Scientific Inquiry of Bacon and Descartes

Essay by pyrokid3University, Bachelor's March 2009

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During the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, both Francis Bacon and René Descartes established and promoted their own forms of scientific inquiry and natural philosophy. Francis Bacon promoted the use of inductive research with the goal of benefiting mankind, and René Descartes promoted the use of mathematics in scientific understanding. Both Bacon and Descartes challenged, and were radically different from, the traditional Aristotelian school of thought, and each believed that the old scientific processes were useless in proving beneficial theories. Both men used God to support and justify their systems of scientific inquiry. Although Bacon and Descartes disagreed in their use of mathematics, and inductive reasoning vs. practical analogies, both contributed to improving the scientific process.

Francis Bacon's scientific inquiry was based on induction, which was very different from the traditional Aristotelian inquiry based on deduction. Aristotelian philosophers formed conclusions by going from the general to the specific, therefore using deduction to support their ideas and theories.

For example, an Aristotelian deduction might be that all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, and therefore Socrates is mortal. Bacon rejected the use of deduction because he believed that you could arrive at a more correct assumption by using a few particulars to support a general statement . A simplistic example of inductive reasoning is, this ice is cold and therefore all ice is cold. Bacon proposed that the use of the deductive, or demonstrative, system was flawed because it only produced particular statements and not general ones . For these reasons, Bacon believed that the scientific system of the time was only good for scholastic debate on existing knowledge, and was completely useless in discovering important works, or new practical applications .

Bacon's goal for scientific inquiry was to discover practical applications that benefited mankind, which was another difference...