To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Those who have presumed to make pronouncements about nature as if it were a closed subject, whether they were speaking from simple confidence or from motives of ambition and academical habits, have done very great damage to philosophy and the sciences. They have been successful in getting themselves believed and effective in terminating and extinguishing investigation. They have not done so much good by their own abilities as they have done harm by spoiling and wasting the abilities of others. Those who have gone the opposite way and claimed that nothing at all can be known, whether they have reached this opinion from dislike of the ancient sophists or through a habit of vacillation or from a kind of surfeit of learning, have certainly brought good arguments to support their position. Yet they have not drawn their view from true starting points, but have been carried away by a kind of enthusiasm and artificial passion, and have gone beyond all measure. The earlier Greeks however (whose writings have perished) took a more judicious stance between the ostentation of dogmatic pronouncements and the despair of lack of conviction (acatalepsia); and though they frequently complained and indignantly deplored the difficulty of investigation and the obscurity of things, like horses champing at the bit they kept on pursuing their design and engaging with nature; thinking it appropriate (it seems) not to argue the point (whether anything can be known), but to try it by experience.
My thinking about Francis Bacon's philosophical works has been enormously influenced, and altered in significant ways, by the work I have done over the past five years, leading up to the co-authored biography of Bacon, Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon (1998). That biography was in every sense a collaboration; both the research and the actual writing were conducted as a vigorous partnership between myself and Dr Alan Stewart of Birkbeck College. Accordingly, I acknowledge with deep gratitude here the important part Alan Stewart's research, wisdom and friendship have played in the production of this piece of work.
I would like to thank David Rees, Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, for his assistance; Julian Martin of the Department of History at the University of Alberta for his help and encouragement in the earlier stages; and Desmond Clarke for his detailed criticism and unfailing courtesy. I owe personal debts of gratitude to Leszek Wysocki at McGill University for the benefit of his expert Latinity, to Katherine Silverthorne for secretarial assistance, and to my wife, Ann, for constant support.
These are the thoughts of Francis Verulam, and this is the method which he designed for himself: he believed that present and future generations would be better off if he made it known to them.
He became aware that the human intellect is the source of its own problems, and makes no sensible and appropriate use of the very real aids which are within man's power; the consequence is a deeply layered ignorance of nature, and as a result of this ignorance, innumerable deprivations. He therefore judged that he must make every effort to find a way by which the relation between the mind and nature could be wholly restored or at least considerably improved. But there was simply no hope that errors which have grown powerful with age and which are likely to remain powerful for ever would (if the mind were left to itself) correct themselves of their own accord one by one, either from the native force of the understanding or with the help and assistance of logic. The reason is that the first notions of things which the mind accepts, keeps and accumulates (and which are the source of everything else), are faulty and confused and abstracted from things without care; and in its secondary and other notions there is no less passion and inconsistency. The consequence is that the general human reason which we bring to bear on the inquiry into nature is not well founded and properly constructed; it is like a magnificent palace without a foundation.
When the New Organon appeared in 1620, part of a six-part programme of scientific inquiry entitled 'The Great Renewal of Learning', Francis Bacon was at the high point of his political career, and his ambitious work was groundbreaking in its attempt to give formal philosophical shape to a new and rapidly emerging experimentally-based science. Bacon combines theoretical scientific epistemology with examples from applied science, examining phenomena as various as magnetism, gravity, and the ebb and flow of the tides, and anticipating later experimental work by Robert Boyle and others. His work challenges the entire edifice of the philosophy and learning of his time, and has left its mark on all subsequent philosophical discussions of scientific method. This volume presents a new translation of the text into modern English by Michael Silverthorne, and an introduction by Lisa Jardine that sets the work in the context of Bacon's scientific and philosophical activities.
To the Most Illustrious and Most Excellent CHARLES, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Earl of Chester, etc.
It may please your Highness,
In part of my acknowledgement to your Highness, I have endeavoured to do honour to the memory of the last King of England that was ancestor to the King your father and yourself; and was that King to whom both Unions may in a sort refer: that of the Roses being in him consummate, and that of the Kingdoms by him begun. Besides, his times deserve it. For he was a wise man, and an excellent King; and yet the times were rough, and full of mutations and rare accidents. And it is with times as it is with ways. Some are more up-hill and down-hill, and some are more flat and plain; and the one is better for the liver,* and the other for the writer. I have not flattered him, but took him to life as well as I could, sitting so far off, and having no better light. It is true, your Highness hath a living pattern, incomparable, of the King your father. But it is not amiss for you also to see one of these ancient pieces. God preserve your Highness.
