Antoinette Mann Paterson
Professor, Department of Philosophy
State University of NY
College at Buffalo
From the Book
The method of Tradition is an existing social system of human power. This method of tradition reflects the dynamic relationshhip between power and divine (natural) power upon which it has been based. "There is a kind of contract of error between the deliverer and the receiver." in the method of tradition. "For he that delivereth knowledge, desireth to deliver it in such form as may best believed and not as best may be examined." (Adv.Learning. II, xviii.3)
Bruno had written, in La Cena (p. 123)
To speak with the words of the truth where this is not appropriate is to want the vulgar and foolish multitudes, from whom one desires certain practices, to have the particular understanding in question; it would be like wanting to give eyes to the hands, which nature has not made to see but to physically manipulate, while giving consent to the sight. (The reader should also see La Cena, pp. 121-2,124, in Gentile, or pp. 129-31 in Paterson, The Infinite Worlds of Giordano Bruno.)
If a scientific method for good human life is to
grow and flourish, it must be secured not through glorifying one
author or thinker. Men looking for vaniglory do not serve scientific
method. They are serving themselves. If one would desire merely
blossoms, he may snip them off and wave them around or keep huge
displays of blossoms around him. But they will soon all wilt, and
more and more must be garnered only to wilt. Nothing endures in this
However, if a man would transplant human power from one age to another, he must take up the roots. He must carefully transplant those roots where they can grow. He must be sure that everybody can see the little green shoots of early utility. Everyone must be called upon to help in his ownway to nourish the little growth. Then, one will fear the blossom which he himself nourished. Here we see Bruno's "We look only for the fruit of the trees which we ourselves plant." Bacon writes that if the method of tradition is properly administered, " No man knoweth how he come by knowledge which he obtaineth." Yet, some men will discern the sources of traditional knowledge, and they will "descend unto the foundations of their knowledge"and, finding the roots, will graft onto them interpretations from legitimate natural science. This grafting process should be impercetible to the uninitiated. The technicians will protect these early growths, as they understand their utility and they are cultivators of knowledge. They have corrected anticipations.
For Bacon , no one person invented any ideas.
Knowledge from men belongs to the human species. Therefore, men
should look to the advancement of the human species in Time and to
the glorification of one man in any one time. Bacon would reject the
provincial biographical history of physics and philosophy and the
other sciences. However, during his times, he needed to tie his
scientific truth to the glorification of the King of the new "Great
Brittany." Like Bruno, Bacon had his reflective eye on the Kingdom of
Men. Bacon understood that Time would level all monarchs eventually.
Had not the Scriptures taught that the meek would inherit the
Learned Governors worked prudently to insure the transplantation of sound judgment about experience into the next age. Bacon would have told Bruno (and perhaps he did) to feign conformity to protect the work. Since Bruno did not do so, Bacon tried to do it (A.L.,xvii, 1-5)
The method of tradition which was one aspect of human duty recognized the need for "placita juris" (willing assent or contract). This was aimed at civil utility and peace for the advancement of human welfare on earth. In duty to his own fortune (A.L., II xxiii,161) a man should retain some suspension of belief but not so as to cause his own demise. The method of tradition is the coincident of the method of delivery (cultivation) of knowlege and of the method of invention (the interpretation of nature). Controversy in Bacon's times had caused "little inquiry" to go forward. The same problem held for civil business. The proper administration of philanthropia (justice for men on earth) and the proper administration for advancement of human learning inexorably tied together, Bacon taught.
Judgment comes before delivery and judgment comes before invention. A system must be found which contains the rules for judgment (A.L., II, xiii,2). These rules should not only look to the use of knowledge. They should also look to the advancement of knowledge. One man cannot do it all in his lifetime. A traditon should be provided so that the torch of knowledge can be passed from one age to another. This entails a formal administrative, documented structure for human scientific method which could endure through times. There should also be a diversity and plurality (tied to the utility of any one time) which would help ensure that works would not be burned.
Francis Bacon was born in the late sixteenth century and grew up in the monoarchial context, imbedded in the royal family. From his earliest years, he was conditioned the positve theory of knowledge about nature. His conditioning also fostered a ferciously competitive attitude toward worldly power, as England wavered unsteadily on her infant feet as a nation. Bacon was twenty-seven when the Spanish armada sank and England found herself catapulted into an international mystique about English power. It was up to England to hold that image : playing France against Spain--by dangling friendship of the queen of the seas before each of them.
