It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.



It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.

Never stop learning because life never stop Teaching

Never stop learning because life never stop Teaching

Monday, 1 October 2012

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon: Worldly Wisdom

Bacon was, definitely, a worldly wise man. He was the wisest and the meanest of mankind. He was truly of Renaissance; the age of accumulating knowledge, wealth and power. Being a true follower of Machiavellian principles, he led his life for worldly success. He was a man of shrewd and sagacious intellect with his eyes fixed on the main chance. And what he preached in his essays was also the knowledge, needed for worldly success.
There is no doubt that Bacon's essays are a treasure house of worldly wisdom. The term worldly wisdom means a wisdom which is necessary for worldly success. It does not need any deep philosophy or any ideal morality. But Bacon was a man of high wisdom, as he himself pronounced, "I have taken all knowledge to be my province". Bacon also preached morality but his morality is subordinate to worldly success and he never hesitated to sacrifice it for worldly benefit. His essays are rich with the art which a man should employ for achieving success in his life, such as shrewdness, sagacity, tact, foresight, judgment of character and so on.
The subject of Bacon in his essays is the man who needs prosperity in worldly terms. Bacon's essays bring men to 'come home to men's business and bosoms'. He teaches them, how to exercise one's authority and much more. When he condemns cunning, it is not because of a hateful and vile thing, but because it is unwise. That is why the wisdom in his essay is considered a 'cynical' kind of wisdom. He describes his essays as 'Counsels – civil and moral'.
In his essay "Of Truth", Bacon appreciates truth and wishes people to speak the truth. He says:
"A lie faces God and shrinks from man."
He warns human beings against the punishment for the liar on the doomsday. But at the same time, he considers a lie as an 'alloy' which increases the strength of gold and feels it necessary for the survival on earth. He says:
"A lie doth ever add pleasure."
---this is purely a statement of a "worldly wise man".
The essay "Of Great Places" though contains a large number of moral precepts yet in this very same essay he also preaches worldly success.
"It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty; By pains men come to greater pains."
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."
Then Bacon suggests that men in authority should work not only for the betterment of public but also for their own status:
"All rising to great place is by a winding stair; and if there be factions, it is good to side a man's self whilst he is rising and to behave himself when he is placed."
It is purely a utilitarian advice and it surely holds a compromise between morality and worldly success. Even when Bacon urges a man not to speak ill of his predecessor, it is not because of high morality but because of the fact that the man who does not follow advice would suffer with unpleasant consequences.
Bacon's approach towards studies is also purely utilitarian. In his essay "Of Studies", he does not emphasize on study for its own sake, but for the benefit which it can provide to man to be supplemented by practical experience.
"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man."
And then he says:
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
Bacon also points out the effects of different branches of studies on a man's mind and thinks it helpful in the cure of different mental ailments and follies.
His essay "Of Suitors" totally reveals Bacon's shrewd insight. Although he suggests that a suitor should not be disloyal towards his petition and should tell him the truth about the chances of winning the suit without leaving him wandering in false hopes. Bacon suggests that a patron should not charge extensive amounts for a small case. But then he dilutes all this by saying if the patron wants to support the non-deserving party, he should make a compromise between both of them, so that the deserving party would bear not great loss. This is a purely utilitarian approach and it shows what Bacon himself had been in his career, for it was his own profession.
In the essay "Of Revenge" Bacon shows a certain high morality by saying that:
"Revenge is a kind of wild justice; One who studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green."
He feels dignity in forgiving ones enemy. But then he says that even revenge is just in the cases when one can save one's skin from the hands of law.
Bacon showed a certain incapacity for emotions. He took the relation of friendship for its benefit and made a purely worldly approach to the subject which intimately deals between two persons. He gave us the uses and abused of friendship. He says:
"Those that want friends to open themselves unto, are cannibals of their own hearts."
This essay clearly shows Bacon's cynical wisdom and that his morality is stuffed with purely utilitarian considerations.
Bacon considers love as a 'child of folly'. In his essay "Of Love" he says:
"It is impossible to love and to be wise."
He considers wife and children as hindrance in the way of success and progress. He says:
"He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune."
Afterwards in his essay "Of Marriage and Single Life" he tells the 'benefits' of a wife.
"Wives are young men's mistresses, companion to middle age and old man's nurse."
In his essay "Of Parents and Children" Bacon puts:
"Children sweeten labour, but they make misfortune more bitter."
All these statements show his essentially mean and benefit seeking attitude, even in the matters of heart. In short, Bacon's essays are a "hand book" of practical wisdom enriched with maxims which are very helpful for worldly wisdom and success.

