Peace Among the Willows

The Political Philosophy of Francis Bacon

by

Howard B.White

International Archives of the History of Ideas

Martinus Nijhoff--The Hague1968


"Myself am like the miller of Hunitngdon, was wont to pray for peace among the Willows; for while the winds blew, the windmills wrought, and the water mill was less customed. So I see that controversies of religion must hinder the advancement of sciences."--Francis Bacon October 10, 1609


 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

I.

Political Faith and Utopian Thought

1

II.

Provisional Morality

14

III.

Civil Knowledge

29

IV.

The English Solomon

45

V.

Provisional Politics

58

VI.

Of Island Utopias

93

VII.

The Old and the New Atlantis

108

VIII.

The Society of Bensalem

135

IX.

The Festivals of Bensalem

167

X.

Definitive Morality

190

XI.

Definitive Politics

223

XII.

The Imitable Thunderbolt

252

Subject Index

262

Name Index

264

From the Book Jacket :

This book holds that Francis Bacon was not only a philosopher of science, a writer of fine essays, and a great legal scholar, but that he was also a political philosopher. The conventional view is that Bacon's political philosophy was insignificant and fragmentary. The view presented here is that Bacon's political philosophy can be understood by making a distinction between provisional and definitive mortality. Bacon's provisional politics are constructed out of the need for civil peace and the advancement of science. The pillars of provisional politics are crown, church and empire.

Bacon's definitive politics have little to do with crown, church and empire. Some of the details of definitive politics cannot be known, because, until natural philosophy has been freed of prejudice by Bacon's own scientific method, it is not possible to know "what to wish." Yet Bacon claimed to know something of the good, and that can be seen in his utopia of science. This scientic utopia is a final cause, in the only sense in which Bacon accepted final causes, the causes which man created. Unlike earlier utopias, Bacon's utopia is intended to be accessible. The New Atlantis is Bacon's final cause. This utopia is constructed out of an alliance between old patriarchal power indicates, but it is also a hedonistic paradise. It is picturesque, healthful, and peaceful. It has raised man above the political problems which seemed almost insoluble. Yet how could one prevent dissolution by men who had as much power as the scientific fraternity,who were to rule the scientific utopia? Bacon was unafraid. He had faith in the ultimate union of science and wisdom. That his successors would divorce science from wisdom,he could not know. In this Bacon was the true founder of the idea of progress, but he knew that progress demanded a sacrifice, the sacrifice of faith.

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