Francis Bacon’s "Verulamium": the Common Law

Template of The Modern in English Science and Culture


Harvey Wheeler





Several things unique to “The Modern” in England were all “unwritten” in origin: the common law, constitutionalism, scientific empiricism - and cricket; the ways of honor and courage. These “ways” were not made out of either matter or transcendentals; rather out of special behavioral templates identified with being English, such as the unwritten obligation of the English to observe “Right Form” and live by the code of the “done thing.”. Every culture has its distinctive “styles” and templates, though they vary in firmness and the scope of behaviors covered. English, French, American and German science, for example, possess highly distinctive styles even though they are mutually compatible. A cultural template is like the grammar of a language: a distinctive code or constitution that is mostly unwritten.

Many cultures have started out from pre-literate foundations similar to England’s and moved beyond them to written laws and codes. The English did culture differently. One of the reasons they were able to produce an unusually strong and dynamic culture was because of a distinctive feature of their cultural template: the art of making the unwritten intelligible. The basis for this lay in their unique unwritten common law. The principles they developed for judging and discovering the dictates of the unwritten law were extended to nearly everything but especially to government and science: constitutionalism and scientific empiricism, two identifying emblems of The Modern in England.

Francis Bacon invented the new phenomenological element from which both were made. In the Latin of his basic theoretical writings Bacon called it schematismus, a term with many meanings in philosophy. Verulamium is the term used here for the new phenomenological element Bacon forged. First he gave a phenomenological reality to the law behind the rulings in the case reports made by judges when they applied the English unwritten common law. He refined that phenomenon and extended it beyond “judicature” as he called it, to include the unwritten laws of both society and nature. Then, applying a
“Platonism of things rather than words”, he developed his new case method of law-finding into a generally applicable New Organon, Hooke termed it a logic engine, permitting the invention of a new scientific empiricism based on phenomenology rather than on the tabula rasa sensation psychology that Locke visited for a while on empiricism.

Isaac Newton’s celestial mechanics is usually contrasted sharply with Baconian empiricism. But Newton said he was a Baconian. He explained in the Optiks how his adaptation of Baconian empiricism led to him to the foundations of modern physics.

The generally accepted philosophy of empiricism was Lockean until Kant. Inspired by Bacon’s revolution in thought, Kant refined the logic of phenomenology and christened it as his own revolution in thought, providing the foundations for the philosophy of modern science.

The following is a summary of how Bacon invented the proto-phenomenology, the Verulamium, on which The Modern in England, and ultimately modern science, was to rest.



Seventeenth century England was precociously Baroque and so was Francis Bacon. The rapidly dying Gothic still shared quarters jealously with the upstart Modern, a contradiction that is reflected throughout the times - the Lord Mayor of London was buried twice; once as a guild master and once as a merchant. It is found throughout Bacon’s writings. He is one of the chief inventors of modern English prose. Plain-spoke thoughts leap from his essays directly into the mind. Yet like the ornamentation that decorates the rigorous formality of a Bach fugue, the direct muscular force of a Bacon passage will lie embedded in a textual setting of rhetorical flourishes. The Archimedal switch-block to the trackway to the Modern was manned by many hands but the strongest was that of Francis Bacon who after his impeachment, and with talented assistants like Thomas Hobbes, ran Verulam like the ministry of invention called Salomon's House in New Atlantis (Wheeler, 1991).

Bacon’s career, post-mortem, has been as checquered as it was in the quick. Working the "digs" of the Baconiana industry requires an applied cognitive archeology. With a Robert Boyle or a Rene Descartes the things they did were known and have changed little since. Time has been more whimsical with a few others; Goethe valued his contributions to science above those to literature. Only recently has his science been re-evaluated (Wheeler, 1987). Bacon's stature was high until the late nineteenth century; low for the next few decades; recently somewhat resuscitated. The reasons are complex. The founding historians of science and philosophy seldom studied law, and missed its role in the creation of British empiricist science. Until recently most of them assumed that science was, or if not would like to be, Newtonian mechanics, the optical theory of stars and atoms. They generally concluded that Bacon’s science was not science even though Newton said he was a Baconian; accurately so, as will be seen below. More devastating, even the translator of Bacon’s scientific writings from Latin to English, Robert Ellis, (Spedding et. al. 1864) claimed Bacon was scientifically naive and wrong-headed. Ellis, a conventional Victorian mathematician, made several mis-translations and deletions that deprived later scholars of access to the underlying subtlety of Bacon’s scientific thought. The mid-twentieth century Einstein-Bohr revolution led to more sophisticated and actually more Baconian conceptions of science, as in the "participant-observer" universe of scientists and philosophers like John A. Wheeler and David Bohm. (D. Bohm, 1981; Yehuda Elkana, 1979; L. Jonathan Cohen, 1977; Elsassser, 1982; 1986). Moreover, about 90% of the best work done in today’s experimental labs, especially those in biology, is performed much the way Bacon prescribed. (Wheeler, 1990)

Bacon’s reputation has also suffered the scorn of scholars in the humanities. They have taken the judgments of scientists at face value and have concluded it most charitable to consider Bacon as a Renaissance rather than a Modern mind (Martin, 1992). Paradoxically however, they then level the charge of positivism against him; positivism being the social science version of classical mechanics. Some in the humanities argue two rather preposterous things: that positivist ("value-free") social science is both impossible and also responsible for the moral bankruptcy of modern materialist society, and that Francis Bacon started it all. (Skolimowski, 1983; Wheeler, 1983-a) Neither position is tenable but it must be acknowledged that Bacon was an accomplice to his own deprecation. Although his popular writings were models of clarity, many of his philosophic and scientific works, especially their Latin versions, were studiously opaque. His obscurantism was not like that found in a family recipe whose secret ingredient is withheld, as was done in many hermetic writings. Bacon’s obscurity was deliberate. It derived directly from his philosophy of science. He had concluded that one of the reasons for the failure of the ancient philosophers and scientists was that their logic of inquiry was about words rather than things. His logic of inquiry would correct that.

The second problem flowed naturally from the first. The ancient sciences were written in the demotic languages of their time and that doomed them to failure. The laws of nature are not written in any people’s vernacular - Greek, Latin or English. Bacon concluded that if he tried to express his philosophical conclusions in plain English, contemporaries might understand the words but not their scientific meanings. He did not want the general estimation of the worth of his scientific writings to be determined by the opinions of philosophical incompetents. Bacon never resolved this quandary over how plain-spoke to make his basic theory of scientific law. His fear was justified. Starting with Ellis and including most modern philosophers of science, his work has been mistakenly interpreted and mis-judged. He tried to solve the communication problem through essays, myths and the novel, New Atlantis. The paradoxical result was that foreign readers like Voltaire(Voltaire, 1961) and Kant(Kant, 1929), who used Bacon’s Latin versions (he arranged Latin versions of even the articles he wrote first in English) understood him better than did many English language scholars including especially the translator of the scientific writings, Robert Ellis! Through a fortunate accident, the present approach happened to begin, not with Bacon’s philosophy but with an intensive study of Bacon’s legal and constitutional theories.(Wheeler, 1947; Wheeler, 1949; Coquillette, 1992) That is the way he himself started. To follow in his path from law to philosophy required something like Foucault's archeology of ideas. But the approach was really pre-structuralist, combining explication de texte with conventional foot-slogging exploration.


Cognitive inventions are "software" artifacts. Seeking them out is like looking into the origin of an invention such as the plow or the stirrup, or symbolic logic.(Wheeler, 1987-a) Success brings a similar excitement, as in the discovery how Bacon invented a new “artificial” logic of science, artificial in the sense of artifact. It derived from his innovations in interpreting the precedents embedded in common law case rulings. Bacon’s new case method provided the basis for the law-finding method he applied to science. But his kind of law-finding could not get a sympathetic hearing prior to the late twentieth century when the neoKantian approaches to post-modern science that then appeared were akin to Bacon’s logic of inquiry.(Heelan, 1983; Elsasser, (1982; 1986)

Bacon’s chief science-related innovations were:

* “Judging” - analyzing - the case reports of the unwritten common law in search for a higher law lying behind them. He hypostatized a meta-law as a “thing” - a phenomenal thing.

* Applying a "reverse Platonism" to this hypostatized meta-law thing, he created an empirical phenomenological substance he called schematismus. Here it is called Veralumium.

* This led in Novum Organum to the creation of a “logic engine," Hooke’s term for adapting his case method of law-finding to phenomenological objects in general - to all unwritten laws.

