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Francis Bacon

<<aphorism: a concise statement of a scientific principle, typically by a classical author.>>

In the essay Aphorism Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man Francis Bacon has discussed about human understanding of nature. According to him, human being is the servant and interpreter of nature. The major concern of the essayist in this essay is to develop an objective approach to science. According to him, human mind is the instrument of observation. So it must observe minutely.

Man, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature: beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything. As humans are only servant and interpreters of nature, it is not possible to change the nature or to understand subtle form of nature. Science doesn’t help to find new works, same is the case of logic. Due to the cause of the incompetency of sense organs, it is impossible to understand the world in totality. Though human beings cannot understand complete nature, human beings can make their understanding acute and objective. According to him, it is only with the help of facts and thoughts human can understand the nature. Tools like observation, experience, and experiments make it easier to understand the nature. On the basis of observation and experiences human beings collect facts. The worldly events are guided by the law of cause and effect. Anything happens as an effect of certain cause. He further suggests that we should not draw any conclusion without sufficient reasoning and finding causes. It means conclusion or truth must be supported by causes and reasoning which is called scientific method of understanding truth or nature. Which is also called inductive this method, the conclusion is drawn through adequate observation and experimentation. It moves from particular to general. (Ram is man and mortal. Hari is man and mortal. Therefore all men are mortal.)

Bacon, in this essay suggests that to interpret nature, the interpreter should not be judge. Human beings can’t understand the whole nature because of limitations. Without scientific thoughts and facts, we cannot understand the nature.  Four different idols: idols of the tribe, idols of the cave, idols of the market place, and idols of theater disturb for the full understanding. These four species of idols beset the human mind.

The idols of the tribe are inherent in human nature, and the very tribe or race of man. It is one of the disturbing factors for the full understanding. It is the false assertion that human sense organs can measure everything. We perceive things not according to universality but according to individuality.  Every individual perceives things in distorted and discolored forms. Consequently our understanding becomes narrow.

The idols of the den is the next disturbing factors for understanding. Every person takes for granted that his knowledge, ideas and concepts are all in all. They are not ready to accept other’s spirits. Consequently, a vast world remains unknown. Different judgments happened to be false judgment. Idols of cave might result due to the particular age or due to the shadows. Only by raising idols of cave, it is possible to get true form of nature
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. Idols of the marketplace is the most troublesome of all. These idols emerge due to the alliances of words and names. Human beings do have pre-conception. So they do not like to change these conceptions. It might be because of lack of observation or because of imagination. It is impossible to erase the idols of the marketplace because they have already rooted in human mind.

The last of all idols are the idols of the theater. These idols are not inborn but receive into the mind from the philosophical books and perverted demonstrations. They come into the mind like as the impression of stage plays. Philosophy gives importance to logic which cannot be experimented. In the same way, there are religious dogmas. Consequently, objective understanding of the world becomes impossible. 

Discuss Bacon’s Rhetoric.

In the essay Aphorism Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man, Bacon refuses the traditional approach to science and advocates the new method. His essay is argumentative for the reason that it gives objective and scientific reasoning.

Occasionally, Bacon uses aphoristic statements. The statements are short but they deserve meaning. He clarifies through repetition and description. While elaborating about four different idols, he gives the detail information. He says that accurate understanding of nature is possible only when we follow objective method. He says that it is too difficult to get the objective because of the disturbance of four different idols. Only when we dismiss these four idols, it is possible to get the objective interpretation of nature.

Repetition, parallel description, allusion, elaborations are the different rhetorical strategies used by Bacon.

What are the idols that threat for the objectivity in science?

Aphorism Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man is an essay taken out from Novum Organum written by Francis Bacon. Bacon views that idols of the tribe, idols of the cave, idols of the market place and idols of the theater are the threats to objectivity in science.

Interpretation of nature must be objective not subjective. But full objectivity cannot be gained by us. It is so because of the disturbance of four different idols. The idols of the tribe create a false mirror by means of distortion (twisting/a change for the worse) of the reality. Similarly, the idols of the cave make human beings feel that what they have understood as all in all. The idols of the market place make the people confused by means of interaction and associations. The idols of the theater impress artificial and unreal aspect. These four idols create illusion and make the perceivers feel unusual. Consequently, objective interpretation of nature becomes impossible.

Idols of the tribe, idols of the den, idols of the market place and idols of the theater are the four different idols that always disturb for the objective interpretation. So these are threats for our understanding.

What are the ways that make science objective? Give reasons.

In the essay Aphorism Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man, Francis Bacon shows his concern for developing an objective approach to science. Science has to be absolutely objective but due to the different idols, objectivity cannot be attained.

Bacon focuses on observation for the objectivity. The human mind is the instrument of observation that must grasp nature without having any influence of subjectivity. It is possible to get the objectivity only when we remove philosophy and theology from science. Philosophy gives importance only to reasoning, whereas religion gives importance to what has not been seen. But for scientific observation, as far as possible we have to be objective. Objectivity can only be received when we don’t have dullness, incompetency and deceptions of the senses. These three disturb to get objectivity.

Truthfulness lies only when there is objectivity. It is possible to get the objectivity only when we not only be away from the four idols, but also erase the dullness, incompetency and deceptions of the senses.


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