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149
BACON, FRANCIS

and is in fact dependent upon that theory. But induction is neither the whole of the new method, nor is it applicable to forms only. There are two other grand objects of inquiry: the one, the transformation of concrete bodies; the other, the investigation of the latent powers and the latent schematism or configuration. With regard to the first, in ultimate result it depends upon the theory of forms; for whenever the compound body can be regarded as the sum of certain simple natures, then our knowledge of the forms of these natures gives us the power of superinducing a new nature on the concrete body. As regards the latent process (latens processus) which goes on in all cases of generation and continuous development or motion, we examine carefully, and by quantitative measurements, the gradual growth and change from the first elements to the completed thing. The same kind of investigation may be extended to many cases of natural motion, such as voluntary action or nutrition; and though inquiry is here directed towards concrete bodies, and does not therefore penetrate so deeply into reality as in research for forms, yet great results may be looked for with more confidence. It is to be regretted that Bacon did not complete this portion of his work, in which for the first time he approaches modern conceptions of change. The latent configuration (latens schematismus) or inward structure of the parts of a body must be known before we can hope to superinduce a new nature upon it. This can only be discovered by analysis, which will disclose the ultimate constituents (natural particles, not atoms) of bodies, and lead back the discussion to forms or simple natures, whereby alone can true light be thrown on these obscure questions. Thus, in all cases, scientific explanation depends upon knowledge of forms; all phenomena or secondary qualities are accounted for by being referred to the primary qualities of matter.

The several steps in the inductive investigation of the form of any nature flow readily from the definition of the form itself. For that is always and necessarily present when the nature is present, absent when it is absent, decreases and increases according as the nature decreases and increases. It is therefore requisite for the inquiry to have before us instances in which the nature is present. The list of these is called the table of Essence and Presence. Secondly, we must have instances in which the nature is absent; only as such cases might be infinite, attention should be limited to such of them as are most akin to the instances of presence.[1] The list in this case is called table of Absence in Proximity. Thirdly, we must have a number of instances in which the nature is present in different degrees, either increasing or decreasing in the same subject, or variously present in different subjects. This is the table of Degrees, or Comparison. After the formation of these tables, we proceed to apply what is perhaps the most valuable part of the Baconian method, and that in which the author took most pride, the process of exclusion or rejection. This elimination of the non-essential, grounded on the fundamental propositions with regard to forms, is the most important of Bacon's contributions to the logic of induction, and that in which, as he repeatedly says, his method differs from all previous philosophies. It is evident that if the tables were complete, and our notions of the respective phenomena clear, the process of exclusion would be a merely mechanical counting out, and would infallibly lead to the detection of the cause or form. But it is just as evident that these conditions can never be adequately fulfilled. Bacon saw that his method was impracticable (though he seems to have thought the difficulties not insuperable), and therefore set to work to devise new helps, adminicula. These he enumerates in ii., Aph. 21:—Prerogative Instances, Supports of Induction, Rectification of Induction, Varying the Investigation according to the Nature of the Subject, Prerogative Natures, Limits of Investigation, Application to Practice, Preparations for Investigation, the Ascending and Descending Scale of Axioms. The remainder of the Organum is devoted to a consideration of the twenty-seven classes of Prerogative Instances, and though it contains much that is both luminous and helpful, it adds little to our knowledge of what constitutes the Baconian method. On the other heads we have but a few scattered hints. But although the rigorous requirements of science could only be fulfilled by the employment of all these means, yet in their absence it was permissible to draw from the tables and the exclusion a hypothetical conclusion, the truth of which might be verified by the use of the other processes; such an hypothesis is called fantastically the First Vintage (Vindemiatio). The inductive method, so far as exhibited in the Organum, is exemplified by an investigation into the nature of heat.