* This logic engine was extended to laws of nature, considered as empirical objects. This permitted him to develop a phenomenology of scientific empiricism. It was a precursor to the phenomenology of scientific empiricism later given full philosophical expression by Kant.

* Printing provided archival resources about society and nature similar to those the law scribes preserved of case rulings of common law judges.

* His new logic engine permitted him to process all archival information into an encyclopaedic Republic of Knowledge that would be “ever a democracy."

* He christened his scientific empiricism the third “revolution in thought,” naming the two prior ones as Greek philosophy and Roman positive law. These two also rested upon revolutions in “archival functions”. (Wheeler, 1990). When narrowed to natural science, as a social institution, these revolutions are called “paradigm shifts”. (Kuhn, 1962).

Kant, following Bacon’s lead, created his own revolution in thought - the invention of modern phenomenology..

* Bacon described the foundations of his revolution in Advancement of Learning, Novum Organum, Insturatio Magna, New Atlantis and most intriguing, the "Prometheus" essay in Wisdom of the Ancients


A survey of Bacon's political, legal and jurisprudential writings, and of the opinions of historians of the common law, people like Hale (M. Hale, 1667), Holdsworth (W.S. Holdsworth, 1922-25), Maitland (W.F. Maitland, 1911), Plunknett (T.F.T. Plunknett, 1936), and Coquillette (Coquillette, 1992) yields the following:

England’s unwritten law was originally like that of most pre-literate societies: laws, customs and lore were preserved in the memories of culture paragons and encoded with runic markings by seers and magi.(Bohannan, 1967) Even after there were copious written scrolls containing court judgments, reliance on culture paragons as law-knowers persisted. A common law trial had been a "law waging" process with parties bringing their law to court and juries (law-sayers) acting as judges of the law, not of fact. The rolls containing reports of court rulings in common law cases were in widely scattered archives. They varied considerably in style and thoroughness. Lawyers used them to uncover rulings in cases a century or more earlier. The quality of the archival skills of lawyers and judges also varied considerably. Rule-finding was by no means an exact science. Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, was the leading legal archivist of Bacon’s time. He is known as the father of the common law not so much for his jurisprudence as for the antiquarian researches that gave lawyers rather than law-saying paragons, monopoly over saying what was the unwritten law. Coke’s influence resulted in the ascendency of the common law over its other juristic rivals.

There had already been a “Reception” of the Roman Law through the Canon Law during the Henrician Reformation. Richard Hooker did part of the spade work of assimilating it in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Bacon’s father was Lord Keeper of the Seal (and of the Queen's Conscience). As head of the Chancery he presided over the Equity side of the law. Equity, as the saying had it, corrected the law for the defects of its one-size-fits-all virtue of generality. Chancery law grew out of pre-Reformation Canon Law traditions and dealt with "oaths," which verged on contracts, and with legal ephemera such as " uses": the abstract type of property between feudal and freehold tenures.(Coquillette, 1992) Equity law employed maxims like pacta servanda sunt, contracts must be obeyed. Social conditions had experienced so much change that stare decisis required dexterous interpretive contortions to make the old rulings fit new institutional developments.(Hudson, 1996) Jurists developed ingenious ways of using the law’s special language, Law Latin, to do this. Law Latin terms had their own meanings, applied according to their own “artificial reason,” as Coke called it in a famous rebuke to King James I. Jurists created a law-made virtual world that existed inside the ordinary world. Lawyers entered and lived and worked in that virtual domain when they joined the Inns of Court. Prior to Bacon, the law’s artificial reason, like other branches of reason, was essentially an adaptation of Aristotelian rhetoric.

Written Gothic English had almost no punctuation. Sometimes it was hard to identify the proper divisions between words, clauses, sentences and topics. Interpreting archaic rulings was analogous to the problem molecular biologists faced in decoding the “words” in DNA chains though by no means as difficult. When common law jurists adjudicated conflicts over the new social conditions of the seventeenth century they often had to make their distinctions and rulings turn on inventive insertions of punctuation and syntax. Holdsworth called this method a kind of law Scholasticism. Particularly serious problems arose over the case rulings that bore imprints from the residues of feudal tenures and fealties. It was hard enough merely to tease the rulings of the unwritten Gothic law out of their hiding places in the archival repositories of their feudal applications; it was next to impossible to apply those archaic rules to the novel conditions of the Modern. Fee simple property ownership co-existed with feudal uses; national citizenship with feudal allegiance. Gothic rhetoric was incapable of resolving the legal conflicts that accompanied England’s institutional transformations.

Bacon possessed a superb mastery of the common law - he lived in Gray's Inn, one of the law guilds, and gave "readings" there. But as a student of comparative law and philosophy he brought new resources to the common law. He grew up on his father’s "equity side" of the law. As a toddler young Francis enjoyed the run of Elizabeth's Court and Queen Elizabeth I referred to him as "my young Lord Keeper."

The work of the antiquarians, an honorific term in those days, plus printing expanded legal resources and made them more widely available but this also made judging the law more difficult. A new archival, information processing technology was sorely needed. Bacon had early on sensed the acuteness of this problem and advocated that the Queen appoint a commission to bring order to England’s trackless juridical wilderness. He did not mean a Roman Law type of codification, a code civile. The data was not “laws” or statutes but rulings under the unwritten law. This meant that an entirely new approach was needed but neither the Queen or anybody else agreed. After the death of Bacon’s father and the ascendency of the Cecils, Bacon’s career was stymied. He turned more to philosophy - what he meant by philosophy. When the Queen rejected his proposal, Bacon looked for a shortcut; a way of going beyond the records of individual case applications of the unwritten law in search of a higher level of hidden law that would possess a more universal application.

Things changed with the ascension of James VI of Scotland as James I of England .Bacon’s career blossomed. As the king’s new Attorney General, Bacon was appointed as England’s representative on the Commission on the Union of England and Scotland. Scottish law had a Roman Law foundation and this brought to a head further awareness of the inadequacies of legal research based on rhetoric. The two legal systems did not speak the same language but some form of unity within diversity was necessary. The Commission was explicitly charged with studying, ’judging’, the laws of kingship shared in common by England and Scotland. The King wanted the Commission to find a common realm of law that could be attributed to the new dualistic nation, unified under the joint ‘crown’ he wore as James VI and I. This turned out to be a very creative charge. In effect, it was a royal order to discover a hitherto unknown domain of British kingship, the constitution of an imperial crown.(Wheeler, 1947; Wheeler, 1949). Bacon’s brief was one of his most brilliant achievements, acclaimed even by his life long rival, Coke. In producing it he perfected the new kind of law-finding that was to develop into scientific empiricism. Beyond this, that strange legal case lying in the juridical wilderness between the Elizabeth and William & Mary, became the spiritual godfather of both England’s unwritten constitution of 1688 and the Federal system of dual sovereignty that was later invented by the Americans in 1789. (Wheeler, 1975) The Case of the Post-Nati can fairly be called the leading case in the constitution of The Modern; Anglo-American subdivision.

Bacon’s new logic of analysis sought to find the unwritten law’s own unwritten law by dialectically comparing and judging past applications of it. This required a new archival technology to decode the meanings hidden behind the language in the scrolls of archaic Gothic case reports; and then a way of processing that information into more general principles that could be applied to the Modern Age conditions then arising. In his law briefs, especially the Ca se of the Post-Nati (“Calvin’s Case”) and the “Reading on the Statute of Uses,” Bacon searched both the case precedents themselves and also the unwritten Gothic law that lay behind them: a way of delving further behind the unwritten Gothic law to a still deeper common law in search of principles that could be applied to post-Gothic conditions. It was quickly apparent that the Aristotelian identity of the form and matter of law would not work. Rather, it was precisely their separation, their atom splitting so to speak, that he needed.

The unwritten common law is not a “brooding omnipresence in the sky”; It is a thing. The text of a ruling does not express it, but contains only a ruling under it, which may or may not be confirmed on appeal. In Bacon’s terms this is a phenomenological “Form” that exists independently of the imperfect and transitory concrete expressions of it in common law rulings. Uncovering this ontological legal substance required a logic of dialectical inquiry, not a logic of rhetoric. He needed an ontological mechanics; a logic engine to uncover the “deep structure” of a form of law whose validity was independent of its specific temporal applications: the Form of the law, of the law of laws: Verulamium. How was this different from the approach of the other great lawyers of the day? Coke’s artificial reason produced meticulous archives of case precedents and they were a crucial database, but his notion of law was entirely too narrow and superficial. By contrast, Bacon studied comparative law like a structuralist anthropologist. In addition, he evaluated different ways of reasoning: Platonic, Ramist, hermetic, rhetoric, deductive, inductive, experimental and Aristotelian. He rejected all but one for being concerned with words rather than forms.