Francis Bacon cut his teeth on this kind of international diplomacy. Knowledge about how to gain wealth from the breast of nature insured England's safety. Knowledge about how to gain support from the breast of the monarch guaranteed Bacon's safety. Systematic pursuit was the only way in which men could achieve prudent power. For Bacon, nature had to be grasped through the visible physical forms and their operations, which, when sorely tried, would yield their contrary, latent structural connections.This understanding of the latent law of a physical thing applied also to human persons. The monarch, like nature as a whole, remained always inscrutable, in part. The monarchy, because it was made of individuals of lesser natures that could be made transparent, was not able to evade analysis.
The nationalizing of scientific reason brought with it some problems for Bacon. This nationalizing process brought into existence a whole power structure for distribution and consumption of the goods of technology. There were the merchants, the lawyers, and the capitalists who emerged upon the scene because of talent as opposed to the noble descent. The problem of monopolies and patents is the one which eventually broke the back of the monarch. The release of the scientific community from the control of the royal yoke was also accomplished through the emergence of this powerful middle class. This money class ultimately replaced the monarch as the absolute and became the controllers of the scientist and the technology.
When one removes the Monarch and removes the Scriptures as the two absolutes, this leaves polity to be expressed in only one way, through the other absolute left, and that is Nature, Nature as exploited by a powerful money class composed of capitalists.
Scientific method as Bacon saw it meant control of the only absolute power left to scholars. And in his times, so frantically nationalistic, this meant English power. This line of reasoning led straight to the imperialism of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, except that the royal driver had been replaced by the capitalistic and the scientist. Therefore, in a sense, the nationalization of the scientific endeavor has culminated in the problems of the full blooming twentieth century technocracy. Bacon correctly saw that one must invoke a rationalized absolute sacred myth (as did Plato) in order to explain (to the mass of men) the sacrifices involved; for the "many" lived to serve the technocratic absolute of profit. In technology, the capitalist and the scholars joined hands for nation.
Actually, Bacon was a political engineer, and he called his effort philanthropia. Bacon was a practical man of state. The duality of logical and physical was useful to him only to a restricted point. He wanted and needed immediate results of practical power. All of his long term goals were tied to the survival of England as a nation. This meant England should develop her own resources and the resources of all others in such a way as to insure her survival as a world power. How to accomplish this was Bacon's quest. The general logic of supreme nation was the latent form he sought as dormant behind the physical power of industrial science. In his role as pragmatic man of state, Bacon's use of Machiavellian reflection was marked. And yet, Bacon needed to couch all of this in the mood of good Christian morality. For him, Christian morality was teh emblematic device for social control. Therefore, philanthropia had to be the apparent goal, not raw power. Bacon's definition of man as raw natural proces if not defined according to the Christian sanction, mandated that individual men could only work out their rational destiny through the role of subject in a Christian state. In this way, a man could be realized, as he pursued his royal prerogatives (physical, emotional needs) through the royal perogratives (physical, emotional needs) of the body congregate. The need of a rational society, through a planned ideology, supporting a planned technology for the individual good as it coincided with the congregate good, marks Bacon's philanthropia as a possible forerunner of Marx.
In Bruno, the Scriptures are the reservoir of useful metaphors, parables, similes, and examples that teach goodness. These symbolic devices are good in Bruno insofar as they reflect the natural, poignant struggle of men to realize the human good on earth. In Bacon, the Scriptures are a source of of Revelation for the English Monarch and his bishops. Bacon does not insist that Revelation will not violate reason. But there is this difference between Bruno and Bacon regarding the ground for induction in the social sciences.
