The Novum Organum , fully Novum Organum, sive indicia vera de Interpretatione Naturae "New organon, or true directions concerning the interpretation of nature" , is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon , written in Latin and published in The title is a reference to Aristotle 's work Organon , which was his treatise on logic and syllogism. In Novum Organum , Bacon details a new system of logic he believes to be superior to the old ways of syllogism. This is now known as the Baconian method. For Bacon, finding the essence of a thing was a simple process of reduction , and the use of inductive reasoning. In finding the cause of a 'phenomenal nature' such as heat, one must list all of the situations where heat is found.

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With the Instauratio Magna "Great Instauration" Bacon planned to present the world with a complete division and systematic classification of all sciences, which he used as a general term for human knowledge. The work was never completed, but the parts that were published had tremendous impact on European thought. The first part, De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum, was published in It was a Latinized and expanded version of his work Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Profane, which had appeared already in and was the first important work on phhilosophy written in English.

The second part, Novum Organum, was published in and thus preceeded the Latin version of the first part but was developed from its English version.

In Bacon's own words it contains "true directions concerning the interpretation of nature. Its first book investigates the causes for human error and distinguishes four categories, which he calls idols of the mind: The idols of the tribe are faults of the human intellect found universally with all mankind.

Idols of the cave are intellectual faults of individuals. Idols of the marketplace are the result of inaccuracies of language, and idols of the theatre are misconceptions of philosophy. Book II of the Novum Organum describes the author's "new method", which is essentially inductive: Finding the truth is not achieved through the collection of supporting observations but by elimination.

Thus, to verify the truth that "all A are B" it is not enough to find instances where "this A is B"; but one instance of "this A is not B" is sufficient to prove that "all A are B" is false.

It begins with three basic divisions of intellectual endevour: memory, imagination and reason. To these are assigned the sciences of history, poetry and philosophy.

Bacon ignores poetry after a cursory discussion. He divides history into natural history the history of things and civil history the history of ideas. Further subdivision leads to physics and metaphysics theoretical science and their practical or technological counterparts, mechanics and "natural magic. Bacon's inductive method found some application in Darwin's development of biological sciences. But in most if not all branches science is based today on the deductive principle which derives conclusions from a hypothesis and proceeds to prove or disprove them.

Bacon's ideas may thus not have stood the test of time, but he was instrumental to the development of European thought. He was the first European to devise a systematic classification of human knowledge that was not based on religion and paved the way for rational thought. At the time of its publication Bacon was Lord Chancellor of England, a fact stressed in the Latin title.


Instauratio Magna

Publisher Information: London: apud Joannem Billium, Bacon, Francis Instauratio magna. Beautiful engraved title-page by Simon de Passe ; early inscriptions partially erased from top margin and center of engraving. London: John Bill,


Instauratio Magna/Preface (Wood)

It appears to me that men know not either their acquirements or their powers, and trust too much to the former, and too little to the latter. Hence it arises that, either estimating the arts they have become acquainted with at an absurd value, they require nothing more, or forming too low an opinion of themselves, they waste their powers on trivial objects, without attempting any thing to the purpose. The sciences have thus their own pillars, fixed as it were by fate, since men are not roused to penetrate beyond them either by zeal or hope: and inasmuch as an imaginary plenty mainly contributes to a dearth, and from a reliance upon present assistance, that which will really hereafter aid us is neglected, it becomes useful, nay, clearly necessary, in the very outset of our work, to remove, without any circumlocution or concealment, all excessive conceit and admiration of our actual state of knowledge, by this wholesome warning not to exaggerate or boast of its extent or utility. And with regard to their utility I must speak plainly. That philosophy of ours which we have chiefly derived from the Greeks, appears to me but the childhood of knowledge, and to possess the peculiarity of that age, being prone to idle loquacity, but weak and unripe for generation; for it is fruitful of controversy and barren of effects. So that the fable of Scylla seems to be a lively image of the present state of letters; for she exhibited the countenance and expression of a virgin, but barking monsters surrounded and fastened themselves to her womb.

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