Sometime around 1608 and while still at Grays Inn Bacon had begun to reinterpret Plato’s ontological schematismos, applying it to the empirical law-stuff residing behind common law rulings, rather than to an eternal Form residing in the Logos. This permitted treating cases as precedents; as "evidences" of the unwritten law. It was a new approach to law-finding. Bacon’s legal briefs, the above constitutional law case in particular, (Wheeler, 1947) illustrate his new law-finding method and how it was later generalized for law-finding in other fields. Writings such as "Reading on the Statute of Uses” (Works, XIV) show the change from applying stare decisis to find an applicable RULE to fit new facts, into using case precedents as EVIDENCES of the phenomenological law stuff residing behind the unwritten law. It is the difference between a matched fit and a phenomenon; the kind of "phenomenon" that goes with "noumenon". This explains why legal historians have called Bacon’s "the first modern scientific approach to the law(Holdsworth, 1924) In his briefs and writings Bacon created, "invented", the distinguishing features of the modern common law system:

* Using cases as repositories of evidence about the "unwritten law”;

* Determining the relevance of precedents by exclusionary principles of evidence and logic;

* Treating opposing legal briefs as adversarial hypotheses about the application of the "unwritten law" to a new set of facts.

As late as the eighteenth-century some juries still declared the law rather than the fact but already before the end of the seventeenth century Justice Sir Matthew Hale (Hale, 1667) explained modern common law adjudication procedure and acknowledged Bacon as the inventor of the process of discovering unwritten laws from the evidences of their applications. The method combined empiricism and inductivism in a new way that was to imprint its signature on many of the distinctive features of modern English society:

* Making manifest the law behind the unwritten common law;

* Applying to manners and social behavior the unwritten gentleman's code of honor of things "done" and "not done”; of what is and is not “cricket”. The playing fields of Eton observed the code of the master of Verulam.

* Observing the "conventions" of Britain's unwritten "working" constitution;

* The tradition of the scientific naturalist: meticulous empirical observations in search of the laws of nature.

The old organon, Aristotle’s logic, was a rhetoric engine for investigating and explaining alphanumeric literacy, post-mythic discourse. It involved an "archival revolution"(Wheeler, 1987-a) in the encoding, storage, retrieval and information processing functions and was made possible by the invention of the quill and scroll.(Wheeler, 1990) Bacon’s time saw a database explosion produced by optics, ships, mechanisms and print, and it had to be assimilated using a new investigative and explanatory logic engine; a novum organum. The modern mind wants naturally to jump from Aristotle to Descartes and Newton - to the Descartes who separated mind and matter and invented a way of describing a mechanical watch-works world; and to the Newton who invented a calculus of linear relationships in a closed causal system. But Bacon’s empiricism came in between. He invented a new phenomenology of law-finding: an investigative and explanatory logic engine, a novum organum, for law. As will be seen later, Newton used it to invent his own new mechanics of causal relations.

"Law" is used here to mean invariances associated with the relationships between things in a system or structure which, if those lawful relations are changed the system is either changed or dissolved. "Cause" is used to mean things associated in an invariant linear time sequence.

This distinction is useful not only because of the juridical foundations of Bacon's philosophy but also because it helps distinguish Baconian law-finding from Cartesian cause-finding. It also helps identify the origin of both modern phenomenology and of modern Anglo-American analytic philosophy.

Bacon’s main research database was always the book. He created a new archival technology made possible when arcane scroll and codex repositories of knowledge became widely accessible through printing. A collection of similar rulings could be inspected, not to make a better shoe horn for forcing a fit but for abstracting common underlying general principles. The element that then emerged was not a ruling but an analytically discovered law that “must” be the juridical foundation for a set of related case rulings: judging the rulings to find the rule they jointly express. The process is like what in artificial intelligence programming is called back-chaining and is the foundation for computer-mediated searches for roots and causes, as in medical diagnosis. It is also the empiricist process of that supreme Baconian, Sherlock Holmes.(Sebeok 1981) One begins with the presenting symptoms, perhaps a syndrome, and works from them back to a set of probable sources or causes. The "cause" or "law" is not a time-sequential cause in the sense of classical mechanics but is rather the explanation that remains after evidence and logic eliminate every other possibility. It is not static and final; it is dynamic and subject to correction on the basis of new evidence that may later appear.

Such a process preserves stare decisis as a principle but makes it dynamic and incorporates into it principles of change and growth. No individual ruling now or in the future could express concretely the unwritten law, any more than had individual rulings of the past. The unwritten common law of England remains forever ineffable, uncaptured in any given ruling, and capable of further growth and application as knowledge and conditions change. More important, the collection of all such deeper laws (rather than their applied rulings) amounts to a general system of fundamental law.(Wheeler, 1975) an unwritten "constitution," whose first tentative expression was in The Case of the Post-Nati. (Wheeler, 1947; 1949; 1956; 1975) This potential for submitting government to the rule of law under an unwritten constitution later came to be called constitutionalism.(C.H. McIlwain, 1940; F. Wormuth, 1949) It was not finally realized until after the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 but Bacon’s earlier case reports and law briefs exhibit the potential. This happens also to be the conception, or paradigm, of scientific law characteristic of postmodern science. Bacon explicitly made allowance for carrying the same kind of dynamism into natural science through his Aphorism, Apothegm and Maxim styles of stating a scientific law. Bacon's phenomenology of law imported into the English unwritten common law an artificial and abstract logos-like domain that was "real" in the way the Roman Law described a real, though impalpable, domain. He processed information in this phenomenal domain using his own new "grammar", a "philosophical grammar" he called it. He contrasted this with both "literary grammar" and rhetoric, which deal with language rather than with what he called philosophy. By philosophy Bacon meant "science”. It was long called natural philosophy and today we would probably call it semiotics or phenomenology. In Book Six of the De Augments Bacon described it as:

"...a kind of grammar which should diligently inquire, not the analogy of words with one another, but the analogy between words and things, or reason; not going so far however as that interpretation which belongs to Logic”.(Works, De Augmentis, VOL IX, pp 111-112)

Bacon outlined a new comparative semiotics designed to lead to a general grammar like Chomsky’s "Transformational grammar," and to a theory of signs like that of Peirce.. He went on to devise a binary alphabetic code of "A"s and "B"s that is remarkably similar to today's binary digital code on the one hand and to our character based genetic code on the other.


Bacon’s law judging and law finding researches led to the invention of the new phenomenological element I’ve named Verulamium. He refined it for application to fields outside the common law and expressed it through a new meaning given to the Maxim. Bacon was born into a rich environment of equity law maxims. His father collected and composed them and displayed a special selection of maxims on plaques above the wall panels of the great hall in the mansion where Francis grew up. They made a lasting impression. After becoming Lord Chancellor (his father never made it from Lord Keeper of the Seal to Lord Chancellor), Francis used the maxim approach to give equity law a foundation that was to last two centuries, until equity was absorbed into the common law. His interest in the maxim genre led to a life-long search for other ways of condensing large amounts of related information into succinct summaries. Nine collections of his law like expressions have been identified, falling into seven categories: Sophisma, Parabola, Aphorismus, Optataiva, Canones, Antithetorum and Maximes.(J.C. Hogan & M.D. Schwartz, 1983). Although the Rules and Maximes of the Common Law and the Elements of the Common Law (J.C. Hogan & M.D. Schwartz, 1983) were not published until 1630, after his death. Bacon had worked at those projects during his entire adulthood. Only 25 of his 300 maxims still survive. The Maxim became the model for the generalized idea of unwritten law - juristic and natural - that was later turned into the scientific Apothegm. He was convinced that if he could perfect the process of making maxims out of law cases he could adapt that process from the finding of a rule of law to the finding of a rule of science. He could then define the structure, or protocol for conducting research in quest of a rule of science. Bacon's protocol of law extraction to uncover rules or maxims out of the seeming chaos of the unwritten law was a little like a System Theoretic protocol: He said the structure of a rule of law in science should:

* Have clear and perspicuous exposition

* Make precise distinctions

* Lead back (back-chain) readily into its foundation cases (examples)

* Display the (tri-modal) logic chain between the foundations and the maxim or rule

* Show relations to other maxims and rules(Hogan & Schwartz, op cit.)

