English Literature » Notes » Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Bacon challenged the basic beliefs of man e.g. truth, love, friendship, honesty, secrecy and reshaped them. He challenged the most established norm and ideals of mankind.

He questioned everything; he questioned what was, generally, considered unquestionable. He was an iconoclast. His approach was revolutionary. He begins his essays with a challenging statement i.e. what is truth, what is friendship and what is love.

He was very skeptical. He believed that the test of the truth of everything is in practical observation. He believes that experience is the basis of every judgment. This is called empirical approach. And no doubt he was an empiricist. His way of thinking was inductive. It was based upon facts and upon data. His spirit of inquiry and spirit of skepticism was the outcome of Renaissance. Bacon was very utilitarian. Like a scientist, he did only what was useful.

His training had been as a scholastic but his approach was anti-scholastic. He was bitterly against the scholastic approach. He said that the arguments of scholastics appear to be very intelligent and philosophical but actually these are nothing but only mental luxury. He said that scholastic try to prove the proven, means, who is God, what is sin or reward. In philosophy, this attitude is called begging in question. What is to be proved, it is taken as supposed.

Bacon says the reasoning of schoolmen is in fact very smart and full of life but actually this life is like the life of worms in rotten flesh. They appear to be very active but this is a very deadly activity. They are not agent of life rather they are the agents of death. The arguments of scholastics kill the mind than to develop the mind. Thus Bacon demolished the scholasticism with their own tools.

Bacon gave the theory of “duality of truth”. He proved that ideals are definitely good but ideals are only for ideal and perfect people. Imperfect people can’t follow the ideals and when they can’t follow them they go reverse and tell lies. Bacon said that everyone should try to be as good as possible. One must realize his faculties. An imperfect man must compromise with his imperfection. Instead of cursing himself one should compromise with his imperfection. This is called “expediency”. That truth is only for ideal people and for common man expediency should be the principle.

Bacon said that there are two kinds of truths – heavenly truth and earthly truth. He further said that heavenly truth is contained in Bible and it is for “salvation”. But earthly truth is in the laws of nature and in the means of science and it is necessary for earthly success. And this earthly truth is different from heavenly truth. Both are opposite to each other and can’t function for its opposite and one must be able to differentiate between them. This is called relativity of truth or duality of truth. L. C. Knight wrote that Bacon did not give the theory of the duality of truth but he only stated the facts who actually believe in their conducts.

What Bacon’s essays reveal is that:

Man in relation to the world and society.
Man in relation to himself
Man in relation his Maker.

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