“Idols are the profoundest fallacies of the mind of man…”
FRANCIS BACON ON LIVING TOO MUCH IN THE WORLD
Francis Bacon was an English philosopher (who championed an inductive, empirical approach to scientific inquiry); statesman; essayist; courtier and flatterer to Elizabeth I and James I; Knight; Viscount St Alban; Baron Verulam; Parlimentarian; Lawyer (who helped secure the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and displayed “indecent eagerness” in prosecuting his former friend and patron the Earl of Essex); apparently also known for “the secret sinne of sodomie”; finally, prosecuted for corruption, disgraced and impeached from the rank of Lord Chancellor. Epstein (1977: 184) concludes that Francis Bacon “strove patiently for power and eventually achieved it” but, never came close to achieving “the constructive use of such power” professed in his writings. Epstein observes that Bacon eventually succumbed to “rather banal political habits.” At this juncture, his intellectual talents were unimpeded, but “it reduced him as a man and made him susceptible to disgrace and humiliation.” Bowen (1963: 3-4) poses a poignant question: “For a Francis Bacon what more terrible to know that he had been the instrument of his own betrayal?” Bowen refers to Bacon’s own tragic confession. “Born to be a philosopher, a contemplative man, he acknowledged that he had lived too much in the world and had misspent his talents in things for which he was least fit.” He wrote, in a prayer written after his impeachment for bribery as Lord Chancellor: “My soul hath been a stranger in the course of my pilgrimage”
Bowen, Catherine Drinker (1963 ) Francis Bacon: The Temper of a Man. Little, Brown and Company, Boston.
Epstein, Joel J.. (1977) Francis Bacon: A Political Biography. Ohio University Press.
Aphorism 39 of Sir Francis Bacon’s 1620 treatise, Novum Organum identifies “four species of idols,” or impediments, “which beset the human mind”:
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, A Pilgrimage to San Isidro, 1820-23. Oil on plaster mounted on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Sir Francis Bacon [1561-1626]
Pieter Bruegel the Elder. (1568) The Parable of the Blind. Oil on canvas. Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Disparate ridiculo (Ridiculous Folly), 1879. Engraving/aquatint.