The first systematic explanation of this logic engine was the Aphorisms. They were designed to cover, as he said, all provinces of knowledge, social and natural. Aphorism 85 says of a scientific rule that it should serve as a "magnetic needle (nautica polos) that points to the law but does not settle it. 'Non ex regula jus sumatur, sed ex jure quod est regula fiat' - The law should not be taken from maxims, but maxims from the law”. Again, the law he referred to is unwritten, in both the common law and in nature. This means the law is phenomenal, made out of Verulamium; maxims are its operational hypotheses. We are at the origin of modern phenomenological analysis.

At this point the master of Konigsberg must be introduced. In the Preface to the second edition of Critique of Pure Reason(Kant, 1924). Kant acknowledged his indebtedness to Bacon and followed a line of thought similar to that in Novum Organum. He said the human mind thinks naturally in terms of dyadic, linear, time sequential relationships: post hoc ergo propter hoc. He described a triadic logic to account for how this arises in the Newtonian universe, and helps explain the isomorphism between mind and classical mechanics; Kant identified the latter with nature. Then, by axiom and argument, Kant created three new philosophic components that were very similar to Bacon’s own. This permitted a new understanding of both the outer world and of the inner world, through the use of a special new ratio able to mediate between them transitively. The ratio could do this because its own structure was homologous with the structures of both nature and mind. This was the famous triad of phenomenon, noumenon and schematismus. The model seemed at the time to have the added virtue of dispelling the accumulated paradoxes of British empiricism and French rationalism, Hume and Descartes, by incorporating both into a larger domain of lawfulness.

Admittedly nature’s lawfulness and its mechanics are closely connected in much philosophic writing. However, a distinction by Charles Sanders Peirce is useful. He claimed that what he called dynamical systems are dyadic. By contrast, his own "pragmaticism" was triadic. Triadic systems, he said, do not self-destruct into pairs. It is the difference between linear and structural (systemic) relationships. Peirce was a neoKantian though he also like to go by several other philosophic aliases. He developed a model of tri-modal transitivity, similar to Kant’s, and promulgated it as the basic law of semiosis: "semiosis" I mean,... an action, or influence, which is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs.(Peirce, 1966)

Peirce was talking about what today is called cognitive science. His protocol was like the one Plato developed using Pythagorean harmonic ratios to mediate between the "master circles" of the universe and the harmonic perceptions of the human mind. This permitted Peirce to create a tri-modal transitivity such that the findings of any one domain could be confirmed in the other two(Wheeler, 1982; McClain, 1982).

Francis Bacon's philosophy was empiricist. It dealt with actual things but those things were made out of law-stuff. The consequence, almost automatically, was a new kind of phenomenological empiricism. It was more primitive than the later phenomenologies of Kant and Peirce but was of their same general type. A good way to illustrate this is to begin with Bacon’s assumption that the English unwritten common law possesses "thingness". This is not a concrete thing like a chair but is what we now, following Immanuel Kant, call a phenomenological thing. All the elements of culture from folkways to styles possess thingness. Things have discoverable empirical properties. They hurt the people who violate them; ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but only names can hurt me’; and law is the firmest and harshest of them all. Bacon identified the thingness of the unwritten law as having the binary properties of processus and schematismus: process and form. If those properties could be made accessible to the human mind, a ratio - a logic machine could be created capable of mediating between them. The result would be a new scientific empiricism; an Instauratio Magnum. These conclusions follow:

1. Bacon's scientific empiricism had a semiotic foundation; 2. It was based on a tri-relative model analogous to those of Kant and Peirce, especially Peirce;

3. The three components were:

I. The outside world, dealt with through a binary ontology of law comprised of processus and schematismus (Kant's binary assumption about cognition was different);

II. The inside world was dealt with through a theory of Judgment based on the idola and providing an analogous model of perception and understanding; iii. Mediation between them was by a ratio (the new logic of inquiry) whose "adminicle" inductivism provided a tri-relative transitivity between the inside and outside worlds.

The juridical foundations for items [3.I] and [3.iii] (Wheeler, 1983) have been explored previously and will not now be discussed.

(III.), the theory of Judgment deals with the way Bacon created a view of the inside world that was compatible with:

* The outside world,

* His ontology of Form,

* And also with his instrument of analysis, the new “adminicle” logic of inquiry.

Note the juridical flavor of the term "judgment". Baconian science never loses its quality of law-finding and promulgating. This is made explicit in New Atlantis by the way Salomon’s House, the R&D institution, runs Bensalem and administers science.(Wheeler, 1991)

The semiotic aspect of Bacon's theory of Judgment is emphasized in several places in his scientific writings. Most explicit, perhaps, is his claim that the ultimate aim of the New Organon, the new logic engine of inquiry, was to uncover nature's hidden "abecedarium"; to break the code in which nature’s constitution was written so that the words, clauses and sentences of her encrypted laws could be deciphered.(Works, Vol III, 306-311). However, the theory of Judgment also puts the reciprocal question about how thoughts are encoded in the mind.

Bacon asked over and over why the ancients had failed to produce scientific empiricism. They had produced the two revolutions in thought that were prerequisites to his own third intellectual revolution: Greek philosophy and Roman Law. If he could go beyond them to produce empirical science, why had not the human mind discovered it ages before?

The answer Bacon gave derived from his conception of the archives of unwritten laws and the nature of their archival encodings; their own native languages and words. Words, he said, stand as the footprints of thoughts. Words and languages must facilitate the communication between all people, including the most doltish as well as the most brilliant, the Gothic as well as the Baroque. Hence they are intrinsically demotic; popular. He concluded that this intrinsic vernacular defect predetermines that word-based analysis must always remain constricted to a demotic level. Words, wrote Bacon, are:

...commonly framed and applied according to the capacity of the vulgar [and] follow those lines of division most obvious to the vulgar understanding. And whenever an understanding of greater acuteness or a more diligent observation would alter those lines to suit the true divisions of nature, words stand in the way and resist the change.(Works, Novum Organon, Aphorism LIX, vol VII, p. 78)

This was not merely, or even chiefly, a matter of vocabulary. "Divisions" was one of the main problems; not only literally for texts possessing few internal markers but also substantively. What was the unwritten law’s true and proper taxonomy? And beyond its apparent divisions and partitions and classifications, what was its underlying cladistics - its homogenic phyla and orders? As the New Organon explained, this discovery was necessary because no demotic (vulgate) language could express the processus and schematismus of any natural laws. That was why the ancients, for all their genius, had never been able to produce science. It was the main reason Bacon was more complimentary to Plato than to Aristotle. He thought Democritus had been on the right track and believed that there might have been some chance for the ancient emergence of empirical science until Aristotle forestalled it completely by his word-&-language, mind-&-nature based logic. That original flaw determined that all Aristotelian and Scholastic philosophy would forever remain imprisoned within the confines of demotic discourse, in Bacon's special analytic meaning of that term. He acknowledged that mathematical reasoning was somewhat better than reasoning by formal logic but even it possessed the germ of the fatal demotic defect because its basic definitions were framed in with words. Accordingly, they led to the wrong "divisions”. All such demotic systems made the world "the bond-slave of human thought, and human thought the bond-slave of words"(op. cit. Aphorism LXIX) - a maxim Newton was to take seriously. Bacon set his New Organon the problem of creating a non-demotic logic of law-finding.

The analytic solution was to find a way to create reciprocal alignments, an "assembly language" so to speak, between what we might call the “machine language” of nature and the encoding language innate to human thought. That is the way Von Neumann would have expressed it if he’d been Bacon and it is exactly what Bacon meant. The most familiar parallel is to Noam Chomsky’s innate, as distinguished from genetic, Transformational Grammar. Bacon’s scenario called for conducting a set of recursive tests, alpha, beta and so on; his term was "trials;" trials of particulars. Nature would be arraigned in a laboratory that he called an “inventory” (pronounced inVENtory), meaning an invention making workplace, and induced to testify in her own natural language, uncorrupted by the inadequacies of human demotic language. It was a phenomenological inquisition applying ‘ways of making nature talk.’ This would permit framing preliminary axioms, what we would call provisional hypotheses, to account for nature’s known behaviors. These in turn would be used for the design and conduct of new trials, using improved inquisition, investigation, methods, and successive approximations. The process would generate new and better axioms; and so on recursively to ever better axioms and inquisitions, and progressively better decodings of "divisions," at progressively higher levels of abstraction. This applies the processus and schematismus approach to avoid the demotic flaw. Newton’s "fluxions" will later adapt this recursion to mathematics. There is a rudimentary flow-chart description of the process in New Atlantis.

