A System of Logic

John Stuart Mill

Book 6, Chapter 5, Footnote #02

Bacon's rule defended ``To which'', says Dr. Whewell, ``we may add, that it is certain from the history of the subject, that in that case the hypothesis would never have been framed at all.''

Dr. Whewell (Philosophy of Discovery, pp. 277--282) defends Bacon's rule against the preceding strictures. But his defence consists only in asserting and exemplifying a proposition which I had myself stated, viz. that though the largest generalisations may be the earliest made, they are not at first seen in their entire generality, but acquire it by degrees, as they are found to explain one class after another of phenomena. The laws of motion, for example, were not known to extend to the celestial regions until the motions of the celestial bodies had been deduced from them. This, however, does not in any way affect the fact that the middle principles of astronomy, the central force, for example, and the law of the inverse square, could not have been discovered if the laws of motion, which are so much more universal, had not been known first. On Bacon's system of step-by-step generalisation, it would be impossible in any science to ascend higher than the empirical laws; a remark which Dr. Whewell's own Inductive Tables, referred to by him in support of his argument, amply bear out.

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Sol, Book 6, Chapter 5 Of Ethology, or the Science of the Formation of Character