This is a major student edition of the text described as 'the first modern classic of English history'. Bacon's penetration into human motives, his life-long experience of politics and government, and his remarkable literary skills, render this History of the Reign of King Henry VII a major work of English literature and an important document in the history of political thought. The introduction places Bacon's History in the context of Renaissance historiography, revealing its debt to Tacitus, and shows Bacon's originality in re-ordering traditional material to make a coherent psychological analysis of the King's actions. In addition to the usual series features and supporting contextual material (including relevant Essays by Bacon), generous editorial footnotes explain the historical and political issues of the reign of Henry VII, and a substantial glossary clarifies Bacon's rich but sometimes unfamiliar vocabulary.
For to carry the mind in writing back into the past, and bring it into sympathy with antiquity; diligently to examine, freely and faithfully to report, and by the light of words to place as it were before the eyes, the revolutions of times, the characters of persons, the fluctuations of counsels, the courses of actions, the bottoms of pretences, and the secrets of governments; is a task of great labour and judgement. …
Composition and sources
In 1621 a concerted anti-government movement within parliament, directed against the growing corruption within James I's administration, claimed its most distinguished victim. Abandoned by James and Buckingham (the real targets of the upheaval), Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor and head of the High Court of Chancery, was impeached on charges of having accepted gifts from suitors whose trials were still pending (a minor offence compared to the venality and corruption rife elsewhere in the Jacobean court). No evidence was ever produced that Bacon's judgements had been affected, indeed the charges against him were led by two suitors who were aggrieved that their gifts to the judge – a common practice in a society based on patron–client relations – had not produced verdicts in their favour. By contemporary standards it was careless of Bacon (or his servants) to have accepted these gifts, but if James and Buckingham had not made him their scapegoat he could doubtless have defended himself by pointing to the corruption around him.
Dissimulation is but a faint kind of policy* or wisdom; for it asketh a strong wit* and a strong heart to know when to tell truth, and to do it. Therefore it is the weaker sort of politiques* that are the great dissemblers.
Tacitus saith, ‘Livia sorted* well with the arts of her husband and dissimulation of her son’; attributing arts or policy to Augustus, and dissimulation to Tiberius. And again, when Mucianus encourageth Vespasian to take arms against Vitellius, he saith, ‘We rise not against the piercing judgement of Augustus, nor the extreme caution or closeness* of Tiberius.’ These properties*, of arts or policy and dissimulation or closeness, are indeed habits and faculties several*, and to be distinguished. For if a man have that penetration of judgement as he can discern what things are to be laid open, and what to be secreted, and what to be shewed at half lights, and to whom and when (which indeed are arts of state* and arts of life, as Tacitus well calleth them), to him a habit of dissimulation is a hinderance and a poorness. But if a man cannot obtain* to that judgement, then it is left to him generally to be close*, and a dissembler. For where a man cannot choose or vary in particulars, there it is good to take the safest and wariest way in general; like the going* softly, by one that cannot well see.
The greatest trust between man and man is the trust of giving counsel. For in other confidences men commit the parts of life; their lands, their goods, their child, their credit, some particular affair; but to such as they make their counsellors, they commit the whole: by how much the more they are obliged to all faith and integrity. The wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness, or derogation* to their sufficiency,* to rely upon counsel. God himself is not without, but hath made it one of the great names* of his blessed Son; The Counsellor. Salomon hath pronounced that ‘in counsel is stability’. Things will have their first or second agitation:* if they be not tossed upon the arguments of counsel, they will be tossed upon the waves of fortune; and be full of inconstancy, doing and undoing, like the reeling* of a drunken man. Salomon's son found the force of counsel, as his father saw the necessity of it. For the beloved kingdom of God was first rent and broken by ill counsel;* upon which counsel there are set for our instruction the two marks whereby bad counsel is for ever best discerned; that it was young counsel, for the persons; and violent counsel, for the matter.
After the decease of that wise and fortunate King, King Henry the Seventh, who died in the height of his prosperity, there followed (as useth to do when the sun setteth so exceeding clear) one of the fairest mornings of a kingdom that hath been known in this land or anywhere else. A young King about eighteen years of age, for stature, strength, making, and beauty, one of the goodliest persons of his time. And although he were given to pleasure, yet he was likewise desirous of glory; so that there was a passage open in his mind by glory for virtue. Neither was he unadorned with learning, though therein he came short of his brother Arthur. He had never any the least pique, difference, or jealousy, with the King his father, which might give any occasion of altering court or counsel upon the change; but all things passed in a still. He was the first heir of the White and of the Red Rose; so that there was no discontented party now left in the kingdom, but all men's hearts turned towards him; and not only their hearts, but their eyes also; for he was the only son of the kingdom. He had no brother; which though it be a comfort for Kings to have, yet it draweth the subjects' eyes a little aside. And yet being a married man in those young years, it promised hope of speedy issue to succeed in the Crown.