It is fruitless, Bacon insisted, to seek causes and concrete results overtly. The object of inquiry must instead be "abstract natures”. These will constitute the "alphabet or simple letters, whereof the variety of things consisteth”.(Works VI, p. 63) He is thinking neither as a geometer nor as a simple inductivist. Rather the processes and images he has in mind are juridical; trials: inquests, discovery of facts, and taking depositions. The New Organon was an instrument of empirical investigation just as the new telescopes were instruments of empirical observation. Although Bacon occasionally speaks of “cause,” his tendency is rather to seek the “laws” of nature. His theory of Form, when it leaves ontology and turns into science, becomes law, not cause; but law in the English sense. The "instances" that provide the constitutive units of evidence in the New Organon are like the case precedents of the common law, after he had developed the new phenomenological empiricism for using them effectively. The instances stand out as what he called "fingerposts", direction pointers, markers that like a compass needle, help the scientist keep on the right path to the unwritten laws of nature. On other occasions, when direction-finding is described as the "freeing of a direction," Bacon seems to have been thinking like an explorer mapping uncharted domains. He appears then to imagine nature as an undiscovered continent to be searched out by following signs and clues; analogues of weather portents.(Ibid, p. 59)

Just as the processes of nature were misleading if one tried to deal with their overt manifestations, so also with the processes of the human mind if one worked only with its demotic concepts. The mind was, by its truest and deepest nature, the "form of forms"; Bacon’s Form, not Plato’s. Hence if properly operated it was potentially capable of decoding nature's hidden abecedarium even though its ordinary and superficial operations made it ill suited for scientific analysis. Its perceptual faculty was like a lens but it was far from being a "clear and equal glass" and instead produced the distorting effects of an "enchanted glass" (n.b., Isaac Newton). Special correctives were needed to compensate for the mind's built-in sources of error and distortion. That was where the Idols of the Mind came in. They were instruments, prisms, for detecting, diagnosing and correcting the inner processes of the mind. Just as prisms permitted measuring optical distortions, which could be used to make corrective spectacles, one could use the idola to fashion a corrective logical engine, an organon, for performing accurate analysis.

The four Idols of the Mind are often understood as false idols, as in the biblical prohibition against setting up graven images and following false gods. However, this meaning is valid only in a round about sense. Idolum comes from the Greek eidolon. Plato used it to mean appearances: false perceptions. He contrasted it with idein, to see truly. Originally Idein had possessed the sense of the ritual thing seen, as in a revelation that occurs after the proper ritual preparation, and by means of which an inner truth can be disclosed to and perceived by the initiates. Both meanings, the true and the counter-intuitive, are present in Platonic Idea, or Form. They are also part of the meaning of Bacon's idola: the erroneous structures and divisions that must be eliminated from the world inside before one can understand the Forms (Baconian) of the world outside. The idola showed how sensations mislead perceptions, distort the understanding and lead to mistaken judgments. They have been confused often with Roger Bacon's four "offendicula", (stumbling blocks). These were sociological, rather than semiotic and analytic, "hindrances" to truth such as authority, custom, popular opinion and ignorance. It seems likely that with his own idola, as he did in many aspects of his philosophy, Bacon started from an earlier conception and transformed it into a new principle. He did that with Plato, standing him on his head, as the later idiom would have put it.

Bacon's distinction between sensation and perception is the same as Leibnitz's distinction between perception and apperception. The idola showed how sensations mislead perceptions, distort the understanding and lead to mistaken judgments. This analysis of judgment was directly involved in Bacon's design for the stages of experiment and exclusion in the New Organon. In thinking out this tri-modal relationship he seems to have had in mind the way Plato worked out the dialectical component of his own tri-modal system in Gorgias.

Baconian probability is not Cartesian certainty. It is systemic probability rather than linear closed causal determinism. L. Jonathan Cohen of Oxford (L.J. Cohen, 1977 et seq.) is a leading theorist of probability; a Baconian type of probability. He calls Bacon's logic of inquiry an "inductive support" system and has patterned his own influential theory of scientific probability after it. Cohen’s is a non-Pascalian, meaning a non-statistical, type of probability. The probability involved in B.F. Skinner's operant conditioning is similar. Operant schedules of positive reinforcement also rest on a non-Pascalian theory of probability.(Wheeler, 1973)

Bacon’s preferred term was "Adminicle". Why? His first reference in the New Organon to the kind of evidence that confers probability employs the term fide-jussio. It is a legal term, of course, and denotes oral evidence in support of a legal claim, as with statements made in support of a claim to title in a suit at property law. Hence, "inductive support", as Cohen and succeeding inductivists, Von Wright in particular,(Von Wright, 1960) termed Bacon’s theory of probability. Further on, Bacon prefers the term adminicle: adminicle inductivism. Adminicle had two prior meanings: in law, especially Scots law; recall Bacon’s membership on the Commission on the Union of England and Scotland. It meant a documentary support for a claim to title. Hence it was an empirical evidentiary confirmation. Bacon preferred adminicle to fide-jussion because when applying an essentially juridical inductivism to scientific applications, it would not do to rely on oaths, opinions and the like; shades of Gothic magic, which he castigated as evidence. Hence he chose a term from the law that had a more "material" import, as in "material evidence". The second meaning of adminicle was also important. Historically, it referred to the architectural support added at the top of a structure to hold it up more securely, like a "flying buttress". This “"at the top"” feature worked well with Bacon's hierarchical notion that confidence in the probability of a scientific conclusion strengthens as it rises up the successive stages of the "prerogative instances." The prerogative instance in science is analogous to the "leading case" in law. Both "fingerposted", Bacon’s term, the hidden law but did not state it concretely. In law it meant the support put in evidence to buttress the structure of an argument, leading to an irrefutable “conviction”. The New Organon contrasts adminicular induction with ordinary “empiric” induction, of which Bacon was unstintingly critical. Adminicle induction was a process of collecting circumstantial evidence that led cumulatively to the high probability of the accuracy of the result of the law-finding process. Adminicular inductions lead through a series of exclusions of "particular instances" to a latent "schematismus" or Form, the ultimate properties of which constitute what he means by scientific law. The process was derived from the method of exclusion in the law-finding process that used English case rulings to derive what "must" with high probability, be the unwritten common law’s application to a set of new facts.

Bacon described four logical tools, “arts”, to use in following nature’s leads: Invention, Judgment, Memory & Transmission.(Works, vol IX, De Augmentis, Book 56, P. 63) Note two things: These processes are close to the archival functions associated today with information processing.(Wheeler, 1990). Secondly, they describe for empiricism the hermeneutic circle of confirmation in textual analysis; the process called neo-hermeneutics in today’s postmodern philosophy of science. (Hacking, 1983)

It was but a short step to extend that approach to other database archival resources: If one used the proper logic engine, evidences of the law could be extracted from archives of common law rulings. Hence the same method would yield laws of science when applied to archives of natural history, as science was called in England until well into the twentieth century. Neither kind of archive contained laws. To find the unwritten laws of nature required a theory, a philosophy, for processing book-borne information into science. Bacon was the philosopher of scientific research: how to process information out of its database repositories; law, experiment, exploration and print - the Gutenberg Galaxy - into knowledge: The Advancement of Knowledge. Bacon’s innovations in law-finding grew out of his innovative way of exploiting the archival resources in books. What was happening in the pre-Gutenberg archives of the common law was also spreading to the other scroll and codex repositories of knowledge, which were all just as chaotic as were the common law reports.

Bacon’s approach did not rest upon a distinction between book-based and experimental information; rather upon a general theory of processing evidence out of database resources. The book based archival revolution was turning all human knowledge into an information database. The world of books was an uncharted continent. Bacon is the first to treat the book the same way today's research labs do. His new logic machine performed on printed data the functions of the information processing computer. If used critically with the aid of his refinement processes and if purified by his data cleansing idola, printed books could be made into resources for scientific research. By developing archival exploration, navigating and processing tools he could become the Columbus of the new continent of information and "take all knowledge for his province", illustrated by the ship sailing past the Pillars of Hercules on the fronticepiece of The Advancement of Learning. They are the portico pillars to a research library; not for deduction, nor induction, and not realism, but a new kind of evidentiary empiricism whose source data is not matter and mechanics but impalpable Verulamium law stuff phenomena. When Bacon proposed the codification of common law resources he did not mean, as is usually assumed, a Roman Law Code Civile; rather he visualized an organization of maxims, and of rule of law classifications. He wanted to create an arrangement of them by their leading headings, to facilitate something like what is now possible when "Shepardizing" a case. In effect, Bacon wanted to be able to Shepardize scientific evidence; something only now becoming possible.