Such was the method devised by Bacon, and to which he ascribed the qualities of absolute certainty and mechanical simplicity. But even supposing that this method were accurate and completely unfolded, it is evident that it could only be made applicable and produce fruit when the phenomena of the universe have been very completely tabulated and arranged. In this demand for a complete natural history, Bacon also felt that he was original, and he was deeply impressed with the necessity for it;[2] in fact, he seems occasionally to place an even higher value upon it than upon his Organum. Thus, in the preface to his series of works forming the third part of the Instauratio, he says: “It comes, therefore, to this, that my Organum, even if it were completed, would not without the Natural History much advance the Instauration of the Sciences, whereas the Natural History without the Organum would advance it not a little.”[3] But a complete natural history is evidently a thing impossible, and in fact a history can only be collected by attending to the requirements of the Organum. This was seen by Bacon, and what may be regarded as his final opinion on the question is given in the important letter to Jean Antoine Baranzano[4] (“Redemptus”: 1590-1622):—“With regard to the multitude of instances by which men may be deterred from the attempt, here is my answer. First, what need to dissemble? Either store of instances must be procured, or the business must be given up. All other ways, however enticing, are impassable. Secondly, the prerogatives of instances, and the mode of experimenting upon experiments of light (which I shall hereafter explain), will diminish the multitude of them very much. Thirdly, what matter, I ask, if the description of the instances should fill six times as many volumes as Pliny's History? ... For the true natural history is to take nothing except instances, connections, observations and canons”.[5] The Organum and the History are thus correlative, and form the two equally necessary sides of a true philosophy; by their union the new philosophy is produced.

Summary.—Two questions may be put to any doctrine which professes to effect a radical change in philosophy or science. Is it original? Is it valuable? With regard to the first, it has been already pointed out that Bacon's induction or inductive method is distinctly his own, though it cannot and need not be maintained that the general spirit of his philosophy was entirely new.[6]

The value of the method is the separate and more difficult question. It has been assailed on the most opposite grounds. Macaulay, while admitting the accuracy of the process, denied its efficiency, on the ground that an operation performed naturally was not rendered more easy or efficacious by being subjected to analysis.[7] This objection is curious when confronted with Bacon's reiterated assertion that the natural method pursued by the unassisted human reason is distinctly opposed to his; and it is besides an argument that tells so strongly against many sciences, as to be comparatively worthless when applied to any one. There are, however, more formidable objections against the method. It has been pointed out,[8] and with perfect justice,

  1. That is to say, differing in nothing save the absence of the nature under investigation.
  2. Distrib. Op. (Works, iv. 28); Parasceve (ibid. 251, 252, 255-256); Descrip. Glob. Intel. ch. 3.
  3. Works, ii. 16; cf. N. O. i. 130.
  4. A Barnabite monk, professor of mathematics and philosophy at Annecy.
  5. Letters and Life, vii. 377.
  6. For a full discussion of Bacon's relation to his predecessors and contemporaries, see Fowler's N. O. introd. § 13.
  7. Cf. what Bacon says, N. O. i. 130.
  8. Brewster, Life of Newton (1855) (see particularly vol. ii. 403, 405); Lasson, Über Bacon von Verulam's wissenschaftliche Principien (1860); Liebig, Über Francis Bacon von Verulam, &c. (1863). Although Liebig points out how little science proceeds according to Bacon's rules, yet his other criticisms seem of extremely little value. In a very offensive and quite unjustifiable tone, which is severely commented on by Sigwart and Fischer, he attacks the Baconian methods and its results. These results he claims to find in the Sylva Sylvarum, entirely ignoring what Bacon himself has said of the nature of that work (N. O. i. 117; cf. Rawley's Pref. to the S. S.), and thus putting a false interpretation on the experiments there noted. It is not surprising that he should detect many flaws, but he never fails to exaggerate an error, and seems sometimes completely to miss the point of what Bacon says. (See particularly his remarks on S. S. 33, 336.) The method he explains in such a way as to show he has not a glimpse of its true nature. He brings against Bacon, of all men, the accusations of making induction start from the undetermined perceptions of the senses, of using imagination, and of putting a quite arbitrary interpretation on phenomena. He crowns his criticism by expounding what he considers to be the true scientific method, which, as has been pointed put by Fischer, is simply that Baconian doctrine against which his attack ought to have been directed. (See his account of the method, Über Bacon, 47-49; K. Fischer, Bacon, pp. 499-502.)