The Romantics, in seeking to understand nature in her living essence, studied the 'father of science', Sir Francis Bacon. The view of Bacon and the 'inductive method' that emerges is quite a different one from that tended to prevail both before and then after, here mainly due to John Stuart Mill's interpretation later in the 1800s. For the Romantics, induction as generally interpreted 'was not enough to produce correct understanding in Bacon's terms.' They saw another side of Bacon, generally not developed, one in which nature was a labyrinth not open to "excellence of wit" nor "chance experiments": "Our steps must be guided by a clue,[Clue] and see what way from the first perception of the sense must be laid out upon a sure plan."
The chief spokesman for Romantic philosophy and the 'science of science' or epistemology, was Samuel Taylor Coleridge. An anonymous article (written by John Stuart Mill) published in the Westminster Review of 1840 noted that "the Romantic philosophy of Coleridge pervaded the minds and hearts of a significant portion of British intellectuals." Coleridge held that Bacon's view was that the secrets of nature, the inner essence that Bacon termed natura naturans, required a different "mode of knowing" from the intellect, but required a knowing that was "participative in its essence" and "above the ordinary human consciousness, a super-conscious mind." Here Coleridge refers to Bacon's idea of the 'Lumen siccum' - dry light or Platonic Idea that exists before and above any observation of nature, indeed directs and influences it - an organizing idea.
A good example of what Coleridge is talking about would be the shift from the Ptolemaic, earth-centred universe, which accords with man's immediate experience, to the Copernican, helio-centric one, which accords with reason. Without the benefit of the organizing idea involving a higher cognitive faculty, science will tend to deal with secondary aspects of nature instead of the primary, essential properties. As Richard Saumarez, a contemporary of Coleridge, and the creator of a dynamic understanding of physiology, wrote:
An example of this is the difference between Newton's approach to understanding color as seen via light bent through a prism (secondary event) and Goethe's approach which involved the direct observation (in the original sense of participation using that faculty of mind Coleridge called for) as set out in his Chromatology (Farbenlehre).
For Coleridge, Bacon's emphasis on clearing the "idols' that refract and distort the intellect, and developing a higher cognitive capacity is an integral part of Bacon's method for science.
For Coleridge, Bacon is rightly seen as the 'father of science', but not for the right reasons. Coleridge set out to correct what he saw as a misunderstanding of Bacon's scientific method. First he deals with the “original Science of natura naturata methodology of Francis Bacon.” He notes with Saumarez that Bacon also calls for an 'organizing idea' in science which both frames and helps to realize the experiment.
While it is true that Bacon praises the experiment over sense perception, this is in the context of there being a valid organizing idea to begin with. Without it, sense perception will amount to pure empiricism, which may lead to a compass (technology), but no advance in science (Idea and Law), but also without it, experiment becomes arid and without foundation in reality.
While experiment is important to avoid subjective sense-impressions, as Bacon rightly says, what he says for Coleridge is that " our perception can apprehend through the organs of sense only the phenomena evoked by the experiment, but that same power of mind which out of its own laws has proposed the experiment, can judge whether in nature there is a law correspondent to the same."
The organizing idea for Bacon is something different from sense-experience.
So in summary, for Coleridge, Bacon's system is properly one that derives from and depends on the supersensible realm.
Thus, method involves the ordering of sense-data according to an idea which is not derived from the senses, but informs the data, such that their meaning is revealed when properly ordered - this order is not a matter of chance or random happenings out of the sense-data, but directed by the very nature of the idea being used, consciously or sub-consciously (as is most often the case in scientific genius).
From our innate experience of a connection with that which we experience as also separate, arises the necessary corollary that there is a dynamic relationship (because polar) between ourselves and nature.
Thus, the method of inquiry that Coleridge develops 'is a holistic, relational metaphysic that is perpetually self-correcting' and this ongoing metaphysical/scientific inquiry has two defining features: a leading thought and a progression or advancement, that it 'cannot...otherwise than by abuse, be applied to a mere dead arrangement, containing in itself a distinct science, the immediate offspring of philosophy, and the link or mordant by which philosophy becomes scientific and the sciences philosophical'.
Whewell's inductivism shares "numerous features with Bacon's method of interpreting nature" such as that induction must go beyond merely simple collation of instances and that inductive science can reach unobservables - "for Bacon, the “forms,” for Whewell, unobservable entities such as light waves or properties such as elliptical orbits or gravitational forces."
For Whewell as for Bacon the mind had to be engaged actively in what was selected for observation and then when it was observed, otherwise "the resulting theory is not an “induction,” but rather a “hasty and imperfect hypothesis.”
Whewell's is an inductive method "yet it clearly differs from the more narrow inductivism of Mill."
Charles Sanders Peirce pointed out why Bacon's approach, which involves what he calls abduction as well as induction, tended to become reduced to induction, and then collapsed by Popper into the hypothetico-deductive model, where the hypothesis, which contains both the abductive inference and the inductive reasoning, becomes just a guess rather than being seen as a result of careful thought - Bacon's 'lumens siccum'.
^ Clue: Bacon is using "clue" not in the modern sense but in an older one, a strand of yarn etc. as used to guide one through a labyrinth. Taken with his use of the word "labyrinth", this alludes to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur:
In The Great Instauration Francis Bacon is explicit:
But the universe to the eye of the human understanding is framed like a labyrinth, presenting as it does on every side so many ambiguities of way, such deceitful resemblances of objects and signs, natures so irregular in their lines and so knotted and entangled…
And a little later Bacon makes the allusion as explicit as it can be: 'Our steps must be guided by a clue.'