the second option.
As often happens, the distance marked by Bacon with respect to skeptics is
directly connected with the auxilia, which he wished to apply to our cognitive faculties.
We can safely admit that this corresponds to a general allusion to his own inductive
method, through which he aimed at contributing towards the establishment of what he
describes as a “genuine marriage between soul and things”;
a method able to provide a
philosophy — and therefore to reach the knowledge of true Forms, and by the same
token, to take human knowledge and power to an entirely new dimension. But it is not
until the second book of Novum organum (which corresponds to the so-called pars
designed to illustrate practical procedures by which induction could be guided amongst
particular things, especially as regards its position on the “tables of invention”).
However much these illustrations can be taken as a completed exposition of the formula
of induction — at least in its general features, as Malherbe suggests — the plain
exposition of its method could only be fulfilled in the accomplishment of philosophy,
that is to say, in the very Interpretation of Nature that would take place after the
exhibition of the Organum — since the method, by virtue of its own demands, would be
able to adapt to the things themselves, in line with the very progress of the research.
according to what we read in the Distributio operis, it is only in the third part (entitled
all, through the construction of a Natural History based upon new concepts and carried
This would be confirmed by his use of the usual metaphor of the “path” (via) to describe this parallel.
In the fourth part, entitled Scala intellectus, Bacon
to therefore give us something more than just a glimmer of hope on the progress of
knowledge, as was temporarily justified by the end of the first part of the Novum
organum. Nevertheless, he also reminds us that it is a question of giving examples of
research for the purpose of clarification.
In this fourth part, he says, the things
“so to speak” perhaps
or Active Science, the only one that can assure us the knowledge of Forms in the strict
sense of the term. However, being outlined as the sixth stage of the itinerary,
severe, is something that goes far beyond his personal expectations, since its fulfillment
is inconceivable in view of the actual state of affairs and spirits.
Bacon himself, despite his optimism, encounters on the way to the actual knowledge of
things. As he puts it in the preface of Instauratio magna, his own method is essentially
one of truly genuine humiliation of the human spirit, as opposed to over-hasty
evaluation of the real forces of the mind:
For all those who before me applied themselves to the invention of arts but cast a glance
Cf. BACON (1986), p. 47
Distributio operis, Sp. I, p. 140
Cf. ibid., Sp. I, p. 143-144
N.O. I, §92, Sp. I, p. 199
This part would still be preceded by the Prodroms, or Anticipations of Second Philosophy, corresponding to the
not with the help of the method, but by the ordinary use of understanding. (Cf. Sp I, 143-144)
give them oracles.
that exists between the pars informans of the Novum organum (where, as we said, the
positive dimension of this movement towards the knowledge of Forms becomes clear)
and the slow progression that lays the ground for it in the first book, to which belong a
exposing the state of the art in all knowledge in a critical way and contributing to the
destruction of impediments that prevent the inquiry into nature from advancing — the
so-called “idols”. Although these impediments are frequently mentioned in Bacon’s
works, it is in the Novum organum that their exposition is most fully developed and
systematized. In his view, pointing them out is crucial if we are have any hope of
avoiding the everlasting repetition of mistakes, and proceed, by means of a purification
of human understanding, to a radical reconstruction of all knowledge ab imis
But if the first movement of Bacon’s own method requires a critical
adherents to acatalepsia can be well expressed by the motto “we know nothing”
(however hard Bacon tries to attenuate it by saying that we “know almost nothing” and
that this situation is temporary and relative), would it not be reasonable to admit that the
“initial” affinity between his philosophy and that of the skeptics includes a reference to
his own method (even if it limits itself to its destructive part)? Given that the above-
mentioned aphorism marks the distance, could it not equally well be read as a
confirmation of a philosophical affinity — noticeable not only in the broadest sense of
Sp. I, 130; IV, 19
Sp I, p. 139; N.O. I, §31, Sp I, 162.