Francis Bacon and Peter Thiel on Foundations

I’m reading through Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (for this class). It’s a pretty amazing work.

Aphorism 14 from Book 1 stands out:

The syllogism consists of propositions, propositions consist of words, words are symbols of notions. Therefore if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and over-hastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure. Our only hope therefore lies in a true induction.

This reminded me of Thiel’s law from a few days back: 

A startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed.  

For Bacon, you have to get your notios (best translated as “notions” or “concepts,” apparently) right. Then you have a chance at getting your sentences right. Which means you have a chance at getting your paragraphs right, and so on and so forth all the way up the chain. Implicit in this is that you can’t fix a flawed notio. It’s doomed.

Similarly, Peter stresses the importance of getting your company’s foundation right. Do that and you then have a chance of, say, raising VC and/or creating a viable product. Which means you have a chance of generating revenue and then profit. And so on, up the chain toward a successful exit. Get it wrong and you’re doomed.

Tags: work