Francis Bacon: contributions to philosophy and modern science

Francis Bacon was an English scholar of the modern age, whose ideas laid the foundation for the creation of an experimental science. He knows more about his life.

Last update: February 15, 2022

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an eminent modern English thinker, considered as the founder of philosophical empiricism and experimental science. He served as a philosopher, politician, lawyer and writer.

His works marked a before and after in the history of Western thought and in modern science. Below we present a brief description of his life and his most significant contributions.

Brief biography of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561 in London (England). He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, a senior magistrate in the government of Queen Elizabeth I; and Anne Cooke Bacon, one of the most enlightened and cultured women of the time.

During the first years of his life, his mother educated him under Puritan and Calvinist principles. Later, in his youth, he was instructed in the Trinity College of Cambridge and at the prestigious Bar Association Gray’s Inn From london. This allowed him to be a member of the British Parliament in 1584.

Political career and achievements

It is said that Queen Elizabeth I was not very fond of him. For this reason, it is believed that his political career began to prosper when King James I took power in 1603, who did esteem Bacon and considered him one of his favorite scholars.

During the reign of Jacob I, Bacon received increasing positions and honors as royal barrister (1607), solicitor general (1613), attorney general (1615), member of the privy council (1616), minister of justice (1617), Lord Keeper of the Seal, and finally Lord Chancellor (1618). In addition, he was granted the title of Baron of Verulam and Viscount of San Albano.

Francis Bacon was involved in political intrigues that accused him of bringing the king into disrepute. Therefore, in 1621 he was accused of corruption and mistreatment of his subordinates. However, he managed to get out of these pitfalls and was able to devote himself exclusively to his philosophical and scientific work.

Francis Bacon was a prominent figure in London politics.

Most significant contributions of Francis Bacon

Although Francis Bacon’s political career ended in disgrace, he remained influential through his worksprimarily as a philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution.

Now, the contributions of Francis Bacon can be synthesized in four areas: the literary, the political, the philosophical and the scientific. Below we will summarize the most relevant.

Introduction of the essay as a literary genre

Francis Bacon is often considered the father of essays in english. Although the essay first appeared in 1580, with a work by the French writer Michel de Montaigne, it was Bacon who popularized this literary genre in 1597, when making their famous Essays on morality and politics.

These writings achieved great popularity thanks to their simple style, without linguistic embellishments, which addressed issues of a public or private nature, analyzed from various perspectives.

Approach to a practical philosophy

Francis Bacon strongly criticized ancient philosophy, especially the Greek. He, well, he considered that this thought had no application in everyday life, that is, it was not useful. Despite the fact that most professors and thinkers of the time studied Aristotle’s ideas as if they were absolute truths.

Therefore, he was in charge of replacing the ideas of classical philosophy (based on logical and philosophical arguments without practical value for human life), with a new body of study and scientific knowledge (based on experiments and observations).

Reformulation of the scientific method

Francis Bacon reorganized the scientific method that dominated in his time, which was strongly influenced by Aristotle’s philosophical ideas about the study of nature. According to Bacon, the Aristotelian theory was only good for verbal dispute.

In this way, the modern philosopher defended that human thought should appropriate effective instruments to dominate nature; something neglected by Aristotle. This instrument is the experiments, which interpret and shape the data.

Therefore, proposed the inductive experimental method as the source of all scientific knowledge. This method consists of observing and analyzing the facts or particular phenomena of nature and, from there, formulating universal laws that explain the observed patterns.

In other words, this method is based on observing and studying particular cases and then drawing general conclusions.

Likewise, Bacon defended that all scientists should eliminate the preconceived notion of the world. Therefore, they had to be skeptical, which implies not accepting explanations that cannot be proven by observation and sensible experience.

As we can notice, the method proposed by Bacon represented a fundamental advance for modern sciencesince it promoted the formulation of more adequate scientific hypotheses and an experimental approximation of reality.

Current experimentation owes much of its method to this thinker.

Foundation of philosophical empiricism

On the other hand, he is considered the father of modern empiricismsince he held that the source of all knowledge is the senses and that the object of the investigation is nature (matter), which has different qualities and forms because it is in constant movement.

For Bacon, the senses are infallible. Therefore, all knowledge must start from the rational analysis of the data provided by experience.

father of modern science

Francis Bacon was one of the most revolutionary figures of the modern age. His vision of knowledge and nature laid the foundations for the establishment of a science based on experimentation, which is essential today.

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