The idology of Francis Bacon

The idology of Francis Bacon


Mieke Mosmuller

15-07-2020 7 comments Print!

We must carefully understand the actual meaning of his four kinds of idols! It is a great challenge for our powers of differentiation, of distinction, to understand what Bacon sees right and where he leads us into confusion. The principle of his philosophy is: Don’t accept principles. Just follow the data of perception and don’t put any thoughts in it. Bacon fights thinking in itself. But if the human being loses the thinking itself, he becomes a slave to things. This is what we see now, four centuries later, slowly emerging. The philosophy of Bacon 'has quietly made its way into those minds that are fit for it'. May there be minds that turn out to be UNSUITABLE for it!


XXXV. Alexander Borgia said of the expedition of the French into Italy that they came with chalk in their hands to mark up their lodgings, and not with weapons to force their passage. Even so do we wish our philosophy to make its way quietly into those minds that are fit for it, and of good capacity; for we have no need of contention where we differ in first principles, and in our very notions, and even in our forms of demonstration.

XXXVI. We have but one simple method of delivering our sentiments, namely, we must bring men to particulars and their regular series and order, and they must for a while renounce their notions, and begin to form an acquaintance with things.

XXXVIII. The idols and false notions which have already preoccupied the human understanding, and are deeply rooted in it, not only so beset men’s minds that they become difficult of access, but even when access is obtained will again meet and trouble us in the instauration of the sciences, unless mankind when forewarned guard themselves with all possible care against them.

XXXIX. Four species of idols beset the human mind, to which (for distinction’s sake) we have assigned names, calling the first Idols of the Tribe, the second Idols of the Den, the third Idols of the Market, the fourth Idols of the Theatre.

XL. The formation of notions and axioms on the foundation of true induction is the only fitting remedy by which we can ward off and expel these idols. It is, however, of great service to point them out; for the doctrine of idols bears the same relation to the interpretation of nature as that of the confutation of sophisms does to common logic.

XLI. The idols of the tribe are inherent in human nature and the very tribe or race of man; for man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things; on the contrary, all the perceptions both of the senses and the mind bear reference to man and not to the universe, and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different objects, from which rays are emitted and distort and disfigure them.

XLII. The idols of the den are those of each individual; for everybody (in addition to the errors common to the race of man) has his own individual den or cavern, which intercepts and corrupts the light of nature, either from his own peculiar and singular disposition, or from his education and intercourse with others, or from his reading, and the authority acquired by those whom he reverences and admires, or from the different impressions produced on the mind, as it happens to be preoccupied and predisposed, or equable and tranquil, and the like; so that the spirit of man (according to its several dispositions), is variable, confused, and as it were actuated by chance; and Heraclitus said well that men search for knowledge in lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.

XLIII. There are also idols formed by the reciprocal intercourse and society of man with man, which we call idols of the market, from the commerce and association of men with each other; for men converse by means of language, but words are formed at the will of the generality, and there arises from a bad and unapt formation of words a wonderful obstruction to the mind. Nor can the definitions and explanations with which learned men are wont to guard and protect themselves in some instances afford a complete remedy—words still manifestly force the understanding, throw everything into confusion, and lead mankind into vain and innumerable controversies and fallacies.

XLIV. Lastly, there are idols which have crept into men’s minds from the various dogmas of peculiar systems of philosophy, and also from the perverted rules of demonstration, and these we denominate idols of the theatre: for we regard all the systems of philosophy hitherto received or imagined, as so many plays brought out and performed, creating fictious and theatrical worlds. Nor do we speak only of the present systems, or of the philosophy and sects of the ancients, since numerous other plays of a similar nature can be still composed and made to agree with each other, the causes of the most opposite errors being generally the same. Nor, again, do we allude merely to general systems, but also to many elements and axioms of sciences which have become inveterate by tradition, implicit credence, and neglect. We must, however, discuss each species of idols more fully and distinctly in order to guard the human understanding against them.