In Bruno, the logic of the syllogistic was not good for the natural sciences, because it did not follow from common sense observations (purged of fantastic habits). However, in Bruno, deduction was useful in testing inductive generalizations in the natural sciences. Moral theory for Bruno could take not liberties with induction. Moral theory that was expressed in metaphors and parables stood before reason as metaphors and parables. These were precious devices only insofar as they aided reason. In Bacon, moral theory could and did take liberties with inductions. Revelations could serve as the source of a religious syllogism. In Bacon, Deism could proceed dogmatically from the English version of the Scriptures. Bacon did not allow this irrational ground in the natural sciences. He was afraid of ultimate axioms there, and he said that the time was not ripe for ultimate axioms in natural science. In Bacon and Bruno, the social science, which is the tradition founded on natural law, cannot be understood apart from the natural science, which is also founded upon natural law. Man is taken as raw, logical power, and again as a socialized, conditioned power.
Bacon's sombre acceptance of the necessity for a nationalized science ("knowledge is power") marks his own Platonic synthesis. It was his solution to correct Machiaellian power and the superstition of Rome. For Bacon, these contraries would be coincidental in a humanistic polity. Baconian polity called for one nation, ruled by a learned governor whose reflective politics provided a rational ideology for the power of the nation. In it the will bends the intellect and the intellect bends the reason, for domestic peace and for a social ideology. Particulars (subjects) are like an army, and the intellect (monarch) needs to know their stategy. The intellect (monarch) needs to hand this strategy over to the reason in order that critical men (royal administrators) could marshall a reasonable army (social executives). Decision is made onthe basis of physical laws of human experience. Social physical argument is based on both inductive and deductive models, which are based on middle social axioms. These middle social axioms are scales of justice whose weights remain in balance only if inductions and deductions are trimmed to match each other. This means that for the philosophers of natural society, reflective insight was no problem, as it was tested against bare physical law or social facts. For Bacon, reflective insight was incapable of forming middle axioms, if not from re-formed sensation in natural science. And social theory, through Bacon, demanded the middle axiom based upon intellectual intuition was legitimate as long as the intellect had not been detached from the Scriptures for social theory. Here, the Scriptures supplanted Nature.
Bacon's concern was with good cause. Social control belonged to theological dogma. This entailed the excising of the intellect from its sensory matrix in the case of moral theory. For Bacon moral theory could descend from supernatural models to meaningful moral middle axioms through theological Revelation supervised by the Vicar, the King. Morally, one needs the logical path of descent from faith's remote axioms. Morally, there are not to be two paths going in different directions, one from the middle axiom to the ultimate axiom, one from the ultimate axiom to the middle axiom. For Bacon, there is to be a two lane highway supporting two way traffic for the natural sciences, but the highway of morality is to have one lane, moving from top to bottom. This will facilitate domestic peace. First comes national unity; then comes implementation of natural science advanced through the domestic law and order. Progress is accomplished through the social distribution of the subjects and through their obedience the faithful Christian revelation, as understood and practiced by Christ's vicar on earth, the monarch.
Science was useful science. When Francis Bacon
held that policy "e gemino" (Abbott,p.189).he indicated that the
metaphysical insight of his period pertaining to "the coincidence of
contraries" represented the structure of both the state of nature and
the state of community. The absolute "nature" was to have been
understood in terms of its visible forms and its latent
configurations and its latent process. The means the tracing out of
the latent forms by putting the visible froms through complete
physical manipulations and trials, in order to wrench from them the
latent formula of their physical operations. The absolute known as
"the State" was to be understood in terms of its visible forms, the
monarchy, and its latent form, the monarch. The means the tracing out
of the power pattern of the latent form by using physical
manipulation and physical trial of the visible signs in order to
wrench from the monarchy the latent formula of the
hidden operation of the masses.
Once we grasp the logic of the latent process and latent configuration, we could then appropriate these formulae to our own uses. Applying them to the task of human service, as opposed to the task of blind cosmic cycle, in order to socialize science, Bacon saw that one whould have to release social science from the grip of superstition. Moral values should not impede the proper exercise of free physical manipulation of all natural phenomena. Moral values must therefore be provided out of an entirely different frame of reference, having nothing to do with the search for the latent process or configuration behind non-human nature. Moral values, then, would be drawn up from the Holy Scriptures and have nothing to do with judging the work of science or technology.
Bacon recognized three realms of human reality. One, the moral realm; secondly the political realm; thirdly, the science of nature. The moral realm was monistic and dogmatic. It was to remain in service to the political realm. The political realm was the more fundamental. It was didactic, and it was understandable in terms of two absolutes; one was nature, and the other was monarchy. The theme of naturans-naturata--the theme of the one and the many--was exercised here. These two arms of polity, nature, and monarchy, could be understood from either aspect. Nature had dual aspects and so did monarchy.
