14 October 2011

Freethought Friday #29

From Will Durant's The Age of Reason Begins, "The Summons to Reason", quoting Francis Bacon:

And as Descartes seventeen years later in the Discourse on Method, would propose to begin philosophy by doubting everything, so Bacon here demands an 'expurgation of the intellect' as the first step in the Renewal. 'Human knowledge as we have it is a mere medley and ill-digested mass, made up of much credulity and much accident, and also of the childish notions which are at first imbibed.' Therefore we must, at the start, clear our minds, so far as we can, of all preconceptions, prejudices, assumptions, and theories; we must turn away even from Plato and Aristotle; we must sweep out of our thought the 'idols', or time-honored illusions and fallacies, born of our personal idiosyncrasies of judgment or the traditional beliefs and dogmas of our group; we must banish all logical tricks of wishful thinking, all verbal absurdities of obscure thought. We must put behind us all those majestic deductive systems of philosophy, which proposed to draw a thousand eternal verities out of a few axioms and principles.  There is no magic hat in science; everything taken from the hat in works must first be put into it by observation by experiment. And not by mere casual observation, nor by "simple enumeration" of data", but by "experience....sought for, experiment." 

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