Wisdom and Pragmatism of Bacon’s Essay

Wisdom and Pragmatism of Bacon's Essay

There is nothing to dispute that the essays of Bacon are full of worldly wisdom, practical thinking and pragmatic values and therefore they constitute a handbook of practical wisdom.Worldly wisdom refers to the kind of wisdom that is required for achieving worldly success. Bacon is clearly seen in his essays both as a philosopher and a moralist. A philosopher is deeply interested in the pursuit of truth and a moralist is a person who teaches human beings differentiate between the right and the wrong and urges them to undergo the right path only. Bacon is found in this dual role in many of his essays.

The essay ‘Of Great Place’ contains a large number of moral precepts but these moral precepts, it is noted, are synonymous with worldly wisdom. Bacon says that a man attaining a high position loses his freedom. Men in high positions, he observes rightly, are happy only when they hear that other men think well of that and that other men envy them for the offices they hold. Bacon says“In place there is license to do good and evil; whereof the latter is a curse: for in evil the best condition is not to will; the second, not to can.”

The purpose of a man’s efforts should be to perform noble and meritorious tasks.
Bacon observes that there are four vices of authority that should be avoided – delays, corruption, roughness and facility. A servant or a favourite should not be allowed to get too intimate because others may suspect him an agent through whom one receives bribes. A man in high position should think a number of times before making promises. If he cannot keep the promise he has made, his reputation will go down, and his enemies will get chance to talk against him.

Wisdom in Bacon’s essay, “Of Marriage and Single Life” does not refer to the profound or philosophical variety. Rather it offers worldly wisdom which, to a great extent, is cynical. Bacon’s cynical approach is expressed in the very opening sentence of this essay – Bacon expresses the view that a married man with children can not undertake great efforts: “He that hath wife and children hath given hostage to fortune.” He continues opining that “The best works and / of greatest merit for the public have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men.” However such notion is not certainly true to the general context.

In the essay “Of Parents and Children”, Bacon observes that parents must not have discrimination among their several children. Parents should not be miser in fixing the pocket allowance for their children. If the children receive too shall a pocket allowance, they will associate with mean companions and will learn all kinds of tricks and dishonest practices.

In the essay “Of Studies”, Bacon offers some practical wisdom regarding studies. Studies develop and perfect a man’s natural ability and they are in turn enriched by practical experience. Only bookish knowledge or only practical knowledge cannot help one. One should have both. Studies might give one guideline. But experience and practical knowledge are something that one should apply in one’s life. There are some books which are to be read only few parts. There are some books that should be read quickly. There are only a small number of books that deserve to be read thoroughly and closely. Thus only a small number of books provide the knowledge and wisdom that are to be imbibed and made a permanent part of oneself. Bacon says, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” 

In the essay “Of Love”, Bacon offers a practical analysis of love. He says that a man should stay away from passion of love. A passionate lover is likely to lose not only other things but also love. A man should restrain himself from excessive love and keep it within limits. He should not let his love interfere with his life. Dissolute or immoral love has corrupting and deserting effects upon human beings, though love is essential for the welfare of human.

In the essay “Of Friendship”, Bacon makes a pure worldly approach to friendship. He analyzes the uses of friendship. A friend can give reliable advice and alternative suggestions. It is better to consult the same man in all matters but he should be a wise and sincere friend. A friend can speak or act on our behalf where we ourselves cannot speak or act.

It is true that Bacon is a philosopher and a moralist, but it has rightly been pointed out by critics that, in his essays as in his own career, he treated philosophy and morality as being subordinate to worldly success. It is for this reason that the wisdom of his essays is of a somewhat cynical kind.

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