Philanthropic power renewed itself through its practical fruits for Bacon. When Bacon spoke of Machiavelli, he said that Machiavelli was correct in understanding that the ruler should work, with people in a very practical way by manipulating them on the basis of an understanding of their frailties and vulnerabilities and a realistic recognition of their strengths. But he adds that Machiavelli did not have his eye upon the good life that was possible for man,but rather used the method with a view to sustaining the status quo. For Bacon, men could come to desire a common good and be conditioned to a minimal obedience through common reasonable moral teachings, as in the Philonic tradition.
One would proceed in the manipulation of men exactly as one would proceed in the manipulation of all nature. Men should be studied and their needs and powers completely understood. Then these needs should be met, and their powers should be used. Strict and corrective external procedures were to be used to command morality, just as strict external procedure should be used to command other kinds of nature for knowledge, in order that it too should serve the human scene with power. In the case of morality, Bacon and the Scriptures as this axiomatic device to provide the moral blueprint for the correction of human frailty. During his career Bacon developed many lasting relationships with individuals of different faiths from his own. For a subject in England, however, Bacon would hold that the monarchial requirement to practice English morality would entail an oath of allegiance to the English Bible.
He also saw the necessity for the role of the clergy as the keepers of the faith among the people, through the monarch's grace. Heresy in religion could be, for Bacon, a dangerous and fruitless posture for a member of any society to be allowed to practice. This would be nature unharnessed. However, one is reminded of Bacon's position that in order to be commanded, nature must first be obeyed. Unlike Hobbes, Bacon neglected to provide for the human specimen of nature his inherent right to be outraged by a forced oath of allegiance in the event that he could not base his moral principles upon the Scrpture's story of the fall of ordianary men.
Bacon had lived through the persecution of many people in England and on the Continent. And Bacon lived through the burning of Bruno, whom he undoubtedly knew and probably had met both in France and in England. He was also aware of Galileo's problem in 1616.
Cardinal Bellarmine, who persecuted both Bruno and Galileo and later converted Bacon's best friend (Tobie Matthew) to Romanism (see letter in Appendix B), was a very powerful man on the Continent, and Bacon wanted free correspondence abroad. Bacon's old friend and personal censor, Lancelot Andrews, a clergyman, was engaged in attempting to refute a Jesuit publication which libeled Elizabeth. All of this was important to Bacon, because he was kept poignantly aware of the extent to which conflicts about religious faith seemed to be a main impediment to human progress. He seems always to have maintained the attitude that, apart from minimal loyalty oaths, most people should be left alone to practice their English Faith in their own way. He seemed to feel that each nation had the right to nationalize its religious practices for the glorification of God and its monarch.
However, he criticized the practices of Rome as being unduly laden with superstitious ritual, and in a letter to Tobie went so far as to suggest that superstition about these matters was worse than not believing in any of it. This writer holds that because of the very huge amount of manuscrpts and writings which Bacon had amassed from all over England and the Continent and the East and the New Lands (in order to organize and classify and compile enough data that the search for some fruitful middle axioms or ideas for experiments could be facilitated), he had come to realize that what faith a man had in religious matters or what nation he was at home in made little difference in the value of his ideas as far as technology was concerned. All of these ideas and practices that Bacon accumulated seemed to drive him with an impatience to set aside the issues that seemed not relevant to the command of inanimate physical nature, and to proceed quickly to the task of producing demonstrable power over inanimate natural resources in order to lift the condition of men in this world. Bacon held that the behavior of men would be more likely to improve in due course, if his existential conditions improved.
England, the nation, was ruled over by a monarch of royal blood who had unalterable prerogatives. This theory of the royal prerogatives was carried over by Bacon into a theory of technological research. Nature was analogous to the monarch. She would not and could not bend. If one would command her (get her atttention, influence her to move in a prescribed way), one must obey her first. In all of Bacon's letters to Essex, this admonition in regard to Elizabeth is repeated. Bacon practiced this principle of conduct with the throne very carefully, most of the time.
