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Assigned: 03/11. Wed. Sir Francis Bacon. Essays (Norton Vol. B, 1663-75); from The Advancement of Learning (1675-77) and Novum Organum (1677-81).

From Essays

1. Bacon explores a variety of topics in his Essays. Describe his general method for handling them. What seems to be the aim of the essays with respect to the ideas Bacon entertains -- does he set ideas forward directly to convince us of something, or does some other purpose seem to guide him? Choose one or more essays and discuss.

2. After you have read the Norton selections from The Advancement of Learning and Novum Organum, discuss how well Bacon's treatment of his topics in Essays accords with his views about our tendencies towards misperception (i.e. his theory of the four Idols) and with his promotion of the scientific (i.e. inductive) method for arriving at truth.

From Novum Organum

3. On 1678 of Novum Organum, what are the main Idols of the Tribe, and what is their source?

4. On 1678 of Novum Organum, what are the Idols of the Cave, and from what source do they derive? If you are familiar with Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from Book 7 of The Republic (see Paragraph 514a and following) relate Bacon's term "Idol" to that story about human limitations in discerning truth.

5. On 1678 of Novum Organum, what are the Idols of the Marketplace," and what is their source? What might Bacon say is the proper relationship between words and things? Which kinds of terms are least faulty, and why?

6. On 1678-79 of Novum Organum, what are the Idols of the Theater"? And their source? Why is the term "theater" appropriate here? (Hint: consider Aristotle's definition of drama as an imitative or representational art.)

7. The romantic-era poet William Blake includes Bacon, along with John Locke and Isaac Newton, in his unholy Trinity of atheists and materialists. But how do Bacon's tone and certain specific statements in our selections furnish matter for a defense against such charges? What, according to Bacon, is scientific research and discovery for? In what spirit is it to be carried on?

Edition: Greenblatt, Stephen and Carol T. Christ. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th. edition. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C. Paperback. Norton: 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0393913002.

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