Chapter 1

The Reign of Man

by Francis Bacon Icon

1 The aim of human power is to generate a new nature on a body.

The aim of human knowledge is to discover the true form of a given nature. This has 2 secondary aims:

  1. The transformation of concrete bodies from one to another, which is possible within certain limits
  2. The discovery of:
  • the latent and uninterrupted process from start to end.
  • the latent conformation of bodies at rest

2 Shallow reasoning shows the unhappy state of man’s actual knowledge.

True knowledge is the knowledge deduced from causes. The 4 causes are:

  1. material cause
  2. form: The discovery of form is considered desperate.
  3. efficient cause: Together with matter, this is desultory and superficial. It is scarcely avails of real and active knowledge.
  4. final cause: This is so far from being beneficial, that it even corrupts the sciences, except in the intercourse of man with man.

As for the efficient cause and matter (according to the present system of inquiry and the received opinions concerning them, by which

Currently, efficient cause and matter are placed remote from from, without any latent process toward form,

The human mind has an error in assigning the first qualities of essence to forms.

The only existing things in nature are the individual bodies exhibiting clear individual effects according to particular laws.

  • Yet in each branch of learning, that very law, its investigation, discovery, and development, are the foundation both of theory and practice.
  • This law, therefore, and its parallel in each science, is what we understand by the term form,[75].

3 Imperfect knowledge is that from learning the cause of a particular nature (such as whiteness or heat), in particular subjects only.

Imperfect power is that which can induce a certain effect upon particular substances only, among those which are susceptible of it.

But he who has only learned the

Efficient and material causes are variable and mere vehicles[111] conveying form to particular substances.

  • Those who have learned these 2 might discover things in matters of a similar nature, but does not stir the limits of things which are much more deeply rooted.

Those who know forms comprehends the unity of nature in substances apparently most distinct from each other.

  • He can disclose and bring forward, therefore (though it has never yet been done), things which neither the vicissitudes of nature, nor the industry of experiment, nor chance itself, would ever have brought about.
  • Genuine theory and free practice arises from the discovery of forms.

4 The ways of human power and human knowledge are intimately connected.

It is by far safest to commence and build up the sciences from those of practical foundations, and to let them mark out and limit the theoretical.

  • This is because of the pernicious and inveterate habit of dwelling upon abstractions.

What precepts, or what direction should a person take in order to generate any nature on a given body ?

We must consider what species of precept or guide we should follow if we wanted to:

  • superinduce the yellow color of gold on silver, or
  • an additional weight or transparency on an opaque stone, or
  • tenacity in glass, or
  • vegetation on a substance which is not vegetable
  1. He will be anxious to be shown some method that will neither fail in effect, nor deceive him in the trial of it
  2. He will be anxious that the prescribed method should not restrict him and tie him down to peculiar means, and certain particular methods of acting; for he will, perhaps, be at loss, and without the power or opportunity of collecting and procuring such means.

If there were other means and methods of creating such a nature, they will be of such a kind as are in his power.

  • Yet by the confined limits of the precept, he will be deprived of reaping any advantage from them
  1. He will be anxious to be shown something not so difficult as the required effect itself, but approaching more nearly to practice.

Our genuine and perfect rule of practice is that it should be certain, free and preparatory, or having relation to practice.

  • This is the same thing as the discovery of a true form
  • For the form of any nature is such, that when it is assigned the particular nature infallibly follows.

Form, therefore:

  • is always present when that nature is present
  • universally attests such presence, and
  • is inherent in the whole of it.

is of such a character, that

If the same form is removed, the particular nature infallibly vanishes. Therefore, it:

  • is absent whenever that nature is absent, and
  • perpetually testifies such absence, and
  • exists in no other nature.

Lastly, the true form deduces the particular nature from some source of essence existing in many subjects, and more known to nature, than the form itself.

Our genuine and perfect theoretical axiom is that a nature is convertible with a given nature, yet limits the more known nature, in the manner of a real genus.

But these practical rules and theoretical rules are the[113] same.

  • That which is most useful in practice is most correct in theory.


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