With the monarchial process of nature, also, one needed to recognize the royal prerogatives. This was his complaint with the rationalists, who, he felt, had lost their petition with nature, because they had not paused to observe her long enough to find out exactly where she was vulnerable to manipulation or communication. He criticizes Aristotle very smartly on this point. It would be as if these men reflected upon an audience with the majesty of nature and then, without the actual experience, would proceed to record it as in fact it had taken place. Bacon, on the other hand, knowing the capricious and universality oriented aim of the royal tasks, knew well that any particular petition must be delivered with painstaking precision and accuracy, and repeated hundreds of times and revised, to suit the mood of any majestic. He also knew well that the laws aimed toward the survival of the kingdom at large at all times.
From his very early days in the Commons, Bacon was well aware that fools may speak where wiser men have learned to hold their tongues. Elizabeth had for years refused even to receive him because he publicly criticized her request for taxes from the common. In a monarchy, to a man who wanted to be at England's helm, this was a devastating loss to his career. In perfect accord with this lesson and with all he observed further in the behaviour of human natures, Bacon sharply criticized men who attempted to walk up to the majestic nature and force her through impulsive pushings to yield her laws of operation. These empirics, Bacon thought, were too hasty, and would meet only rebuff.
Francis Bacon has been traditionally presented as a philosopher, as a scientist, as a literary giant, as a genius of universal nature, and as a follower of Machiavelli in the applied sense. None of these treatments of the man grasp the essential unity of his life and the great endurance and stamina that his life exemplifies. When one examines carefully just how Bacon functioned, one finds that the doggedness and patience and extreme tenacity that he demonstrated in seeking the ear and the eye of the throne must either point to an extreme case of megalomania or else to some deep inner conviction that could be understood as nationally oriented or aimed. The more closely one examines the hours and days that Bacon spent in service to Elizabeth and James in an attempt to pull them out of trouble or to provide a guidance to them in times of hard domestic crisis, the more one recognizes that Bacon had no other life but the life of England, and no greater concern than England's welfare and survival. Although Bacon lived lavishly and with an entourage of over two hundred in a quasi-court of his own at the Inn, at York, at Gorhambury, and at Twickenham, none of this splendor was for Bacon the man. There was only England and the need to be kept constantly informed of the court, of the Continent, of Ireland, of Scotland, and of all the writings and searches going on in England and on the Continent. There were the New Lands and the expeditions to keep track of, in terms of England and her international rivals. There was the role of barrister for the crown in the Commons, and later the actual concrete duties of the Solicitor General and Attorney General and finally Lord Chancellor.
Bacon lived and behaved as a prince. This fact should not be ignored or denied. He received all that he ever got by royal favor because he demanded it, and threatened and cajoled and peristently insisted on it. Bacon worked the clock around for the monarchs and suffered great and persistent defeats, but never became defeated by this humiliation. Bacon was repeatedly humilated before the entire populance by the throne, but, always undaunted in his persistent way, would accept the insult and doggedly await the chance to renew his petition and assistance to the throne. Actually, as one studies the functioning of Bacon, one sees clearly that Bacon methodically wore the monarchs down, with both the patience of a Job and the persistent determinations of a king to save his land. Nowhere in all of the record is there any evidence that Bacon took anything at all for himself as an individual. All of the funds he received were spent directly on his own court of men, to meet the expenses of his work.
Bacon saw readily that knowledge of the mastery of every single natural resource he could get his hands on was needed in order that it be converted into English power. From all sides England was under dire threat of destruction. The authority of Rome had not accepted the autonomy of the English nation, and looked upon her as an errant child to be forced back into the fold. No effort was ignored by Spain to effect the return of England to the authority of Rome. Ireland and Scotland were constantly demanding their freedom from England, and there was constant military expeditions into these places by England, who could not afford to have them turn hostile to her as independents. Spain was constantly called by the Irish to assist their cause, and landing on Irish soil to fight the English. In England itself, the situation remained grave in all of Bacon's years, due to internal treasonable sects who never had accepted the break with Rome. There were also other radical religious groups, such as the Calvinists, who did not believe that the break with the old religion was severe enough, and maintained that a complete reform was in order. The espionage by Spain and Rome right in the English court was very active and persistent. In Bacon's time several attempts made on Elizabeth's life involved persons who had the trust of the court. All of these problems found Francis Bacon on the front line of action, because he was expected to be there and because he wanted to be there. Any attempt to present Bacon as a man of leisure who languished over a plush library reading and studying months at a time is not one which follows the facts.