Francis Bacon: Wisest, Brightest, Meanest

If parts allure these think how Bacon shin'd
The wisest, brightest and meanest of mankind.
Bacon was the wisest because of his worldly wisdom, he was brightest owing to his powerful intellect and the art of writing terse essays, and he was meanest due to his treacherous character.
The above mentioned remark on Bacon was made by a renowned and marvelous poet, "Alexander Pope". If we observe critically, this statement holds its validity. For Bacon appeared to be a true child of Renaissance. Undoubtedly he was a man of wisdom and powerful intellect. But all at once he was a calculating character, keeping an eye on the main chance. He was a true follower of Machiavelli. He failed to harmonize his mixed motives, complex principles and high aims together. He wanted to strive after the selfless scientific truth but he was conscious that nothing could be done without money and power. So, he strived after material success. Bacon belonged to the age of glory and greatness, surprising meanness and dishonest conduct and he could not avoid these evils.
Bacon was a man of multi-talents. His wisdom was undeniable. The thirst for infinite knowledge and his versatility was truly astonishing. He possessed an intellect of the highest order. He was learned in Greek, French, Latin, English, Science, Philosophy, Classics and many other fields of knowledge. He is regarded as the creator of the modern school of experimental research. He held that "man is the servant and interpreter of nature". He supplied the impulse which broke with the medieval preconceptions and set scientific inquiry on modern lines. He emphasized on experimentation and not to accept things for granted. Bacon was indeed an eloquent prophet of new era and the pioneer of modern sciences.
The essays of Bacon also portray his intellect and practical wisdom. The varied range of subjects too expresses that 'he had taken all knowledge to be his province'. Bacon could utter weighty and pregnant remarks on almost any subject, from "Greatness of Kingdoms" to "Gardens". The essays are loaded with the ripest wisdom of experience and observation conveyed through short, compact and terse sentences. One cannot deny the sagacity and shrewdness of his counsels. Bacon's essays deal with man. He is an able analyst of human nature, and his conduct in public and private affairs. His comments regarding man's behaviour may at times sound cynical but they are undeniable truths. He says:
A mixture of a lie doth even add pleasure.
Bacon is true here for most of the people would find life terrible without false hopes and false impressions. His views about friendship, though lacks in feelings and emotions, yet these are undeniably true to human nature.
Following are a few examples of his wisdom.
One who studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green.
Men in great places are thrice servants.
So, like a very wise man he coin ideas and teaches them to make people wise in worldly terms.
Bacons brightness is best illustrated in the way in which he clothes his wisdom into brevity and lends the readers a great pleasure. The compactness of thought and conciseness of expression was a virtue in an age when looseness in thought and language was the rule. The essays are enriched with maxims and proverbs. He supports his ideas and arguments with innumerable quotations, allusions and analogies which prove his wide knowledge and learning. The aptness of the similes, the witty turn of phrases and the compact expression of weighty thoughts are evidence enough of the brightness of his intellect.
Suspicions among thoughts are like bats among birds.
Money is like much, except it be spread.
Virtue is like precious adours --- most fragrant, when they are incensed or crushed.
Moreover, the precise and authentic turn of sentences and the condensation of thoughts in them have been enhanced by the antithetical presentation. Such as:
A lie faces God and shrinks from man.
The ways to enrich are many and most of them are foul.
It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty.
Through indignation, men rise to dignity.
Thus with the tool of antithesis, Bacon made his argument many times stronger and influential than a simple sentence. He created so much wit and strength in such precise writings that they are still valid and famous. No man individually did provide such strength and simplicity to the English language than Bacon. Bacon tried to reach the reader's mind by a series of aphoristic attacks. Therefore he is considered as the pioneer of modern prose. There is hardly any equal of him for clear, terse and compact writing.
Now, it appears to be an irony of nature that a man with such a tremendous intellect and wisdom had such a mean character. Bacon was not mean in the sense of being a miser. He was indeed reputed to be a very generous. The manner in which Bacon betrayed his friends, especially Essex, proved him most ungrateful and ignoble man. He made friendship and uprightness subordinate to his success. He always kept his eye on the main chance, worshipping the rising sun and avoiding of the setting one.
His marriage was also a marriage of convenience. He did not hesitate to take part in political intrigues in order to promote his ambition. His letter to the king and queen were also full of flattery that it was hard to believe that they came from the pen of such an intellectual man.
Though he was wise yet he showed certain incapacity of emotions and this trait can also be witnessed in his essays. He took the purely personal and domestic matters of a man – like marriage, friendship, love etc in terms of pure utility. Such as:
He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune.
Those that want friends to open themselves unto are cannibals of their own heart.
In short, Bacon was a man of the world – worldly wisdom and worldly convenience. He had a "great brain" but not a "great soul". His complex and contradictory characters will continue to be a psychological enigma for the readers to understand. So, he was definitely the wisest, brightest and meanest of mankind.

