Unit IV Lecture III – March 6, 2012
Francis Bacon: The Great Instauration – 2 Main Themes
1) Limits on human reason [not direct realism, but the 4 idols]
2) Proper procedure in science [not Aristotelian demonstration or syllogistics, but
[The Problem] What method do we use to understand the natural world? What method
should we use?
First, Bacon thinks we need to ask a prior question: What is the goal of science?
o For Scholastics, Renaissance Humanists, aim was arguments and to defeat your
opponent in a debate
o Bacon believes aim of science to be arts or technical skills and technology to
improve human kind—to “command nature in action”
o He thinks we must set out to seek the principles of nature
o Must not search for probable reasons in accordance with the principle of
Aristotelian science, but the technical application of them
o Goal is “Great Instauration” of a working science that will provide us with the
ability to command the natural world and use it for our benefit
Recall Aristotelian Cosmology
Cosmos is a unity – it is finite and continuous
All beings in the cosmos form a hierarchical “chain of being” – God at the top, inanimate
matter at the bottom
Heavenly bodies move in perfect circles around a static Earth
Cosmos is eternal and uncreated
Recall Aristotelian Epistemology – The 4 Causes
When we want to explain what a thing is, we are explaining why some matter has some
1) Material Cause: the matter out of which something is made.
o Ex: Material cause of a house is bricks and timber.
2) Formal Cause: the form, shape, or function that matter has.
o Ex: Formal cause of a house is a certain shape, namely bricks built into walls with a
roof on top.
3) Efficient Cause: the agent that made the matter have that form.
o Ex: Efficient cause of a house is the carpenter.
4) Final Cause: the purpose or end or goal of the thing.
o Ex: Final cause of the house is to shelter/protect us from the elements.
Recall Aristotelian Metaphysics – Hylomorphism
2 main kinds of things in the world form and matter These cannot exist independently
Together, they form substances
EVERYTHING is composed of form and matter
Matter is continuous and uniform
o Properties of matter are determined by form and qualities
Some qualities are powers to do things – agents
Powers for some goal
Some qualities are hidden/occult
Recall Aristotelian Physics
All change is change from a state of privation to form
All change is from potentiality to actuality
All change involves an agent which acts and a patient which is acted upon
o The agent in a living thing is it’s soul
o These agents are not changed when they act – account for stability and regularity
of all natural change
Recall Aristotelian Methodology
How do we investigate the natural world?
[Following Plato] On the assumption that this IS the best possible world, what sorts of
features would we expect it to have?
o We begin with certain principle or hypotheses and attempt to derive ot