Taking title to all knowledge was shown to be theoretically possible by the Instauratio Magna. Its design specifications told how to process archives of printed information into knowledge, whose generic name until the nineteenth century was science, and to make it handily available in an encyclopaedia. Although Novum Organum discusses pure science, its primary concern is operational science; applied science made into a kind of pre-computer "software" operating system for an entire culture. That is the way science was portrayed in the Advancement of Learning, later enlarged into The Augmentation of Science. It was illustrated concretely in New Atlantis. The basic intellectual revolutions of the early seventeenth century rested on innovative computer-like "archival functions"(Wheeler, 1990) and were thought of as book-based "software applications" required to design and operate a modern society.


Very little experimental data was available to Bacon. Most of it was highly unreliable. There was some experimentation in medicine by contemporaries like Harvey and in magnetism by Gilbert; little else. Science, like the common law, was burgeoning, but there was no way of evaluating the results. Bacon himself did much more scientific experimentation than is usually acknowledged. The Verulam experiments in a post-Pythagorean sound physics have been largely ignored but were not surpassed for decades. Bacon’s table of specific gravities while awkwardly prepared was the most extensive one of the times. Giovanni Porta had published a twenty volume encyclopedia of science, Magia Naturalis, and Bacon made copious use of it throughout his writings, but it was too much like Coke’s Institutes to be used uncritically. Empirical science at that time was like biology before Linnaeus and evolution before Darwin, both of whom acknowledged their debt to Bacon. There was simply no logic engine for studying and analyzing phenomena until one was invented in the Novum Organum. Peter Ramus, the French Reformation philosopher, had pointed out that Aristotle's logic would not do for science; it was about words for things. Ramist dialectical chain reasoning was useful but was still rhetoric rather than empiricism. Bacon surveyed the available alternatives and in the spirit of his logic engine, rejected all but one.

Modern Times, as Charlie Chaplin illustrated, are addicted to invention. Invention "sells" even when it masks mere "style obsolescence"; cars repackaged in different encasements every few years. People did not always take kindly to invention; not until after it was invented. The word invent, from invenire, means to come upon; to discover. Toward the middle of the sixteenth century it had begun to mean inventing new ideas, not just words. It is used often in Bacon’s publications and usually means modern science and technology. A chapter heading in one of the early books is "The Inventary”. The word is used like the word "labor-atory" to mean an institutionalized activity, as is described in "Of The Interpretation of Nature”. That chapter contains "an enumeration and view of inventions already discovered" It goes on to describe Bacon’s newly invented system of inquiry, designed for the conduct of an "inquisition" of knowledge even more than of nature: an invention-making logic engine. The Inven-tary was explicitly for the "revealing and discovery of new inventions”.(Works, vol VI, p. 52; Works, XIII, 144) The invention of invention was one of Bacon’s leading inventions. It is described technically in his legal and philosophical writings. It was designed to do for science what Thomas Edison’s New Jersey “Invention Factory” did for technology, and what Jonas Salk dreamed of for the Salk Institute. The New Atlantis, one of his last publications, presents a practical plan for nothing less that the complete science-based re-invention of seventeenth century English culture. That aim was latent in many other of his writings.


Coleridge called attention to Bacon's Platonism. At first thought the idea seems rather silly. The Bacon that resides in professors’ lectures is at the materialist opposite pole from Plato's idealism. But problems over what Bacon means by a Platonic term, "Form" occur throughout the translations from Latin to English. "Form" is the forcing bed of Baconian science. Because it is so often debated and so much denigrated one must trace it back to its original Latin. There lies a surprise. Form is described in terms of the Latin schematismus, a word adapted from the Greek schematismos - in Plato! English has no good translation for it. Schematism is pedantic and conveys little. Schema has acquired some currency but mainly under the intellectual patent of one particular neurophilosopher. But the mere sight of the word in the primordial versions of Bacon’s thought ignites another even brighter intellectual flare: Immanuel Kant. First Plato and then Kant! Kant's use of schematismus in developing the philosophy of phenomenology comes vividly to mind. Coleridge was right. There are indeed signs in the Latin versions of what seems to be a kind of Platonism: a reverse Platonism.

What was Bacon's reverse Platonism? What did he mean by calling his logic machine a Platonism of things rather than words? What had Plato done that Bacon wanted to do the opposite or the upside down of? Again, what had Plato invented which if reversed could be used by a Francis Bacon to invent scientific empiricism? Figuring out how Plato had invented political philosophy though daunting would help explain Bacon's science(Wheeler, 1963). The classicists who have studied Plato as an inventor are almost countless. Academe is full of Foucaultian archaeologists of Platonism: Gilbert Murray (G. Murray, 1957) and the "Cambridge Ritualists”", (G.S. Kirk, 1982) Ernst Cassirer's "symbolic transformation”", (E. Cassirir, 1975), Sir James Fraser (J. Fraser, 1959), Edward Sapir, (E. Sapir, 1949) Marcei Eliade. (M. Eliade, 1955) and Weston LaBarre (W. LaBarre, 1972). They show how Plato invented philosophy:(Wheeler, 1963) how Plato converted the attributes of the traditional deities into abstractions; purged them dialectically of their contradictions and inconsistencies; and then combined them into dialogues on political wisdom. Charles S. Peirce describes it as a projectivist model of invention (C.S. Peirce, 1966) that combines the analytical structure of the Platonic dialogue with metaphor making. One figuratively "throws" a known thing onto an unknown thing and identifies the first as the metaphor of the second. Then the properties of the unknown thing are explained by the properties of the metaphor.

Plato's dialectics was about the fundamental Logos-words and concepts behind every day appearances. An approach like that would obviously be congenial to someone trying to deal more fundamentally with the law behind the appearances of it in the rulings about the unwritten English common law. The process was summarized in The Advancement of Learning as requiring the performance of four information processing operations. They were named: *Invention*, *Judgment*, *Storage* and *Transmission*;(Works, Vol XI, Advancement of Learning, pp 300ff). They are uncanny anticipations of the protocols of the computer’s information processes: Encode, Store, Recall, Display, Process and Communicate(Wheeler,1990).


Today's English speaking academics use the term science in a highly specific way and restrict its meaning to essentially the mathematical and experimental sciences. Not all "sciences" can pass this muster. For ages prior to the "modern synthesis" the term “naturalist” emphasized the equivocal status of biology, conjuring up an image of the weekend amateur gentleman bird watcher. James Hutton based geological theory on the Baconian principle of a an underlying uniformitarianism. Taxonomy has been Baconian from its birth and Cladistics, its most productive offspring, has strong Baconian foundations, including versions of his "adminicle support" theory and of Goethe’s formenslehre. (Wheeler 1987) New Atlantis describes the inauguration of both science, and science as a profession. Science is the institutionalized revolution in knowledge of the Modern Age. In today's terms Bacon's inventions were like the invention of Systems Theory. Coleridge was right in calling Bacon "the British Plato [who] describes the Laws of the material universe as the Ideas in nature”. (Brinkley, 1955) He was right and he merely paraphrased Bacon's own statement that his new method was a Platonism of things rather than ideas. Indeed, the structure of Plato's process of invention was in fact very similar to Bacon's, (Wheeler, 1982), as was that of St. Augustine (Wheeler, 1997). Bacon's revolution in thought consisted of powering Plato's dialectic with his own new law-finding logic engine, resulting in scientific empiricism.(Wheeler,1983; 1983-b)

Why has this been missed? The main explanation derives from a defect of the otherwise superb Spedding edition of the Works. It was such an impressive achievement that historians and philosophers ever since have taken it as gospel. While this may be justified in the non-scientific writings, its translations of the scientific writings have conveyed a crippled understanding of Bacon’s contributions to the philosophical foundations of scientific empiricism. Robert Ellis, the editor and translator of Bacon's scientific writings, distorted and excised crucial passages in several of the scientific and philosophical works. He found "Baconian Form" difficult to understand and thought the result did not repay the effort. He abridged and shortened many of the Latin phrases and passages that he deemed obscure and unscientific, especially those dealing with the concept of schematismus. As a result, generations of scholars and philosophers who used the Ellis English translations were seriously misled about the new logic engine explained in the Latin originals. Ellis removed completely from the English translations Bacon's application of Plato's schematismos in the development of his own quite un-Platonic concept of "Form.” Ellis even denied the relevance of Form to an exposition of Bacon's logic of inquiry. Actually, the situation is even worse than this. Due to his final illness Ellis was not able to complete translating the philosophical and scientific works and was not even able to finish editing the translations he had already done. Ellis tended to play fast and loose with the Latin originals of Bacon’s arcane terms. Spedding, the chief editor, was a much sounder scholar and states he would have argued with Ellis about his translations if a discussion of them had been possible. A fascinating running debate is conducted by Spedding with Ellis post mortem in the prefaces, addenda and footnotes to the Latin originals.(Works, I, 133; 177, et. seq.) They make an important dialogue on Bacon’s science. Morris R. Cohen and Karl Popper philosophers of science in the positivist (classical mechanics) tradition were Bacon's most egregious detractors; Immanuel Kant his most appreciative follower. A retranslation of the passages containing Bacon’s schematismus arguments shows that it was used in much the same sense Immanuel Kant did a century and a half later. (Wheeler, 1983)


