The Philosophy of Francis Bacon


F.H. Anderson

The First Systematic Treatment of All Bacon's Philosophic Works

The University of Chicago Press



I.Politics and Learning


Suing For Science :

II. Attack Upon The Universities


III. Bacon's Philosophical Writings : Their Classification


IV. Bacon's Revival of Materialism : His Interpretation of Fables


V. Bacon's Materialism : Atoms And Motion


VI. The Earlier Formulary of Interpretation


VII. The Vanities And Errors of Learning


VIII. Idols or False Phantoms


IX. First Review of Extant Philosophies


X. Bacon on the Pre-Platonists


XI. Bacon and Plato


XII. Of the Post-Aristotelians


XIII. Classification of the Sciences Respecting God and Nature


XIV. Classification of the Sciences Respecting Man


XV. The New Method of Science : Introduction


XVI. Bacon Contra Aristotle I


XVII. Bacon Contra Aristotle II


XVIII. The New Logic :The First Vintage of Discovery


XIX. The New Logic : Aids to the Senses


XX. The New Logic : Aids to the Intellect


XXI. The New Logic : Aids tot he Furthering of Operation


XXII. Natural History : Rules and Topics


XXIII. Natural History : The Data


XXIV. Ladder of the Intellect : Forerunners of the New Philosophy : The New Metaphysics


XXV. Bacon's Influence



From the Book Jacket

Francis Bacon has long been hailed as the founder of modern science. Paradoxically the prestige surrounding this colorful Renaissance figure has helped to bury his philosophical works. Even in the literature of the latter half of the seventeenth century —when his name already had become commonplace—scant attention was given to his writings as a whole. Succeding generations paid greater homage to Bacon's name but continued to neglect his system of thought.
Here, for the first time, is a systematic and compact treatment of the entire body of Baconian philosophy.
Mr. Anderson holds that historians and critics alike have overlooked many of the doctrines central to Bacon's thought. Bacon, he argues, has been left to the mercy of "literary" persons who have only an inkling of his philosophy ; to scholars who ignore the history of philosophy ; to biographers of court life in the reigns of Elizabeth and James ; and to historians of philosophy, who, Mr. Anderson charges, have done the most harm.

The author in this volume deals specifically with Bacon's more than thirty philosophical works. In doing so, Mr. Anderson takes care not to distort or to embroider with the ideas and idioms of others what Bacon himself has left for the record. He places these writings against the background of Bacon's stormy political career.
In 1592 Bacon wrote to his friend and patron Lord Burghley : "I have taken all knowledge to be my province." On almost every level his thinking made a break with the past. He appealed to the King to sponsor a new scheme of science. He wanted to revolutionize the universities, which he attacked as mere museums. His bluebrints for reform included botanical and zoological gardens, a museum, a laboratory, a complete library—all to serve as monuments to King James. Yet when Bacon submitted his Novum Organum to this learned monarch, the King commented that Bacon's thinking was " the peace of God, which passeth all understanding."

It was Bacon, says Mr. Anderson, who first blessed the nuptials between physics and metaphysics. Did he thereby become the founder of modern philosophical naturalism? Was he the inventor of experimental induction? How much does modern man owe to Franicis Bacon? Mr. Anderson finds the answers to these questions in his analysis of Bacon's thought.
Mr. Anderson was Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Department at the University of Toronto.



The matter contained within the pages which follow was collected and organized initially to satisfy the author's curiosity about the sort of philosopher Francis Bacon was. It is now published to fill partially what is obviously a gap in Baconian exegesis. New ground has been broken, and this, the author believes, will repay further cultivation by those who desire an understanding of seventeenth-century thought.
The study aims primarily at an ordered statement of that philosophy which is contained within thirty-odd of Bacon's extant works. Unlike many other expositions of Bacon, it does not presume to say what he should have written or done. Nor does it undertake an assessment of the value of his specific conclusions. Nor yet does it criticize Bacon's account of other writer's, such as Plato, Aristotle, Paracelsus, Telesius. It may, for instance, occur to the reader that an interpretation of Aristotle's three theoretical sciences according to successive grades of abstraction is not Aristotle's own, but rather one derived from medieval commentaries. Yet this traditional alignment is the one which Bacon has in mind when he criticizes Aristotle. To argue the problems involved in this and other comparable interpretations by Bacon would result in throwing several chapters of the present work out of perspective. In any event, Bacon's understanding of other historical thinkers deserves a place in the history of learning along with his own recorded "reform" of knowledge.
Most of Bacon's philosophy is written in seventeenth-century Latin which cannot always be read with easy assurance. One cannot readily determine whether a "classical" or a "medieval" contstruction is intended; and one cannot always conclude whether or not the word employed is really English in Latin form. In making translations and paraphrases, the author has not hesitated to draw freely on such renderings as are available,especially when these have parallels in Bacon's English writings. The translations which follow are, generally speaking free, though not so free as those, for example, in the Spedding, Ellis, and Heath edition of the Works. Statements crucial to argument are rendered as literally as possible. Of terms whose meanings have changed considerably in the history of the Latin language, those senses in which they are used by Pliny and others, upon whose writings Bacon on occasion heavily relies, have usually been preferred.
The author is indebted to many of Bacon's biographers and commentators, especially to the painstaking Speddinig and, in a lesser degree, to Ellis. On this occasion he would make public his gratitude to Professor R.F. Jones, at whose side he worked for several summers in the British Museum and through whose bibliographical knowledge, generously given, he became acquainted with many writings which have brought perspective to his reading of seventeenth-century authors. He thanks two of his colleagues, Professor J.R. O'Donnell and Dr. R. F. McRae, for aid. Professor O'Donnell's wide and varied Latin scholarship has helped on several occasions in the construing of obscure terms and phrases. Dr. McRae has liberally given time and energy to the reading of proof.

*** - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning