Frank Kogan (koganbot) wrote,
Frank Kogan

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20th century insanity def'n has 17th century precedent

There is something insane and self-contradictory in supposing that things that have never yet been done can be done except by means never tried.
--Francis Bacon, The New Organon (1620), Book I, Aphorism VI

Bacon is arguing that science needs to start over with new methods. So far I am only 34 pages into The New Organon, and his suggestions as to how to do so mainly come in scraps: the words "observation" and "induction" and "inference," his contention that syllogism does more harm than good (if he knew modern Computer Speak he'd characterize the syllogism as "garbage in, garbage out"), his saying that "nature reveals herself more through the harassment of art than in her own proper freedom," and his belief that knowledge and power come to the same thing, knowledge essentially being an understanding of causes. So, contra revered ancients such as Plato and Aristotle, who thought knowledge is of the way things are, for Bacon knowledge is of the way things come to be: "nature" doesn't mean something static, though he thinks it has basic, consistent "rules" of how things change. Learning these rules is learning to make nature "obedient," and vice versa. By "harassment of art" he probably means something like "controlled experiment."

All of this foreshadows Dewey, which doesn't surprise me given that I was inspired to read Bacon by reading Dewey's praise of him.

(EDIT: Corrected the date and century on Bacon. Don't know if anyone knew or noticed that I was originally off by a hundred years.)
Tags: francis bacon, philosophy, relativism
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