What Plato called schematismos is called Form in English, and in back of what is called Form in Bacon’s English texts lies schematismus in the Latin originals. Schematismus is also the key term in the phenomenology Kant used in Critique of Pure Reason to perform the "revolution in thought" that accommodated Hume’s criticism of Locke’s empiricism. Consult Kant’s Second Edition. Its Preface memorializes Baco de Verulamio and quotes in Latin the entreaty in Bacon’s Preface to the Great Instauration: science is not a dogma to be embraced but a calling to be pursued. Further along, Bacon’s role in the intellectual revolution of modern science is acknowledged.(I. Kant [N.K. Smith] 1933; especially Kant’s "Preface”.) It is too bad Ellis did not try to understand Bacon’s protest against the ignorance of intellectuals, and also Bacon’s decision not to make his theories easy to understand: “I cannot be fairly asked to abide by the decisions of a tribunal which is itself on trial”. Bacon was talking about people just like Ellis, his translator!

One cannot prove beyond any doubt that Bacon’s proto-phemenological schematismus led Kant to his own phenomenological schematismus but the thematic development of the first part of Critique of Pure Reason is like that in Novum Organum; not an identity but a similarity of terms and paradigms, and it develops according to an analogous analytical progression. In short, Kant appears to have used leads from Bacon to correct Descartes and Locke and to resolve Hume's paradox. Bacon’s "idola" for decontaminating sense data is like Kant’s idea of "critique." Bacon’s schematismus as a phenomenology of things rather than words, was the nascent phenomenology of science at the heart of the revolutionary Novum Organum,(see generally Wheeler, 1983). In the Advancement Bacon explicitly called this a revolution in thought and, as mentioned earlier was called the third in history after Greek philosophy and Roman Law; a fact missed by even so fine a scholar as I. Bernard Cohen in his history of revolutions in thought.(I.B. Cohen, 1985) Kant’s own "revolution in thought" turned on the use of schematismus to convert Locke’s sense data empiricism into scientific phenomenology. With the appearance of post-modern paradigms like John A. Wheeler's "participant-observer" universe it was possible to see that today’s neoKantian’s talk science almost the same way as did Francis Bacon. (Wheeler, 1975) So did Einstein's associate, David Bohm, (D. Bohm, 1981) and so also did Einstein himself, according to Yehuda Elkana (Y. Elkana, 1979; Patrick A. Heelan, 1983) Kant said he was a Baconian and he was right.


Here a caution is in order. Novum Organum was written in 1620. It explains the “logic engine” that Hooke, probably Bacon’s best interpreter, found so impressive. Prior science research, especially that done before 1603, was highly conventional. Most later criticism of Bacon’s science is based upon his early writings about that work. De Interpretatione Nature Proemium,(Works, Vol VI, 431ff) for example, was written before 1603, as were many of his speculations about motion, gravity, heat, etc. The earlier explorations cannot be used to evaluate the “philosophical algebra” (Hooke’s term) of the later organon.

Newton said he was a Baconian. Was this merely a reverential nod toward the founding spirit of the Royal Academy? Or was there a deeper affinity? Not according to the conventional view of the sharp contrast between Bacon’s philosophy and Newton’s mechanics. Recent publications dull that contrast. (I..B. Cohen & R. Westfall, 1995; B.J.T. Dobbs, 1991). The fuller view of his newly found manuscripts, especially those on alchemy and religion, make it clear that he adapted Bacon’s phenomenological law-finding to mechanical cause-finding. Maynard Keynes, who had an accurate understanding of Bacon’s logic, wrote of Newton that he “...was not the first of the Age of Reason. He was the last of the magicians”. Keynes bought many Newton alchemy manuscripts at a 1936 auction and they support his quip. But Newton, like Bacon, was actually more Baroque than Gothic. Bear two factors in mind while reading the following:

First, it applies the structure of Bacon’s logic of inquiry to mechanics. Consider Bacon’s recursive search for a law that is incrementally approached but never concretely grasped. Newton’s is not a word-based mathematics. His “fluxion” is an adminical approach to a Verulamian phenomenon - “gravity.”(Spedding, Works, Vol IV) Second, notice the metaphysical extension Newton gives to “Cause” at the end. The passage that follows is from the Method of Analysis in “Quest. 31" of the 4th edition of the Optiks:

The Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses [rhetoric; ] are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the "Method of Analysis": And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomana proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.... And if natural Philosophy in all its Parts, by pursuing this Method, shall at length be perfected, the Bounds of Moral Philosophy will also be enlarged. For so far as we can know by natural Philosophy what is the first Cause, what Power he has over us, and what Benefits we receive from him, so far our Duty towards him, as well as that towards one another, will appear to us by the Light of Nature..

This is one of the best explanations ever written of Bacon’s Adminicle support process; "inductive support", and concludes with the structural probability theory that 20th century philosophy of science has expressed as neohermeneutics.(Heelan, 1983)

Newton queried nature the way one investigates a case for which there is no direct evidence. Where there is only circumstantial evidence one investigates to exclude. This is the way today’s disverifiability theory of science works and it is also the way Newton’s Method of Analysis worked. In May 1666 he wrote: "I had entrance into the inverse method of fluxions." The inverse method was the exclusionary method of "analysis by experiment". The best illustration is in his discovery that if one used a prism to isolate a beam of light and showed it through a second prism it did not split up but retained what he called its "homogeneal" character. Using prisms in an adminicle support process explains not only how he came to his correct conclusions but also how he came to the incorrect ones. The conclusion that it is impossible to make a lens completely free from chromatic aberrations later proved to be in error.

Now take a look again at the conclusion of the Optiks quotation above. Having taken all nature as his province, Newton assumed naturally that the approach that worked for nature would also unravel the secrets of the metaphysical world, and even those of God’s own mind. That effort occupied him throughout his entire career, most intensively toward its end. Newton said he was a Baconian and he was right.

A final comment on contemporary mis-readings of Bacon’s New Atlantis. A long line of erroneous interpretations of the New Atlantis contribute to persisting misunderstandings about Bacon's science. The error dates from Benjamin Farrington's impressive and well meaning Francis Bacon: Philosopher of Industrial Science (B. Farrington, 1949) . Farrington applied a generic Marxist historicism as was common in his time. New Atlantis was the prime illustration of his claim that Bacon's work prefigured Victorian British capitalism. Farrington was writing at the height of industrial capitalism and his story is highly plausible. The late twentieth-century scientific revolution; the breaking of the nuclear, genetic and binary codes; still lay ahead. But Bacon was a mercantilist, not a protocapitalist. He ran the executive offices of British mercantilism, the Chancery, like a present-day Japanese Prime Minister. New Atlantis, one of Bacon's last works, summarized his philosophy of science. It illustrated the constitutionalization of science in prescient Baconian Inns of Science under a science chancery called Salomon's House - the book's crowning institution. The king is never mentioned. Parliamentary and court functions are described fairly close to the way the cabinet government of the British "working constitution" actually turned out (Wheeler, 1991). Today, Scandinavian welfare states maintain modernized mercantilist economic systems that are like what Bacon proposed. The most vivid available understanding of New Atlantis, fatally flawed however by the absence of a "Salomon’s House", is the sciential mercantilism of postmodern Japan.

Salomon's House in New Atlantis, named for the Old Testament law-finder, heads an elaborate science establishment that does well for the mythical Bensalem what finance capitalism does poorly for today’s post-industrial economies. It searches for evidences that "fingerpost" nature's unwritten laws. The science appeals courts evaluate science innovations and constitutionalize them. It runs, on a national scale, something like the way Bell Labs did at its prime. New Atlantis is more relevant today than at any time in the past.


