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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Sir Francis Bacon Quotes > Truth

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Sir Francis Bacon
(22 Jan 1561 - 9 Apr 1626)

English philosopher remembered for his influence promoting a scientific method. He held that the aim of scientific investigation is practical application of the understanding of nature to improve man’s condition.



…truth will sooner come out of error than from confusion.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 2, Aphorism 20. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 149.
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'...no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth … and to see the errors … in the vale below:' so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride.
Quoting an unnamed poet and adding a comment.
— Sir Francis Bacon
I. Of Truth,' Essays (1597). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 11
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Scientia nihil aliud est quam veritatis imago
Science is but an image of the truth.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 383:3.
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Another error is a conceit that … the best has still prevailed and suppressed the rest: so as, if a man should begin the labor of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest for the multitude’s sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial, than to that which is substantial and profound: for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Advancement of Learning, Book 1. Collected in The Works of Francis Bacon (1826), Vol 1, 36.
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Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
— Sir Francis Bacon
'Essays or Counsels: Civil and Moral. I. Of Truth'. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 6, 378.
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Democritus said; “That truth did lie in profound pits, and when it was got it need much refining.”
— Sir Francis Bacon
In 'A Collection of Apophthegms, New and Old' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), 'Contained in the original edition in octavo but omitted in later copies', No. 263, 353.
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For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things (which is the chief point) , and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to reconsider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture. So I thought my nature had a kind of familiarity and relationship with Truth.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From 'Progress of philosophical speculations. Preface to intended treatise De Interpretatione Naturæ (1603), in Francis Bacon and James Spedding (ed.), Works of Francis Bacon (1868), Vol. 3, 85.
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Since my logic aims to teach and instruct the understanding, not that it may with the slender tendrils of the mind snatch at and lay hold of abstract notions (as the common logic does), but that it may in very truth dissect nature, and discover the virtues and actions of bodies, with their laws as determined in matter; so that this science flows not merely from the nature of the mind, but also from the nature of things.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In Novum Organum (1620), Book 2, Aphorism 42.
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The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search for truth. So it does more harm than good.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 12. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 48-49.
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The understanding must not however be allowed to jump and fly from particulars to axioms remote and of almost the highest generality (such as the first principles, as they are called, of arts and things), and taking stand upon them as truths that cannot be shaken, proceed to prove and frame the middle axioms by reference to them; which has been the practice hitherto, the understanding being not only carried that way by a natural impulse, but also by the use of syllogistic demonstration trained and inured to it. But then, and then only, may we hope well of the sciences when in a just scale of ascent, and by successive steps not interrupted or broken, we rise from particulars to lesser axioms; and then to middle axioms, one above the other; and last of all to the most general. For the lowest axioms differ but slightly from bare experience, while the highest and most general (which we now have) are notional and abstract and without solidity. But the middle are the true and solid and living axioms, on which depend the affairs and fortunes of men; and above them again, last of all, those which are indeed the most general; such, I mean, as are not abstract, but of which those intermediate axioms are really limitations.
The understanding must not therefore be supplied with wings, but rather hung with weights, to keep it from leaping and flying. Now this has never yet been done; when it is done, we may entertain better hopes of science.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 104. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 97.
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There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 20. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 50.
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There are, and can be, but these two ways of seeking truth; the former, the anticipatory, is the one now in use; the latter is the true but yet untried path.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Cited as Aphorism 19 in book review 'A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy' in The Quarterly Review (Jul 1831), 45, No. 90, 399. This appears to be an abridged version of Aphorism 20 shown on this web page.
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Truth comes out of error more readily than out of confusion.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In Novum Organum (1620).
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Truth is a naked and open daylight, that doth not shew the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candlelights.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Essays Civil and Moral,' I, 'Of Truth'. In The Works of Francis Bacon (1824), Vol. 2, 253.
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Truth more easily comes out of error than out of confusion.
— Sir Francis Bacon
As quoted by Thomas Huxley, Address delivered to the Working Men's Club and Institute, 'Technical Education' (1 Dec 1877), in Nineteenth Century (1878), 65-85. Collected in Science and Culture, and Other Essays (1881), 66.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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