Sir Francis Bacon (Scott Klaiss)
Sir Francis Bacon was born January 22nd, 1561 in London, England, to Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and Lady Anne Cooke. Being born of a prominent family, he studied at Trinity College in Cambridge before studying Law at Gray's Inn. After receiving his law degree, Bacon was elected to Parliament in 1584, where he would serve as a representative for various constituencies for the next 37 years. Sir Francis Bacon initially struggled as a statesman under the rule of Queen Elizabeth, due to his opposition to granting Parliamentary funds to the Queen, but gained favor under the rule of James I after her death. After being knighted by King James I in 1603, Sir Francis Bacon would rise through a series of prominent advisory positions, such as Attorney General and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, until being appointed Lord Chancellor in 1618. During his time as Lord Chancellor, Sir Francis Bacon would be convicted of accepting bribery, resulting in him forfeiting all his offices and his position in Parliament. Retaining his personal property and titles, Sir Francis Bacon would spend the last remaining five years of his life dedicated to his scientific and philosophical works (Britannica).
Throughout his education and political life, Sir Francis Bacon sought to reform learning and further the discovery of scientific knowledge. He called into question, even during his time at Trinity College, the prominent methods of scientific inquiry during his time. He challenged not only the much revered classic philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, but also the humanists and other Renaissance scholars. During Bacon's time, many intellectuals still relied on Aristotle's deductive logic for scientific inquiry; this approach works from a general claim towards a specific conclusion, or in other words, that if a proposed premise is true than following true inferences can also be made. A simple example of this might be: Ben is a man, and all men are mortal; therefore, Ben is mortal. Bacon felt that this form of reasoning, especially when applied to natural phenomena, failed to acknowledge specific details of an occurrence, and was therefore faulty in its approach. Bacon argued against this method, in his Novum Organum, for a scientific method that relied on making a series of concrete observations, recording and categorizing them, and making generalizations based on these observations about a natural phenomenon. Bacon claimed this form of inductive reasoning was an essential tool for a correct interpretation of nature. This form of inductive reasoning challenged the more philosophical and metaphysical approaches made by intellectuals in Bacon's time (Klein).
To further address human fallacies in logic and reasoning, Bacon stated that the human mind was not inherently objective in its acquisition of knowledge, and had to be trained to avoid its innate fallacies. Bacon devised the metaphorical concept of "idols" to address this. In Baconian fashion, he classified these idols into four different classes: The Idols of the Tribe, Idols of the Cave, Idols of the Market, and Idols of the Theatre. Idols of the Tribe refer to natural weaknesses and tendencies common to the human condition. Idols of the Cave are more individual fallacies that arise from cultural influences, such as personal bias or allegiance to a particular belief. Idols of the Market are shortcomings derived from language itself, such as names for things that don't exist or misleading names for things that do. Idols of the Theatre address weaknesses in popular philosophies. In short, these idols represent an effort to acknowledge the physiological causes of human error that may impede scientific pursuit of fact and knowledge (Simpson).
Beyond Sir Francis Bacon's political career, we see a flawed yet practical visionary who was representative of his time. We observe a man who sought to question the world around him in a deeper and more concrete way and devise methods to uproot classical thought that had been upheld as superior for roughly two thousand years.
Image Taken From:
Blakemore, Erin. "Six Degrees of Francis Bacon is Your New Favorite Trivia Game." Smithonian.com, 16 Oct. 2015, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/move-over-kevin-six-degrees-francis-bacon-here-180956977/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2018.
Klein, Jürgen "Francis Bacon," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) www.plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/francis-bacon. Accessed 17 Sept. 2018.
Simpson, David. "Francis Bacon." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, www.iep.utm.edu/bacon/#SH2i. Accessed 17 Sept. 2018.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. " Francis Bacon." Encyclopedia Britannica, inc., April 02, 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Francis-Bacon-Viscount-Saint-Alban. Accessed 17 Sept. 2018.