Francis Bacon in an Early Work Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3197 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Francis Bacon

In an early work, intended as preface to his life's work Sir. Francis Bacon pronounced his desire to discover and share truth, in his case truth about nature and the knowledge of it. He believed himself destined to and predisposed to discover and teach that which he believed was shrouded by religion. According to one analyst his life goals and worldview were threefold, the discovery of truth, the welfare of his country, and the reform of religion. His belief was that his devotion to the first and it'd application in service to his country would greatly assist mankind in its greater goal to understand science and nature, in his eloquent words "Truth." found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things (which is the chief point), and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture. So I thought my nature had a kind of familiarity and relationship with Truth."

Sorley 18-19)

By his own design, he believed himself to be both destined and suited for philosophy and the furtherance of knowledge, state and faith. He attempted to place this "nature" at the forefront of his decisions both scientifically and personally.

It was within the embodiment of these three goals that Bacon wrote his works, some as a mark of the first expression of such thoughts in the vulgar language of his own region, English. At a time when nearly all works of this nature were written and published in the language of learning, Latin that Bacon's furtherance of English marks him as a pioneer in the use of the Vulgar as a means to teach and express knowledge. With the publishing of Advancement of Learning in 1605 Bacon became one of the first philosophers to use the vulgar as an object of philosophical learning. Some fifty years prior a distinguished man of letters was imprisoned for doing the same. (Sorley 14) "In the Advancement he had a special purpose in view: he wished to get support and co-operation in carrying out his plans; and he regarded the book as only preparatory to a larger scheme."

Sorley 15) the realization of this greater purpose was the reason for the publication of one of his initial works, in the vulgar. For the more serious works on science Bacon reverted to Latin, to lend credibility and substance to his thoughts and to speak to the learned part of society. (Sorley 15)

Bacon began and ended his career during a time of transition. The Church of England was at the very least under scrutiny for the degeneration of its officials and reformers where ripe to make changes, some expressing a desire to completely abolish the church and its right to power and influence, because of its flagrant abuses. The opposition became known as the Puritan camp, and though Bacon often found them to conservative he regarded their main points as timely and appropriate.

But in his frank recognition of the existence of imperfections in the Church, and of the need of some reform, he appears to incline to the latter. [Puritan] it is creditable alike to his statesmanship and to his independence of character that, at a time when all deviations from the forms of the prayer-book were known to be distasteful to the Queen, Bacon should have pleaded for elasticity, and that he should have applied to Church policy his favourite maxim that "the contentious retention of custom is a turbulent thing." (Abbott 25-26)

Though he was not alone in his desire to see mass reformation within the church, especially considering their still fragile state as in contrast and conflict to the Roman Catholic Church there is still great evidence that Bacon's impartiality, or lack of strict adherence to one or the other camp left him in a particularly strong position to point out fault in both belief sets, more or less impartially. Bacon remained true to the idea that the thing that hides truth from man is his predisposition to believe things are honestly based on tradition. He did not necessarily embrace reform or condemn faith in its entirety but instead he debased the fixed ideas that doggedly went about closing man's eyes to truth. To Bacon Religion and archaic philosophy (especially Aristotelian) both posed a grave threat to real discovery, not because they are inherently bad and serve no purpose and hold no knowledge but because within them is the predisposition to believe that there is one discoverable truth and no other.

Bacon writes like a sensible Erastian, with Puritan inclinations, who has a profound belief in the value of the Christian religion, and an equally profound indifference to small details of Church government or ceremonies.

Abbott 25)

If bacon had been strongly inclined to place value in one or the other camp he would have been unable to point out real value and real fault in either. In this way he attempted to create a way, more decidedly a plan in which man could follow a course of action to explore and find truth.

No Anglican, and no decided Puritan, could have written this paper. A Puritan could hardly have laid his finger so exactly upon the faults of his brethren, or have maintained so unhesitatingly that every Church should do that which is convenient for the Estate of itself ("consentiamus in eo quod convenit"): still less could a thorough-going Anglican...have made the implied admission that the Reformed Churches were superior to the Church of England in the absence of some "abuses" (" neither yet do I admit that their form is better than ours if some abuses were taken away") or have written the following sentence:

Hence (exasperate through contentions) they are fallen to a direct condemnation of the contrary part, as of a sect. Yea, and some indiscreet persons have been bold in open preaching to use dishonourable and derogative speech and censure of the Churches abroad; and that so far as some of our men (as I have heard) ordained in foreign parts have been pronounced to be no lawful ministers."

(Abbott 25)

According to Abbott, Bacon expressed equal dislike for the decisions and actions both groups made against the other. He believed that the contrary nature of affiliation, belonging and a sense of there being only one right answer, possessed only by the possessor on either side to conflict with their ability to see the need for reformation and the discovery of truth. "As between the controversialists, it would be hard to detect partiality; for Bacon's indignation at the oppressions of the Bishops is equaled by his scorn for the bigoted narrowness of some of the Puritans."

Abbott 25)

In the opening of Novum Organum Bacon clearly outlines his idea of the greatest barrier to understanding is a belief that what must be understood about nature and science is already known. The idea of closing the mind to new inquiry through the assumption that one understands something fully is preposterous to Bacon, as Nature is not knowable in its entirety and only knowable in part through open exploration without preconception and belief.

Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm by spoiling and putting an end to other men's efforts than good by their own. Those on the other hand who have taken a contrary course, and asserted that absolutely nothing can be known...have certainly advanced reasons for it that are not to be despised... (Bacon Preface to Novum Organum)

In this work Bacon gives a detailed accounting of what he believes to be the appropriate method of discovery of the truth, pure observation and experimentation. "Man, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature. Beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything." (Bacon Novum Organum Book One; I)

Bacon believed that real progress would only happen through man's ability to observe nature and then use these observations to discover science and invent technology that will give him a better ability to observe yet more.

Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to itself can effect much. It is by instruments and helps that the work… [END OF PREVIEW]

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