By Francis Bacon (Author), John Pitcher (Editor, Introduction)
A scholar, wit, lawyer and statesman, Bacon wrote widely on politics, philosophy and science - declaring early in his career that 'I have taken all knowledge as my province'. In this, his most famous work, he considers a diverse range of subjects, such as death and marriage, ambition and atheism, in prose that is vibrant and rich in Renaissance learning. Bacon believed that rhetoric - the force of eloquence and persuasion - could lead the mind to the pure light of reason, and his own rhetorical genius is nowhere better expressed than in these vivid essays.
Although Francis Bacon, a man of many accomplishments both philosophical and political, is not considered to be as pertinent in modern philosophy as Descartes and some of the other important figures of that age, he is of great significance for the understanding of a central aspect of the modem world, namely the reliance upon science as means to power and the philosophy that lies behind such a point of view. Bacon, who was an English aristocrat educated at Cambridge, rose to become the lord chancellor before falling from grace and had an important role to play in the political life of his day. He was in favor of a powerful central state as well as state financial support for science and is considered by many to be the father of modern British science. He sought, in fact, to create "a new science" which would give man mastery over nature and power and domination over the environment. He also emphasized the usefulness of science and is, in a sense, a utilitarian from the philosophical point of view. He wrote a large number of well-known and influential books including collections of essays on various moral themes. Perhaps his most important book is the Novum Organum meaning the new logic. It was meant as a response to the Organum of Aristotle which was the foundation of classical Scholastic thought. Bacon also wrote the New Atlantis where he depicted his vision of the ideal society.
Bacon had a highly anti-metaphysical bent and supported mostly the materialistic philosophers of Greece. He tried to describe what came to be known as the "scientific method," emphasizing that data should be amassed and experiments made in order to have the secrets of nature revealed through organized observation. He is in fact credited by many with the establishment of the "scientific method" and the great Sir Isaac Newton expressed his debt to him. The most important heritage of Bacon is therefore not in pure philosophy but in the philosophy and methodology of science and his support for science as a state enterprise which would gradually become central in the life of European civilization.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)