Francis Bacon's Philosophy Regards the Term Paper

  • Length: 13 pages
  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #10442905

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Essentially, the power was held by the individual, and the individual was lacking of all incentives to make his understanding more universal.

Bacon sees this as a major obstacle to widespread progress and sees development of easily understandable tables, graphs, and illustrations necessary to the proper sharing of scientific knowledge. He writes:

But natural and experimental history is so varied and diffuse, that it confounds and distracts the understanding unless it be fixed and exhibited in due order. We must, therefore, form tables and co-ordinations of instances, upon such a plan, an in such order, that the understanding may be enabled to act upon them." (Bacon 140).

Bacon is one of the first scientist/philosophers to suggest that those in possession of specialized knowledge must find a way to translate their discoveries to others in some understandable way. This notion is reflected in "The New Atlantis" by his specific mentioning of workers being assigned the particular duty of translating the information gathered through experimentation. The members of Solomon's House understand that through their process of specialization many of them will not be able to fully comprehend the work of many others. However, important decisions still need to be made -- such as what experiments should be looked into, and who should be assigned to what project -- so, individuals making these decisions must be presented with adequate information. This appears to be one of the keystones of Bacon's interpretation of the scientific method, and it appears in both Solomon's House and his "Novum Organum."

Once again, Bacon illustrates that the limitations inherent in the human mind make interpretation of natural concepts crucial to the goal of full knowledge of causes. In "Novum Organum" Bacon extensively investigates the causes of heat, explosions associated with gunpowder, and weight. He writes very lengthy, detailed, and flawed arguments discussing the properties of these phenomena. However, he refrains entirely from discussing the nature of these fundamental facets of life in "The New Atlantis." It is likely that the members of Solomon's House have revealed the secrets behind these issues still hotly debated in Europe, but fail to reveal their knowledge to Bacon because he is not ready. Nevertheless, Bacon's outlined arguments in "Novum Organum" serve as templates for the type of discussions that he imagines taking place within Solomon's House; and perhaps, could eventually lead to ultimate understanding.

This method, as closely related as it is to understanding of science, it is also related to understanding of the divine. After all, Bacon believes that our perceptions are merely fragmented interpretations of the God. It is with this in mind that it is important to notice that there is little nationalism present within Bacon's writings. The citizens of Bensalem are Christian, and apparently, one of their most important ways for evaluating the foreign explorers is by investigating their faith. Bacon's character is revealed some of the secrets of their society because he is a member of the Christian world. The initial warning they receive possesses a cross upon it: "This scroll was signed with a stamp of cherubin's wings, not spread, but hanging downwards; and by them a cross." (Bacon 199). The sailors are quite perplexed initially, but as they become acquainted with the islanders they gain each other's trust through a shared faith.

Similarly, the propensity these two peoples enjoy for the understanding of nature is also recognized. The secrets of Solomon's House are revealed to Bacon's character because he is both Christian and shows interest in the natural world. The consequence of this is that, to Bacon, investigation into nature must necessarily agree with the doctrines of Christianity -- they are purely connected. So, the future world that Solomon's House seeks is a world to be shared with those who, bound by their faith, seek the same ultimate goal.

Doubtlessly, Bacon views the future of science as benefiting all of Christendom, and not merely his personal self or kingdom. He writes, "Let us begin from God, and show that our pursuit from its exceeding goodness clearly proceeds from him, the Author of good and Father of light." (Bacon 125). With this statement in "Novum Organum," Bacon initiates his arguments in favor of reorganizing science. God becomes the starting point for all understanding: if anything can be understood of God, then that principle can be carried down to other aspects of his work. So, the knowledge that can be taken from the world necessarily relies on one's knowledge of the divine. It is for this reason that the members of Solomon's House are willing to share with the foreigners, and it is for this reason that Bacon's explorers are not British, but Spanish. The British, the Spanish, and the Bensalems are all predominantly Christian.

Another theme found in "The New Atlantis" is one of religious tolerance. However, this notion is not explicitly expressed in "Novum Organum." The deeds of God, although mentioned frequently, are simply assumed to be the Christian God. Although Christianity is highly favored in Bensalem, Judaism is tolerated; although looked upon with some awe. He writes: "for they have some few strips of Jew yet remaining amongst them, whom they leave to their own religion. Which they may the better do, because they are of a far differing disposition from the Jews in other parts." (Bacon 209). Bacon does not expect that, even in his utopia, will every citizen be Christian; but he certainly does believe that the natural rulers of science and the kingdom should be Christian. After all, only the Christian approach to the natural world can reveal any significant amount of truth.

One tendency that Bacon appears to particularly wish to dispel is one that he finds in many of his countrymen; to look upon the achievements of their civilization and pronounce that they have achieved the utmost level of greatness. He finds answers to this inclination in both "Novum Organum" and "The New Atlantis." In the former he states:

First, then, the introduction of great inventions appears one of the most distinguished of human actions... Inventions are also, as it were, new creations and imitations of divine works... And it is worthy of remark in Solomon, that whilst he flourished in the possession of his empire, in wealth, in magnificence of his works, in his court, his household, his fleet, the splendor of his name, and the most unbounded admiration of mankind, he still placed his glory in none of these, but declared that it is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of a king to search it out." (Bacon 135).

Again, Bacon downplays the accomplishments of man by contrasting them with the works of God. But, with his quote from Solomon, he illustrates one of his key premises: it is man's most glorious exploit to seek out the divine mysteries of nature, and to render them in some form the human mind is capable of comprehending. Accordingly, the achievements of man cannot be measured against the Lord, but can be measured by their relationship to Him. So the exploitation of the Lord's secrets through invention means nothing and is not glorious without proper understanding.

Additionally, it is worthy of note that Bacon specifically mentions Solomon, and his wisdom, within the pages of "Novum Organum." Obviously, the king's words affected him deeply enough to name his scientific society Solomon's House, and suggests that these words, perhaps, lay the foundation for the scientific method practiced within. The members of Solomon's house do not celebrate their scientific progress so much as they celebrate the process by which the progress came about or the ultimate goal of their endeavor.

The father of Solomon's House is treated like a king. Upon meeting with him, Bacon's character describes what he sees:

He was set upon a low throne richly adorned, and a rich cloth of state over his head, of blue satin embroidered.... When he came in, as we were taught, we bowed low at our first entrance; and when we were come near his chair, he stood up, holding forth his hand ungloved, and in posture of blessing; and we every one of us stooped down, and kissed the hem of his tippet." (Bacon 210).

This seeming disparity between the equal treatment of the citizens and the kinglike rights afforded to the father of Solomon's House can be better understood with Bacon's previous statements from "Novum Organum." The idea that it is the duty of a king, and not a scientist, to seek out the mysteries of God, suggests that Bacon felt it was necessary for such a royal figure to exist in a perfect society. Perhaps, it this kinglike figure who benefits most directly from the specialization of his people; he is the recipient of their interpretations of nature and -- it is likely -- that he possesses a broad knowledge of everything, and yet, nothing in particular. Bacon illustrates that his model for scientific…

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