Actually Bacon frantically gathered books all the
books and writings he could. He had a large number of men scribes
writing and rewriting and reading to him as much of the time as he
had to spare for it. His personal confidant and secretary, Rawley,
states that Bacon was not at all careful about the manner in which he
used the work of other authors. Most of the later writers on Bacon
also acknowledge this fact. But it would be crude and completely
without insight to oversimplify the case by saying that Bacon was
dishonest in this way. It would be to apply our standards to a time
that was not all ready for a rigourous exercise of proper protocol
Bacon's published works all seem to be compilations from the many works that he had collected in order that he might weave them together to form a new English catechism of knowledge for the education of Englishmen. Upon this new organization of knowledge Bacon wanted to build scientific theory that would be fruitful in terms of industrial results. It should be understood that Bacon compiled and amassed a huge amount of writings from all over--in correspondence, and by courier, and by purchase--in order to build the best possible library in all of the world, one that would hold all the most fertile ideas in the world for producing material things for the power of England at home and abroad. When Bacon died, a lot of material that was left behind was published as his, but it does not follow that it was written by Bacon.
After James became King an spent considerable time in Scotland on extended holidays, during which he took the court with him, Bacon took over the reins and received ambassadors and scholars from all over the world at Whitehall. Bacon had seen Europe as a young man and wanted to have in England a court as enriched and as informed as were those in France and Italy. His brother Anthony had done intelligence work from the continent for over sixteen years, and there was not very much that had gone on in those places that Bacon had not heard about. During this time, Parliament began to manifest it fight to test the king's royal prerogative. James could not handle the Parliament. It was Bacon, a former member of the Commons himself, with twenty-five years' experience behind him in practical political compromise between the throne and the new middle class, who forestalled temporarily the chaos that climaxed in the reign of Charles I, who was beheaded by the Parliament. The end of royal prerogative began with the unseating of Bacon as Lord Chancellor, and leadership for industrial giantism took the path of personal profit and power, as against the path of a systematized and orderly development of natural resources according to the planned society of a Lord Chancellor.
One leaves the works and writings of Bacon with a sombre and remarkable pessimism regarding the future of societal man. The altruism that Bacon practices toward the common person is a mechanical and contrived apparatus which boils down to a means of applying a procedural yoke to a half-beast in order to insure the promise of a planned societal strategy of national survival. Man does not develop from the inside out in dynamic interplay with rich personal experience, as in the philosophers of nature on the Continent at this time; rather, man develops as a subject through the adjustment to the cultural yoke of a designed technological power thrust by the politically versed and royally endowed. In truth, human life at its best seems to be not much different from that which Machiavelli paints, even though Bacon feels that his own system points to the good life, as opposed the system of Machiavellian man, which merely aims toward perpetuation of power.
If the Baconian horizons seem to be mere mirages, one needs to ask why they appear in this way. The answer comes slowly and painfully. It appears that the analysts who sit in twentieth century studies invoke a theory of altruism hardly appropriate to Elizabethan England. Moving in those times and carefully extracting demonstrable bits of the societal fabric from that period, one is enabled to correct teh methodological distort. For Bacon there was only one survival at stake. It was the survival of England. It would be several hundred years before the nations on the Continent made such a daring pitch for political autonomy based on industrial know-how. Bacon saw the only way to gain this as being industrial development through social order: a planned nation rich in a controlled technology and justified by a sacred moral dogma.
The acquisition of knowledge was for Bacon a way to insure political supremacy. Long before the Royal Society was founded, Bacon supported and operated his own laboratory of knowing and his own world library of manuscripts, attended by a veritable court of scribes and mechanics. When it was said that Bacon wrote philosophy like a Lord Chancellor, the statement was correct. In this truth, the writer sees no devaluation of Bacon's monumental contribution to the development of the industrial scientific nation that is based on the pragmatic command of all that nation's natural resources, human or otherwise.