Dispersed Meditation in Francis Bacon

The essays of Francis Bacon show the example of Dispersed Meditation. It is the style, where, though the discussing matter is same, the ideas that are coming one by one are not well organized or ideas don't come consecutively. This is why the question of dispersed meditation has been raised. Of course, Bacon does not stay away from the subject that he places before himself. There is nothing irrelevant or unrelated to the theme. He does not allow his mind or fancy to loiter and roam. But we can't describe his essays as well-knit compositions because there are no light connections between the various ideas and the ideas do not seem to flow from one another. We can't claim that an essay by Bacon has a structural unity. Ideas have been put together in his essays almost at random.

In "Of Studies", we find various ideas regarding study. The author gives us ideas about the uses and abuses of reading books, ways of reading and so on. But we don't find any connection between the ideas. He jumps from one topic to another topic very abruptly, although the main topic, study, remains unchanged. None of the multitudes of ideas are fully developed, but then one may argue that an essay by its very nature implies a mere attempt and not a complete treatment of a subject. This is true but there should surely be some kind of smooth flow of ideas from one to another. There sentences have a tendency to stand by themselves, having no or little link with preceding or succeeding sentences.

The very first sentence of this essay reads like a string of aphorism or maxim. In the very first sentence of this essay, Bacon tells about the three chief uses of studies; the use of studies for delight, for ornament and for ability. He also gives excellent advices so as to why and how one should read. Then he speaks of those who spend too much time in studies are temperamentally lazy. Here her says, "To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humour of a scholar." Actually in there sentences, Bacon tries to show the user and causes of studies, but next he jumps to another idea about studies without any logical connection between the preceding and the succeeding sentences. Here he starts talking about the interrelationship between studies and practical experiences. Studies help a man to overcome deficiencies that he has by nature, and studies give shape of natural talents. Here he says, "They perfect nature and are perfected by experiences for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning by study". This is an example of dispersed meditation.

Next he jumps to another track. That is the right attitude towards reading. Here he says that one should read a book so that one can think carefully about what it says and then judge its value, saying, "Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them".

Next he jumps to the modes of study and their uses, saying, "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man". In the previous sentence where he was talking about what we should take from study, now he says what study gives us.

Next he discusses about various branches of studies and their curing ability. In this part, he says that History makes a man wise, Poetry makes a man imaginative, Mathematics makes a man's mind keen and subtle of so do other branches of studies. Actually every branch of knowledge has its curing ability. Studies cure mental just as the appropriate physical exercise cure effects of the body.

Dispersed ideas are also found in the essay, "Of Truth". Here also we see that the central idea is about Truth, although he gives various ideas regarding truth and truthfulness in dispersed way. Although we find various ideas like the people who do not care for truth, reasons why truth is disliked, poetic untruth, nature of truth and truth in civil business, we don't find any connection or interrelationship among there topics.

At first Bacon tells the readers about the people who don't care for truth. Certain people find great pleasures in changing their opinions frequently because they desire ultimate freedom to act and think, which would not be possible if they had to believe in a fixed principle. Here Bacon says, " Certainly there be that delight in giddiness and count it a bondage to fix a belief; affecting free-will in thinking, as well as acting". And he gives the idea that standers of truth in religions, philosophical and moral spheres keep changing from time to time. Then he proceeds, very abruptly, to examine the tendency of human beings to feel more pleased by lies than by truth, and finds it difficult to explain as to why people should tell lies for the sake of lies. He says, "that man should love lies" for "lies sake"

Then he jumps to the fact that the harm that is done by lies that sinks into the minds of people and settles down there.

Next he speaks about the values of truth, which can be realized by those who have experienced and understood it. The essay concludes with a warning that the wickedness of falsehood and breach of faith with receive their due punishment in the Judgement Day. Actually, Bacon doesn't offer a particular thesis on the subject of Truth but merely records his thoughts as them come.

In summing up it can be same that Bacon's essays are the full of dispersed meditation. The ideas that come one after another don't have much harmony between them. Actually his writings are full of aphorism for which the sentences of his essays seem not related with one another. And all these things are seen in various essays of Bacon.


Rahat Ali said...

Pls share note of bacon prose style

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