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bacon as a pragmatist

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									Of The Renaissance Spirit
As An Opportunist
As A Pragmatic Essayist
As A Utilitarian Philosopher
FRANCIS BACON , LORD VERULAM, AND VISCOUNT ST. ALBAN'S (1561-
1626)
 The man is the product of Renaissance. Man’s glory, generous or tense, his opportunities
of mind and body, his eyes rolling across the subtle and magnificence of the world his joy
in learning, discovering, weighing – creating all these as it existed in Bacon’s mind,
Essays (counsels: Civil and Moral) exhibits a practical value in life. Bacon’s essays are
counsels and are designed for the practical benefits of man and not for his emotional or
imaginative development. This utilitarian attitude is most evident in his 59 essays.
FRANCIS BACON
The revival of learning, the study of humanism, the reformist zeal, the note of
nationalism, the pursuit of discovery spread of printing – these multifarious influences of
the Renaissance has its impact on literature. Imagination is replaced by realism. Fiction
and falsity give way to fact and truth. Exaggeration is no longer indulged in. artificiality
is substituted by naturalness. Reason prevails over credulity and blind faith. Search for
truth or scientific inquiry is the dominant feature. Fanaticism stops in the hand of liberty.
In short, literature begins to convey facts. These new tendencies are evident in every poet
and prose writer of merit in the Elizabethan period and Bacon is no exception in this
regard. Bacon is the master of utilitarian principles. "The intellect of Bacon was one of
the most powerful and searching ever possessed by man, and his developments of the
inductive philosophy revolutionized the future thought of the human race.
Rightly so, Bacon’s essays are the art of success among men. He comes out as a moralist,
the statesman and the man of the world and his Essays are the treasures of wisdom arising
from the universal insight into the affairs of the world. There is a blend of deep wisdom
and practical shrewdness with satire and meditative eloquence. Bacon expresses his
views in the form of antithesis. It is the outcome of his mental habit fastened by his
practice in the courts. His essays remain force compendium of practical philosophy.
There is found wit, keen observation, graver or clever mundane judgments.
  Even a cursory glance at the essays will bear the truth of the above statement. His 59
essays covering varied range of topics exhibit his in-depth knowledge, ideas and
perception on variegated aspects of human life. In fact bacon was versatile man of genius
- a philosopher scientist, literary scholar, statesman, lawyer, and above all a practical man
of the world. His Essays convey profound and condensed thought in a style that is at once
clear and rich and bear his worthy identity.
   Roughly Bacon's essays can be grouped in three categories-- essays in relation to the
world and society, essays in relation to individualism and essays in relation to his makers
i.e. God or Nature. The first group that evaluates the relationship of mankind to the
physical world and their mutual relations includes Of Seditions and Troubles, Of Great
Place, Of Discourse, Of Judicature, Of Suitors, Of Gardens etc.
   The second group describing man in his intellectual and moral relations with others
covers essays like: Of Parents and Children, Of Marriage, Of Envy, Of Love, Of Travel,
Of Friendship, Of Health, Of Custom and Education, Of Followers and Friends, Of
Studies, Of Ceremonies and Respects, Of Honor and Reputation, Of Fame etc.
Man's relationship with his maker and the unseen world is primary focus in the third
group that include essays like: Of Death, Of Unity in Religion, Of Goodness and
Goodness of Nature, Of Atheism, Of Superstition, Of Wisdom for a Man’s Self, Of
Nature in Men etc. But grouping is more pedantic while each of the essays of Bacon
marks interrelated studies and views.
  Nonetheless, I can not resist myself from quoting Bacon's famous two essays, Of
Studies and Of Discourse. Here Bacon is a champion of learning. In Of Studies Bacon
means not mere act of studying but the results that follow systematic and long practiced
habits of study viz. education and culture. Bacon points out the utility and method of
study, and enumerates the practical benefits to be derived from the study of different
subjects. With an astonishing freshness of illustration Bacon points out the key use of
studies – a) delight in privacy b) ornament in society, and c) ability in practical business.
