Sunday, 05 February 2012 08:01

Francis Bacon - Men of Ideas

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English aristocrat who dabbled in many things but is remembered for his insistence on inductive, as opposed to deductive, reasoning.  His one claim to fame is his reminding folk to embrace the Aristotelian approach to phenomena rather than the Platonic approach. He is therefore considered the father of science in the British world.  It is not for been a great scientist that he is remembered but for his philosophy of robust empiricism.

Bacon insisted that if you want to talk to him that you talk to him about facts and facts only. He was not interested in your grandiose opinion of what the world is or is not, but in the facts of the world that you could give him. This is the scientific approach to phenomena.

Science is not interested in folk’s opinions of the nature of things but in the facts of the nature of things.

The Bible wrote interesting stories about people and the world. If you followed the story of genesis, for example, you would say that the world is less than seven thousand years old. But is that fact or fiction? Geology has demonstrated through studying rocks, that the earth has been around for, at least, four and half billion years.

It is not what you say is the truth; it is not your supposed authority and credibility that tells us what is the truth; the truth is that which all of us can see, observe and verify (and, hopefully, in controlled experiments replicate).  This is the inductive method to phenomena. Observe the world as it is, extrapolate facts, and from facts build general hypothesis of how things are and then test your hypothesis and if it pans out it is tentative truth (principle of science), but if it does not pan out it is not science.

In deduction, on the other hand, people make all sorts of inferences about the world that seem reasonable but are not true. For example, if you looked at primitive tribes men you could conclude that they are not like you. But are they unintelligent? How do you know that they are unintelligent? What is intelligence? Have you tested your idea of intelligence? Have you verified your idea of what constituted intelligence?  If you could do all those and then use your finding to test primitive tribesmen, you would find out that they would do as well as so-called civilized men.

The world of facts is different from the world of beliefs and mere conjectures.

Francis Bacon insisted on looking for facts and facts only. This insistence on facts rather than interesting opinions shaped John Bull’s approach to life. In case you have not noticed, the Englishman is not interested in your opinions but in facts. He is not interested in idealism but in realism.

Over in Germany philosophers like Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer wrote interesting opinions on everything that their eyes lighted on; they wrote idealistic philosophy, how the world ought to be.

In England folk asked: can you prove what Kant or Hegel or Schopenhauer said? If not please do not bother me with those so-called abstract thinking. We are interested in realistic thinking. We are interested in the world of the here and now, the empirical world, not the conjectured world of spirit and God.

The God hypothesis may be interesting, for we all wish that God existed, that there be a place where we lived forever and forever, but in as much as we cannot prove that God, in fact, exists, let us not waste our time speculating about him; let us concentrate on the world of the here and now; let us try to understand nature, physics.

The Englishman, like a bull dog, sets his eyes on the here and now world and studies it, hence his science. Through his insistence on dealing with the world of the here and now the Englishman discovered the means to conquer the greater part of the world.

Francis Bacon is the Englishman that urged his country men to dispense with speculation and embrace what we now call the scientific methodology (insistence on verifiable facts). This may not seem like much but consider what it has done for the English world.

In many parts of the world folk still believe in ghosts and fill their little minds with fairy tales. The Arab world refuses to embrace the scientific methodological approach to phenomena and, instead, talk about what their seal of the prophets said is the nature of things. They remain backward. Perceiving the progress and wealth of the West they feel overshadowed and envious. They strap bombs made by Western science on them and blow themselves up and kill a few persons. They forget that Western realism could force the West to obliterate them with nuclear weapons. If they keep pushing the envelop they could get what is coming to them, nuclear evisceration. On the other hand, if they did what the Englishman did, dispense with the gibberish of religion and accepted the scientific methodological approach to phenomena they, too, would become developed and wealthy.

Francis Bacon was the founder of English logical positivism, induction and scientific approach. He did not discover any scientific theory by himself but those who followed his approach did discover those theories.  He is a great man.

All sorts of tales swirl around Francis Bacon. He was supposed to be the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth the first; he was supposed to have written the plays of Shakespeare. Indeed, when he died in 1626 some believed that he did not actually die that it was a ruse for him to disappear from the scene and dedicate himself to studies. Many Western mystics claim that he is the supposed ascended master, Saint Germaine.

Whatever suits folks fancy is their business. For me what is relevant about Francis Bacon is his insistence on the scientific method, on empiricism, on induction over deduction. This alone makes him a worthy philosopher.


Francis Bacon. Novum Organum. (There are many Editions.)

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

April, 2008

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176