The New Organon Background

The New Organon Background

The New Organon (often referred to by its Latin title Novum Organum) was published by Francis Bacon in 1620 and if often referred to as his single most influential literary work. In form, it is a philosophical treatise in two parts: the first comprising tightly constructed aphorisms and the second still aphoristic in manner, but far more loosely composed. The form was essentially to proposing the content; Bacon was convinced of the feasibility of the aphorism as the production of observation and experimentation that, if properly arranged in sequence could be applied with equal fruitfulness to scientific observation and experimentation.

The point of the New Organon was therefore nothing less grand than an ambition to deconstruct existing processes of scientific enquiry which would then be replaced with something more efficient and effective. The methodology of this deconstruction was inventive and creative at the least: to undermine the confidence that had been placed in existing modes of reasoning.

The foundation upon which Bacon planned to undermine confidence was to point out that the preferred process of scientific inquiry through syllogistic deduction was fundamentally flawed by uncertainty. Bacon proposed instead a system of inductive reasoning in which has come to be known around the world as the Baconian Method. The underlying principle of the Baconian Method first outlined in the New Organon is one so familiar that it is easy to assume it has always existed as the first principal of scientific investigation. In reality, until the widespread adoption of the tenets forwarded in Bacon’s treatise, the concept that subjecting hypotheses to empirical tests should be a necessary component of scientific enquiry was absent.

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