Bacon puts cautions on the disadvantages of studies. Spending too much time in them,
says Bacon is sloth whereas the superfluous display of learning is affectations. Being too
much guided by them and thus separating studies from practical use is the humor of a
scholar. Bacon the guide provides certain rules for study. Firstly books are to be weighed
and considered. Again books are to be read according to its importance – in parts, without
much care, wholly with careful attention, through summaries prepared by deputies.
Bacon includes reading, conference and writing in his studies to acquire knowledge, to
gain wit and readiness, to learn exactness and accuracy respectively. Bacon values
different modes of studies according to make wise use of them. He prefers history to
foster wisdom, poetry to foster wit, mathematics to foster subtlety, natural philosophy to
foster depth, moral philosophy to foster gravity, logic and Rhetoric to foster the capacity
of debate and argument. His pragmatic attitude is also evident in his final observation that
specific studies should be pursued in order to cure specific inefficiencies of mind, just as
medicines are taken to cure certain diseases of the body.
  Bacon’s other essay Of Discourse prioritizes a practical Baconian guide to fluent,
flowing, graceful and effective communication which would definitely enrich the course
of living. Bacon prescribes certain guidelines to improve oratory to be utilized in the
practical course of life. He denounces the superfluous, showy and jaded argument and
welcomes thoughtful, fact oriented, earnest, witty added with humorous touch in our
discourse. Bacon finds conversation an occasion where none is severely hurt, rather it
should be amusing and a portrayal of the personae of the speaker. According to Bacon
running a conversation is like riding a horse which needs both the speed and control. Like
a utilitarian guide Bacon advises to speak seldom carrying value or weight in them.
Further Bacon adds that the speaker should yield virtue in them and a person ‘satirical’ in
‘vaine’ should aware himself of other’s wit. He again stresses the proportionate use of
‘circumstances’ and ‘matter’ so that oration never comes to be wearisome or blunt.
  Bacon's keen interest on church, religion and morality is evident in his essays like Of
Truth, Of Superstitions, Of Atheism, Of unity of Religion, Of Goodness, Of Innovation
etc . His deep and earnest interest in ecclesiastical matters, moral and ethical values are
evident in these pieces. For Example, In his Of unity of Religion he strikes a point of
view which is still relevant in our days of religious fanaticism. Commenting on the
religious tolerance and humanism Bacon says, "Religion being the chief band of human
society, is a happy thing, when itself is well contained within the true band of unity."
   Bacon's politic and statesmanship is quite vivid in Of Great Place, Of Nobility, Of
Sedition, Of Troubles, Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates etc. The intrigues,
tricks, cunning , internal politics of favours and ins and outs of courtly life are also gone
through his scrutiny. His acute observation on related judiciary system and corruption
rampant among clerks and clients of lawyers are arguably stated in Of Judicature, Of
Suitors etc. We can’t miss this fine lines from Of Judicature where Bacon says, "Judges
ought to remember, that their office is jus dicere, and not jus dare; to interpret law, and
not to make law, or give law."
Of domestic relations Of Revenge, Of Parents and Children, Of Marriage and Single
Life, Of Envy, Of Love, Of Friendship etc are consummate mastery of Bacon. Bacon
describes wife and children as 'hostage to fortune; impediments to great enterprises either
of virtue or mischief.' He does not appreciate marriage and ignores the bliss of emotional
unity. He says," Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not
always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fugitives, are of that
condition".
Of Bacon as Renaissance scholar and philosopher we can only say that he is one of
founders of modern systematic as well as didactic thought. Studies encourage rationality
and sound discourse assimilates culture as well as political base. Naturally his essays
primarily serve a utilitarian purpose. They become the treasure of wisdom arising from
the universal insight into the affairs of the world.

								
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