Doina-Cristina Rusu

Doina-Cristina Rusu

I'm a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen. I work on the history of philosophy and science in the early modern period.

Location Groningen, The Netherlands


  • Dear Sally, If you enlarge the picture a bit you can see all the terms. Most people thought about experiment, observation, hypothesis.

  • This is a legend. It is true Bacon was working on some experiments about cold and preservation of bodies (important issue at the time, food was expiring easily). In one of his last letters he said he would die like Pliny, for science (Pliny dies gathering information about a volcanic eruption). There are alternative theories about what might have caused his...

  • This is a very interesting distinction! Bacon was a lawyer and scholars argue that his method was influenced by the legal practice. Experiments are used to disclose features that are otherwise hidden. As for evidence... Bacon might say that since our capacities are limited we can't find a ultimate evidence. However, if a hypothesis works in practice, there...

  • I guess it is really a problem of boundaries. This example seems to be more than simple observation, but not interventionist enough as to control the conditions and consider it an experiment (at least what it is considered an experiment in philosophy of science, OED seems more permissive indeed). A way of 'experimenting with eggs would be to change the...

  • Thank you Edward for pointing it out. In the video I try to be short and say as much as possible. Of course there are several other examples which I did not mention, as this one.

  • You are right, repeatability was indeed vital for early modern science. On the other hand, it is difficult to establish a pattern. They were considering of course that the world is ordered and that the same conditions should lead to the very same result (the religions context is also important - God does not want to deceive us, matter and the laws of nature...

  • You are right in pointing out that there is no mathematisation in this experiment. My argument was that this is the next step do be done after performing the experiment. And Bacon does quantification is a few cases. As for verifying old stories, we have to keep in mind that seventeenth century was still very much about authority. A story was true because of...

  • In the next step I explain what is going on in this text. I hope you find it more intelligible. Please let know.

  • This is a very interesting idea. If we define experiment as intervention into nature, would you say that opening eggs is an experiment?

  • Bacon describes experiments as 'torture' of nature, a process though which we oblige nature to answer our questions and 'tell' us how it functions. Don't you think that this is more than careful observation?

  • It was very good that you asked, Halla. Observation is always the beginning, it is just not enough to understand the causes of certain processes and what happens at a hidden level. Human behaviour might be different than studying natural processes. However, you do have experiments in the field of psychology, right? I think there are some similarities...

  • Yes, experiments were concerned with natural world. What I meant was that it was not always the case that people though experimentation can bring valid knowledge. You will see further also some counterarguments for the experimental view.

  • For Aristotle, and other ancients, the elements were distinct than the sensitive things with the same name. The elements were in wood in potency, so when the form of the composite body is lost, that body transforms back into those elements.

  • Yes, we should read 'microscope'. Thank you for pointing it out

  • Some scholars see Bacon as a corpuscularian, others do not. He does not have the same concept of particle as Descartes do. Bacon's particles are vitalist more than mechanical, so the story is a bit more nuanced.

  • Very good observation. Yes, Bacon had a 'logic of discovery' called 'literate experience' which taught the experimenter how to move from one experiment to another. Each experiment opens new questions. Science is for Bacon like a tree: each branch creates new branches, and they are intertwined.

  • Of course 'mere observation' is the basis, but an Aristotelian would have to stop here and not proceed to experimentation in order to answer the questions raised by observation. We can further ask to what extent even 'mere observation' is non-intentional. If I look at something it means I am already directed towards that thing. A way to see this distinction...

  • I was referring to what image you consider representative for science in general, not in connection with Bacon. It can be historical or contemporary.

  • Is this more intelligible?
    Bacon's induction is indeed a very complex thing and scholars are still debated what is at stake there.

  • In the past few years it had been argued that the story about Bacon is a bit more nuanced. It seems that he performed several experiments, that he had assistants in doing so, and that he was in touch with practitioners. If this is true, then his philosophy of experimentation was influenced by his own practices.

  • It is! And it probably has to do with the fact that Scholastics were in charge with teaching within universities. In the last years, there have been several debates on the influence of alchemy (but also magic and artisanal activities, such as glass making) on the 'birth of modern (experimental) science'!

  • Yes, Bacon was very concerned with language. His main problem was not so much that you give being to something if you name it, but that by naming things that do not exist, knowledge is affected and there can be no advancement. This is why one has to start from visible things (that have a certain existence) and abstract step by step.

  • Sylva sylvarum was published a few months after Bacon's death, in English (together with the New Atlantis. This is indeed, Bacon's original, and quite difficult, language. He published mostly in Latin, but a few works are in English, such as The Advancement of Learning (mentioned by Peter), The Essays, The History of Henry the Eighth, etc.

  • Indeed, metaschematisms refer to changes of bodies. As Gemma observed, they are not visible to the eye. We can see the effects (the body is different then before), but we cannot see 'the true cause' of such change.

  • Yes, Laura, you are perfectly right, it was 'spring'. Thank you for noticing, it was very misleading.