Mieke Mosmuller

The idology of Francis Bacon by Mieke Mosmuller

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  • From @


    Dem Weltkrieg und der Weltzerstörung ist jene Macht gewachsen, die über die „Universitas“ verfügt, das Vermögen, sich dem „Einen“ („unum“) „zuzuwenden“ („vertere“). Im Gestalten ihrer „Universitas“ erfüllen die an den Universitäten, Hochschulen, Akademien und verwandten Einrichtungen Tätigen deren weltgeschichtliche Aufgabe. Nach Jahrhunderten der Menschvergessenheit, der Verdrängung des Humanen ist das wahre Bild des Menschen nach dem Motto Bacons „Justitiae debetur, quod homo bomini sit Deus, non lupus“ (De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum, libri novem, XX Justitia) als kosmopolitisches Ideal neu zu fassen.
    • From Mieke Mosmuller @
      Das Motto ist sehr alt, es wurde von Ovidius bereits in anderen Worten gesagt, wie in dieser Aussage klar wird: Contra ius naturale est, ut homo hominem sine aliqua causa aversetur. “non enim homini homo lupus est, ut ait Ovidius, sed homo”. (Francisco de Vitoria, 1483-1546)
      Und Erasmus von Rotterdam, 1466-1536: Ἄνθρωπος ἀνθρώπου δαιμόνιον.
      Aber bei Bacon findet man auch diese Stelle:
      To countenance private injuries, indeed, disturbs and pollutes the clear streams of justice, as it were, in the brook; but unjust and great public sentences, which are afterward drawn into precedents, infect and defile the very fountain of justice. For when once the court goes on the side of injustice, the law becomes a public robber, and one man really a wolf to another.
      Es scheint mir beides möglich: Der Mensch als Gott (nach Erasmus ist das jedesmal, wenn man als Wohltäter wirkt, auch im Kleinen) oder der Mensch als Wolf, wenn das Unrecht leitend wird.
  • From @
    Ich bin sehr dankbar für Ihre Texte, die die Entwicklung des Denkens in den verschiedenen Zeiten und Jahrhunderten beschreiben, denn so wächst auch das Verständnis dafür, welche Schritte in der heutigen Zeit zur Entwicklung des Denkes am Platze sind.
  • From Michiel Suurmond @
    XLI en XLII lijken op een soort (kentheoretische) bescheidenheid ten opzichte van de natuur te wijzen. Terecht, zou je zeggen, want hoe gemakkelijk draperen we 'ons' begrippenapparaat niet over haar heen en doen we haar daarmee onrecht.
    Maar als je dan weet wat Bacon zelf over de omgang met de natuur schreef, bijvoorbeeld in Nova Atlantis, dan krijg je een heel ander beeld. Daar wordt de natuur gevormd (vervormd) naar wat het comfort voor de mensen vraagt, wordt ze gevormd (vervormd) naar 'behoeften' en fascinaties.
    Dus eerst wordt de mens (armzalig schepsel, je hoort de spot) uit de natuur geworpen, van de natuur vervreemd (wat op zichzelf ook aan z’n vrijheid, zelfstandigheid, emancipatie kan bijdragen) en daarna gaat hij haar 'van buiten' te lijf.
    Novalis en Goethe hadden een antwoord. De volgende regels komen uit: Goethe, Faust I, Nacht:

    'Geheimnisvoll am lichten Tag
    Läßt sich Natur des Schleiers nicht berauben,
    Und was sie deinem Geist nicht offenbaren mag,
    Das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit Hebeln und mit Schrauben.'

    Ze kán het wel, iets deinem Geist openbaren. Onder welke voorwaarden zou ze dat doen? Een citaat uit Mieke Mosmuller, Zoek het Licht dat opgaat in het Westen (1994):
    ‘Doordat in het gewone bewustzijn de denkkracht verstomt, beleven wij ons met ons denken in onszelf en buiten de wereld, tegenover de wereld. Zo ontgaat ons dat de in ons levende vorm tevens de buiten ons levende vorm is.
    Als de denkkracht begint te spreken, aanschouwen we dat die kracht levend de werkelijkheid vormt, en tevens onze begrippen vormt en belicht. De vorm die in ons denken als kategorieën leeft, is reëel wat in onze geest deel heeft aan de wereld, al ontlenen wij het niet aan deze wereld, maar aan onze geest. Door de sprekende denkkracht worden de begripskategorieën tot sleutel op de deur die geest en wereld scheidt.’
    • From Jonathan Townsend @
      I am lost already at point XLI, for if the Idols of the Tribe indicate that our perceptions "bear reference to man and not to the universe" how are we to "follow the data of perception" (M.M.) to the true nature of the universe?
      • From Mieke Mosmuller @
        I have understood it so: that man has to learn to keep his idols of the tribe, the cave, the marketplace and the theater out of his science. But because these idols are the only way to think, he must learn not to think at all. Yes indeed, I am also lost there. But I think there is a need to see, how the scientists came to the point of evidence based protocols. And so on...
  • From @
    Wanneer de blikrichting / stand van de ogen in het gelaat van Bacon natuurgetrouw zijn weergegeven, 'is er iets' zogezegd met zijn verhouding tot de toekomst........