Francis Bacon's Philosophy Regards the Reorganization Term Paper

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¶ … Francis Bacon's philosophy regards the reorganization of the study of science and its potential to amplify a nation's relationship with, and understanding of, God. Solomon's House within "The New Atlantis" exemplifies this relationship, specifically with respect to the division of labor and resources; the ultimate result being a utopic society possessing a closer resemblance to heaven than any other nation on earth. It is his emphasis upon cooperative research, delineated in his "Novum Organum," that makes the nation described in "The New Atlantis" unique and righteous. Essentially, Bacon's belief that a proper approach to science can enhance society in virtually every way imaginable is explicitly noted in "Novum Organum" and illustrated by example in "The New Atlantis."

Largely, the catalyst for Bacon's embrace of Solomon's House as a model for scientific research is his appraisal of contemporary scientific and logical methods of the late sixteenth century in which he lived. He writes:

For they [other thinkers of his time] have tended to stifle and interrupt inquiry exactly in proportion as they have prevailed in bringing others to their opinion; and their own activity has not counterbalanced the mischief they have occasioned by corrupting and destroying that of others." (Bacon 105).

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He believes that the schools of his time had laid claim to all useful knowledge, but only succeeded in generating controversies and discrepancies (Sargent 146). Clearly, by his understanding, appropriate application of logical thought processes should come to the rescue -- thus, solving these disputes. However, "The art of logic, therefore, being (as we have mentioned), too late a precaution, and in no way remedying the matter, has tended more to confirm errors, than to disclose truth." (Bacon105). The problem, as Bacon sees it, is that a rigorous and methodical approach to the sciences has not yet been instituted, and as a result, scientific researchers consist of a handful of meandering dabblers.

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Although the late sixteenth century had been witness to much scientific advancement, Bacon attributed this primarily to accidental discovery rather than any systematic scientific method. He writes, "Even the effects already discovered are due to chance and experiment, rather than to the sciences; for our present sciences are nothing more than peculiar arrangements of matters already discovered, and not methods for discovery or plans for new operations." (Bacon 107). This is the major error he sees within his society: scientific achievements are heralded and used extensively but not logically understood or looked into in any efficient ways.

It is important to note that Bacon does not seek to alter the existing system or to make amendments to his contemporaries' scientific or logical processes; he desires to completely throw them out and start again from scratch. "As the present sciences are useless for the discovery of effects, so the present system of logic is useless for the discovery of sciences." (Bacon 107). This statement illustrates the almost iconoclastic view Bacon takes to the established school of thought, and lends an insight into why he chose to place his utopia on an undiscovered island. Explicitly, it is likely that Bacon envisioned Solomon's House existing far away from Europe so it would also be far away from the corrupted nature of European science. In this way, the British Royal Society in Bacon's time is the lost stepchild of Solomon's House: they have in many ways lost the word of the Lord, and the knowledge of the proper approach to science. To Bacon, these two concepts are virtually inseparable.

Not surprisingly, the society in which Bacon exemplifies scientific enlightenment, religious enlightenment is also seen. The difficulty in bringing these views together is that the human mind wishes to generalize and create analogies to help it understand nature and the works of God. In "Novum Organum" he states, "There is no small difference between the idols of the human mind and the ideas of the Divine mind; this is to say, between certain idle dogmas and the real stamp and impression of created objects, as they are found in nature." (Bacon 108). So the task, clearly, for any society is to formulate a system by which the greatest amount of human perceptions and misinformation can be weeded out; leaving behind only the truth of the causes of nature. Accordingly, a greater understanding of God as well as a superior approach to science is appropriate and necessary in bacon's utopia.

The purpose of science, as Bacon sees it, is to as closely follow the workings of God as possible. So, ultimate understanding of science should reveal ultimate understanding of everything earthly and divine. In "The New Atlantis," the goal of Solomon's House is described, "The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and the secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of the human empire, to the effecting of all things possible." (Bacon 210). This enlargement of the human empire, presumably, carries mankind somewhat closer to heaven and the divine.

Bacon takes these two apparently conflicting concepts from "Novum Organum" and "The New Atlantis" and reconciles them with his interpretation of specialization. Namely, since men are so far removed from the motives and devices of God, an individual man can only hope to grasp some small fragment of understanding from the natural world. Consequently, the aim of Solomon's House -- to reveal the secrets of God -- can only be achieved by an efficiently working society as a whole, and not by any solitary individual. In British Royal Society this concept has been corrupted by misapplication of information and intellect:

He who has learnt the cause of a particular nature (such as whiteness or heat), in particular subjects only, has acquired but an imperfect knowledge: as he who can induce a certain effect upon particular substances only, among those which are susceptible to it, has acquired but an imperfect power." (Bacon 137).

The pitfall that many scientists and thinkers of Bacon's time find themselves in is that once they grasp the understanding of one cause, they apply their discovered concept too broadly.

Another trouble that Bacon sees with science is that once some men grasp a level of understanding, they perceive themselves to be experts on far more subjects than they truly are. This tendency drives science backward as many others are likely to follow their arguments based upon their expertise in other fields. Bacon discusses this in "Novum Organum":

Some men become attached to particular sciences and contemplations, either from supposing themselves the authors and inventors of them, or from having bestowed the greatest pains upon such subjects, an thus become most habituated to them. If men of this description apply themselves to philosophy and contemplations of a universal nature, they wrest and corrupt them by their preconceived fancies..." (Bacon 111).

The answer to this problem, in Bacon's eyes, is specialization. Specifically, individuals are to be relegated to the crafts and studies that best befit them and their skills. He illustrates his example for how this could be efficiently carried out within the pages of his "New Atlantis." The father of Solomon's House lists the wide variety of occupations and responsibilities of the society's members:

We have three that collect the experiments which are in all books.... We have three that collect the experiments of all mechanical arts, and also of liberal sciences, and also of practices which are not brought into arts.... We have three that try new experiments, such as themselves think good.... We have three that draw the experiments of the former four into titles and tables, to give the better light for the drawing of observations and axioms out of them." (Bacon 214).

So, this unified collective of thinking individuals has come together to better perfect the modes by which knowledge are derived. Each person is designated a job somewhere along the line of the scientific process; almost like individual workers positioned on an assembly line in a factory. This organization skirts the problems that Bacon mentions in "Novum Organum." Principles are not universally applied where they do not belong, and people are limited to the areas of study they are most proficient at.

Although Bacon seeks to overthrow the secretive practices of many of his contemporaries who claim to study nature, there remains a secretive element to Solomon's House. In fact they "take all an oath of secrecy, for the concealing of those which we think fit to keep the secret; though some of those we do reveal sometimes to the state, and some not." (Bacon 214). Yet, unlike the secrets that Bacon abhorred in science, these were kept in the mind of social consciousness. The House's control over information gave it power and the secrets they kept were intended to limit this power lest it be used unwisely.

Doubtlessly, science had already revealed itself to be powerful by Bacon's time and made many aspects of life previously impossible quite commonplace. Yet, there existed no regulations upon the power that science could wield, and generally only rested on the shoulders of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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