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Babbage, Charles (1792-1871)

English mathematician. A century before the development of electronic computers, Babbage invented a mechanical "difference engine" for the calculation of arithmetical functions and set out plans for an "analytical engine" whose operation would have included logarithmic and trigonometric functions as well. Babbage difference engine Babbage's interest in the practical conduct of business led to an extensive commentary on the inefficiency of common practices in The Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832), Comparative View of the Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives, and Reflections on the Decline of Science in England.

Recommended Reading: Charles Babbage: Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, ed. by Martin Campbell-Kelly (Rutgers, 1994), Bruce Collier and James MacLachlan, Charles Babbage and the Engines of Perfection (Oxford, 2000), and Laura J. Snyder, The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World (Broadway, 2011) .

Also see DPM, EB, and MMT.

Bachelard, Gaston (1884-1962)

French philosopher of science; author of Psychoanalyse du feu (Psychoanalysis of Fire) (1937), Le nouvel esprit scientifique (The New Scientific Spirit) (1934), and L'Actualitiè de l'histoire des sciences (History of Science) (1951). Rejecting both naive realism and absolute idealism, Bachelard maintained that scientific knowledge emerges from an imaginative interaction between the mind and experimental evidence, especially in twentieth-century quantum mechanics. His emphasis on discontinuity in the progress of science, accommodated in a non-Cartesian epistemology, anticipated portions of the work of Thomas Kuhn.

Recommended Reading: Mary Tiles, Bachelard: Science and Objectivity (Cambridge, 1985).

Bacon, Francis (Lord Verulam) (1561-1626)
Francis Bacon

English politician and philosopher. Bacon became Lord Chancellor of England in 1618, but was driven immediately from office under charges of official corruption. As an early empiricist, he rejected scholastic accounts of the natural world in favor of a new method for achieving knowledge, based exclusively on careful observation and cautious eliminative induction, which he described in The Advancement of Learning (1605) and Novum Organum ( New Organon) (1620). Bacon warned that effective reasoning must be freed from the "idolatrous" influence of personal interest, human nature, social conventions, and academic philosophy. In The New Atlantis (1626), Bacon described the far-reaching social consequences of his epistemological program. Bacon's Essays (1601) address the whole range of his philosophical and social interests.

Recommended Reading: Selected Philosophical Works, ed. by Rose-Mary Sargent (Hackett, 1999); The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. by Markku Peltonen (Cambridge, 1996); and Stephen Gaukroger, Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early Modern Philosophy (Cambridge, 2001).

Also see IEP, SEP, EB on Bacon and Baconian method, ELC, Alfred Weber, WSB, CE, and Luminarium.

Bacon, Roger (1214-1292)
R. Bacon

English Franciscan philosopher who translated many Aristotelean treatises from Arabic into Latin. Although passionately interested in alchemy and magic, Roger defended reliance upon mathematics and experimental methods for the improvement of human knowledge generally and theological understanding in particular in the Opus Maius (Greater Work) (1267) and On Experimental Science (1268). His novel educational doctrines were understood to violate the condemnation of 1277, and much of Roger's later work, including the Compendium Studii Theologiae (1292) was suppressed.

Recommended Reading: Brian Clegg, The First Scientist: The Visionary Genius of Roger Bacon (Carroll & Graf, 2003); Roger Bacon's Philosophy of Nature, tr. by David C. Lindberg (St. Augustine, 1997); and Stewart C. Easten, Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science (Greenwood, 1984).

Also see SEP, EB, ELC, and WSB.

baculum, argumentum ad

See appeal to force.

bad faith {Fr. mauvaise foi}

In the philosophy of Sartre, an effort to avoid anxiety by denying the full extent of one's own freedom. Bad faith, on this view, is an especially harmful variety of self-deception, since it forestalls authentic appropriation of responsibility for ourselves.

Recommended Reading: Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, tr. by Hazel E. Barnes (Washington Square, 1993) and Ronald E. Santoni, Bad Faith, Good Faith, and Authenticity in Sartre's Early Philosophy (Temple, 1995).

Baier, Annette (1929- )

American moral philosopher. From a thoughtful reading of Hume, Baier derives an ethical stance that emphasizes the importance of membership within a moral community in A Progress of Sentiments: Reflections on Hume's Treatise (1991). In "What Do Women Want in a Moral Theory?" (1983), she argues that the concept of trust provides a vital link between traditional (male) accounts of rational obligation and the equally traditional (female) "ethics of love." Her most recent publications include and Moral Prejudices: Essays on Ethics (1994) and The Commons of the Mind (Open Court, 1997).

Baier, Kurt (1917- )

American moral philosopher. In The Moral Point of View (1958), Baier argues that practical reasoning that takes into account both individual and social considerations is the appropriate method for deciding "what is the best thing to do" in particular circumstances. Thus, we are moral because it is rational so to be, even when our private interests are outweighed by the welfare of others.

Recommended Reading: Kurt Baier, The Rational and the Moral Order: The Social Roots of Reason and Morality (Open Court, 1994) and Reason, Ethics, and Society: Themes from Kurt Baier With His Responses, ed. by Kurt Baier and J.B. Schneewind (Open Court, 1996).

Also see IEP.

Bakunin, Mikhail Alexandrovich (1814-1876)

Russian philosopher and political anarchist; author of Marxism, Freedom, and the State (1872) and God and the State (1916). Bakunin participated in several European revolutionary movements in an effort to derive practical benefits from the theories of Marx and Proudhon. His philosophical writings emphasized the use of negative arguments as a dialectical method for defining creative results rather than relying upon what he regarded as pseudo-scientific theories of government.

Recommended Reading: The Basic Bakunin: Writings 1869-1871, ed. by Robert M. Cutler (Prometheus, 1992) and Brian Morris, Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom (Consortium, 1996).

Also see Anarchist Archives, EB, and ELC.


Name given by medieval logicians to any categorical syllogism whose standard form may be designated as AAA-1.

Example: All finches are birds, and all cardinals are finches, so all cardinals are birds.

This most common of all patterns in syllogistic reasoning is one of only fifteen forms that are always valid.


Name given by medieval logicians to a categorical syllogism whose standard form is AOO-2.

Example: All cats are furry mammals, but some housepets are not furry mammals, so some housepets are not cats.

This is another of the fifteen forms in which syllogisms are always valid.

Bayes, Thomas (1702-1761)

English clergyman and mathematician. "Bayes theorem," first stated in his Essay towards solving a problem in the doctrine of chances (1764), proposes that evidence confirms the likelihood of an hypothesis only to the degree that the appearance of this evidence would be more probable with the assumption of the hypothesis than without it.

Recommended Reading: Bradley P. Carlin and Thomas A. Louis, Bayes and Empirical Bayes Methods for Data Analysis (CRC, 2000); Empirical Bayes and Likelihood Inference, ed. by S. E. Ahmed and N. Reid (Springer Verlag, 2000); The Theory That Would Not Die, by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne (Yale, 2011); and John Earman, Bayes or Bust?: A Critical Examination of Bayesian Confirmation (Bradford, 1992).

Also see SEP on: Bayesian Epistemology and Bayes' Theorem, MMT, EB on Bayes and Bayes' Theorem.

Bayle, Pierre (1647-1706)

French philosopher whose monumentally complex Dictionnaire historique et critique (Historical and Critical Dictionary) (1697) helped to promote the development of modern skepticism and greatly influenced the philosophy of Hume.

For a discussion of his life and works, see Bayle.


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Last modified 22 November 2011.
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