The Baroque was still vibrant in 1603 but that is when, with the publication The Advancement of Learning, the Modern Age was heralded. Its first Latin expansion, The Augmentation of Science, discusses explicitly how to invent new culture making sciences. Most of Bacon’s books were rewritten three or four different ways for final inclusion in the Instauratio Magna. Large as it is, we have only one twentieth of what was planned. "Great Instauration" in English fails to convey the Olympian grandeur of the magistral reconstitution the author intended by the original Latin. The titles of the other chief books inspire Blake like images of a great secular messiah; a bringer of a Promethean gnosis. Hooke and Newton were the best expositors of Bacon’s science. Hooke, the first inventor of celestial mechanics,(Koyre, 1965) called Novum Organum a logic engine. It was: a user's how-to manual for the operation of a system of applied inventionology.

The Resuscitatio was not a mere revival as the English implies; it was more like a clarion call for the full rejuvenation of a senescent giant.

The Redargutio was not merely a refutation of archaic philosophy, rather a chewing up and spitting out.

The Instauratio! Although it is the inspiration for this treatment, I have failed to convey the audacity of the Instauratio. A complete cultural revolution was called for.

The New Atlantis tells how to pull it off.

Invention is the emblem of The Modern: the first human culture to institutionalize invention. That is why the Prometheus chapter in De Sapientia Veterum (Works, Vol XIII, loc cit.) is important; and why today's Bacon scholars who see him only as the Man of the Renaissance miss that chapter entirely. The Prometheus essay was a carefully crafted prescription for the transition from Gothic to Modern.-Harvey Wheeler
P.O. Box 704
Carpinteria CA 93014


[References to Bacon’s Works refer to The Works of Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, and Lord High Chancellor of England, Collected and edited by James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis and Douglas Denon Heath, 15 vols, Brown and Taggard, Boston, 1860-64. This is somewhat improved over the earlier British edition. Spedding’s Letters and Life of Francis Bacon must also be consulted.]

Bohannan, Paul, ed. (1967) Law and Warfare; Studies in the Anthropology of Conflict, “The Differing Realms of the Law”, Natural History Press, Garden City, New York.

Bohm, D (1981; 1995) Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge, London, New York,

Brinkley, R. (1955) ed. Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century Duke Univ Press, Durham

Cassirer, E. (1975) Philosophy of Symbolic Form, Yale Univ Press, New Haven

Cohen, I.B. (1985) Revolution in Science, Belknap Press, Harvard

Cohen, I.B. & R.S. Westfall, eds., Newton, WS.W. Norton, N.Y., 1995

Cohen, M. (1953; 1959) Reason and Nature; an Essay on the Meaning of the Scientific Method, 2nd ed. Free Press, Glencoe

Cohen, L. Jonathan (1977)_The Probable and the Provable, Oxford Univ Press, London

Coquillette, D.R. (1992) Francis Bacon, Stanford U. Press, Stanford. This is a superb work, not the least for its essay-like notes at the end.

Dobbs, B.J.T.,(1991) The Janus Faces of Genius; The Role of Alchemy in Newton’s Thought, Camb Univ Press, Cambridge

Eliade, Marcea (1955) The Myth of the Eternal Return, Pantheon Books, New York

Elkana, Y. (1979) “Transformations in Realist Philosophy of Science, etc.”, Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation.

Elsasser, Walter M., (1982) Biological Theory on a Holistic Basis, Johns Hopkins Dept of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Baltimore.

Elsasser, Walter M. (1986) The Natural Philosophy of Holism, Johns Hopkins Dept of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Baltimore.

Farrington, B. (1949) Francis Bacon: Philosopher of Industrial Science, Henry Schuman, New York

Fraser, Sir James (1959) The New Golden Bough, ed T. Gaster, Criterion Books, New York

Hacking, Ian (1983) Representing and Intervening; Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science, Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge. Hacking has remained one of Bacon’s most discerning and perceptive interpreters.

Hale, Sir Matthew (1667; 1971) History of the Common Law of England, Univ of Chicago Press, Chicago

Heelan, Patrick A. (1983) Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science, , Univ of CA. Press, Berkeley

Hogan, J.C., & Schwartz, M.D.(1983), “On Bacon’s ‘Rules and Maximes’ of the Common Law” Law Library Journal, 76:48-77

Holdsworth, W.S. (1938) A History of English Law 6th edition, Little Brown, Boston

Kant, Immanuel (1929) Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd ed. (N.K. Smith, trans) St. Martins

Kirk, G.S. (1982) The Nature of Greek Myths, Pelican Books, New York

Koyre, Alexandre (1965) Newtonian Studies, “Hooke on Gravitational Attraction,” p 180, ff,

Phoenix Books, Univ of Chicago Press, Chicago. Koyre’s studies of Platonism and science are invaluable. Had he understood Bacon’s reverse Platonism, he would have seen the Baconian foundations of classical mechanics.

La Barre, W. (1972) The Ghost Dance; the Origins of Religion, Delta Books, Dell Publishing Co., New York

Maitland, W.F. (1911) The Collected Papers of Frederick W. Maitland, 3 vols Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Martin, Julien, (1992) Francis Bacon, the State and the Reform of Natural Philosophy, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.

McIlwain, C.H., (1940) Constitutionalism, Ancient and Modern, Cornell Univ Press, Ithaca

Murray, G. (1957) The Classical Tradition in Poetry, Vintage Press, New York

Peirce, C.S. (1966) Selected Writings, Dover Press. Boston

Plunknett, T.F.T. (1936) A Concise History of the Common Law, Lawyers Coop Pub. Co., Rochester, New York

Popper, K (1959), The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Basic Books, New York

Sapir, E. (1921; 1949; 1992) Language; an Introduction to the Study of Speech., Harcourt Brace, New York

Sebeok, T.A. (1981) The Play of Musement, “You Know My Method”: A Juxtaposition of Charles S. Peirce and Sherlock Holmes”, Indiana Univ Press, Bloomington

Skolimowski, Henryk (1983) Alternatives, IX, No. 1

Skolomowski, Henryk (1992) Living Philosophy; eco-philosophy as a tree of life; Arkana, New York

Spedding, R., Ellis, R., & Heath, D., eds.; trans; The Works of Francis Bacon, XV vols, 1860-1864

Spedding, James, (1860) “Preface to the De Interpretatione Naturae Proemium, This Preface referred to writings by Bacon in about 1603 and prior to his theory of law-finding. I suggest it was his later phenomenology, not his early data, that influenced Newton.

Voltaire, (1961), Philosophical Letters, Bobbs Merrill, Indianapolis

Von Wright, G. (1960) A Treatise on Induction and Probability, Littlefield, Adams & Co., Patterson

Wheeler, Harvey (1947) Calvin’s Case and the Empire (dissertation) Indiana University

Wheeler, Harvey (1949) Constitutional Transition (PhD dissertation, Harvard University

Wheeler, Harvey (1956) “Calvin’s Case (1608) and the McIlwain-Schuyler Debate, Am Hist Rev, 61:587

Wheeler, Harvey (1963) “Plato’s Invention of Philosophy, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions

Wheeler, Harvey (1973) ed.& contr. Beyond the Punitive Society, W.H. Freemen, San Francisco Wheeler, Harvey (1975) Constitutionalism, (vol 5) Greenstein, F.I & Polsby, N.W. Handbook ofPolitical Science, 5 vols, Addison-Wesley

Wheeler, Harvey (1982) “The Invention of Wisdom; from the discovery of Audial Pschophysics to Plato’s politics,” ed. Harvey Wheeler, The Structure of Ancient Wisdom; Symposium, Jour Soc & Bio Structs, vol 5, No 3

Wheeler, Harvey, (1983) “Science out of Law”, Toward a Humanistic Science of Politics, D.H. Nelson & R.L. Sklar, Univ Press of Amer., New York

Wheeler, (1983-a) “Power and Positivism - Baconian Positivism”, Alternatives, A Journal of World Policy, IX No 2

Wheeler, Harvey (1983-b) “The Invention of Modern Empiricism: Juridical Foundations of Francis Bacon’s Philosophy of Science”, Law Library Journal, vol 76 No. 1

Wheeler, Harvey (1987) et. al., editors, Goethe and the Sciences: A Reappraisal, D. Reidel

Wheeler, Harvey (1987-a) The Virtual Society, book on disk, The Martha Boaz Foundation,University of Southern California. George Boole and John von Neumann symbolize information theory and the distinctive “Archival Functions” of the Information Age.

Wheeler, Harvey (1990), “The Archival Function: Knowledge Processing from the Mandalic to the Omnificent”, ed. Michael Gorman, Convergence, American Library Association, Chicago London

Wheeler, Harvey (1991) “Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis,, etc., ed W.A. Sessions, Francis Bacon’s Legacy of Texts, AMS Press, New York

Wormuth, Francis (1949), The Origins of Modern Constitutionalism, Harper & Brothers, New York