        A reaction: He gives as his example that the Copernican system and the Ptolemaic system both seem to satisfy all the facts. He wrote in 1605, just before Galileo's telescope. His point is regularly made in modern discussions. In this case, he was wrong!
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 5. Generalisation by mind
People love (unfortunately) extreme generality, rather than particular knowledge
                        Full Idea: It is the nature of the mind of man (to the extreme prejudice of knowledge) to delight in the spacious liberty of generalities, as in a champaign region, and not in the inclosures of particularity.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VIII.1)
                        A reaction: I have to plead guilty to this myself. He may have pinpointed the key motivation behind philosophy. We all want to know things, as Aristotle said, but some of us want the broad brush, and others want the fine detail.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / c. Purpose denied
Teleological accounts are fine in metaphysics, but they stop us from searching for the causes
                        Full Idea: To say 'leaves are for protecting of fruit', or that 'clouds are for watering the earth', is well inquired and collected in metaphysic, but in physic they are impertinent. They are hindrances, and the search of the physical causes hath been neglected.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.7)
                        A reaction: This is the standard rebellion against Aristotle which gave rise to the birth of modern science. The story has been complicated by natural selection, which bestows a sort of purpose on living things. Nowadays we pursue both paths.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / a. Scientific essentialism
Essences are part of first philosophy, but as part of nature, not part of logic
                        Full Idea: I assign to summary philosophy the operation of essences (as quantity, similitude, diversity, possibility), with this distinction - that they be handled as they have efficacy in nature, and not logically.
                        From: Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning [1605], II.VII.3)
                        A reaction: I take this to be a splendid motto for scientific essentialism, in a climate where modal logicians appear to have taken over the driving seat in our understanding of essences.