What is Sir Francis Bacon's inductive reasoning and what is its connection to Enlightenment in English literature?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Francis Bacon's book The Advancement of Learning, Bacon postulated that there was no reason for humankind to continue to be limited by the boundaries of previous great men's thoughts and explorations. A symbol of this idea appears with the title from his book Instauratio Magna, which contains Novum Organum, which is Bacon's challenge to Aristotle's methods. The symbol is a drawing of a ship passing under Hercules' Columns, which had historically been recognized as the limits of human exploration. Bacon posited a new method of thought that began with collecting data followed by interpretation thereof and experimentation which was to reveal nature's secrets through organization of observed regularities.

In logic, this style of thinking is called inductive reasoning, sometimes referred to as "bottom up" thinking. Inductive reasoning starts with specifics, like data, and moves from specifics to the general by undergoing interpretation to discover patterns and experimentation to test hypothetical theories (hypotheses) resulting in general conclusions leading to theories. Bacon's thinking predates The Enlightenment and provides the backbone for The Enlightenment's confidence in empiricism and reason. The ideas of The Enlightenment informed the development of Enlightenment era literature, such as Jane Austen's works in which she advocates reasoned approaches to life instead of emotional approaches based largely--or solely--on sensibilities (emotions).

[For more information, see (links) Oregon State University and William M.K. Trochim, Cornell University, from which this answer is drawn.]