In 17th century Europe, the world was essentially flat, the church ruled everyone’s life, and it was wiser to go along with preconceived notions. However, for two men that was not enough. Frances Bacon and Rene Descartes simply refused to submit to preconceived notions that had evolved in science.
Both Bacon and Descartes believed the standard way of looking at their world was riddled with error. Bacon wrote in his New Organon, “Moreover, the works already known are due to chance and experiment rather that to sciences; for the sciences we now possess are merely systems for the nice ordering and setting forth of things already invented…” (p. 11). He goes on two stanzas down, “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 after truth. So it does more harm than good”. Descartes came to roughly the same conclusions as he travelled. He wrote in his Discourse on Method, “The greatest advantage I derived from my study was this: although observing many customs which seem extravagant and ridiculous to us, are by common consent accepted and approved by other great nations. I also learned not to hold too firmly to those truths which I had accepted merely by example and custom. Thus I gradually liberated myself from many errors powerful enough to cloud our natural intelligence, and keep us in great measure from listening to reason” (p. 22). These were just a few of the thoughts that helped lead both Bacon and Descartes to new methods in reasoning.