The fruitful thoughts which lay under and gave rise to these scattered efforts of the human mind, were gathered up into unity, and reduced to system in the new philosophy of Bacon. It is assuredly little matter for wonder that this philosophy should contain much that is now inapplicable, and that in many respects it should be vitiated by radical errors. The details of the logical method on which its author laid the greatest stress have not been found of practical service; yet the fundamental ideas on which the theory rested, the need for rejecting rash generalization, and the necessity for a critical analysis of experience, are as true and valuable now as they were then. Progress in scientific discovery is made mainly, if not solely, by the employment of hypothesis, and for that no code of rules can be laid down such as Bacon had devised. Yet the framing of hypothesis is no mere random guesswork; it is left not to the imagination alone, but to the scientific imagination. There is required in the process not merely a preliminary critical induction, but a subsequent experimental comparison, verification or proof, the canons of which can be laid down with precision.
To formulate and show grounds for these laws is to construct a philosophy of induction, and it must not be forgotten that the first step towards the accomplishment of the task was made by Bacon when he introduced and gave prominence to the powerful logical instrument of exclusion or elimination.
It is curious and significant that in the domain of the moral and metaphysical sciences his influence has been perhaps more powerful, and his authority has been more frequently appealed to, than in that of the physical. This is due, not so much to his expressed opinion that the inductive method was applicable to all the sciences, as to the generally practical, or, one may say, positive spirit of his system. Theological questions, which had tortured the minds of generations, are by him relegated from the province of reason to that of faith. Even reason must be restrained from striving after ultimate truth; it is one of the errors of the human intellect that it will not rest in general principles, but must push its investigations deeper. Experience and observation are the only remedies against prejudice and error. Into questions of metaphysics, as commonly understood, Bacon can hardly be said to have entered, but a long line of thinkers have drawn inspiration from him, and it is not without justice that he has been looked upon as the originator and guiding spirit of what is known as the empirical school.