Francis Bacon's doctrine of idols: a diagnosis of ‘universal madness’
30.04.2021 Maria Popova
Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon (January 22, 1561–April 9, 1626) might be best-known as a pioneer of the scientific method, but he was also a prolific and thoughtful philosopher, writer, and scholar of the arts and humanities. His Complete Essays (public library | public domain) explore everything from love (“Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it; but wanton love corrupteth, and embaseth it.”) to envy (“A man that hath no virtue in himself, ever envieth virtue in others.”) to delays (“There is surely no greater wisdom, than well to time the beginnings, and onsets, of things.”) to death (“Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children, is increased with tales, so is the other.”), and just about everything in between.

But among Bacon’s most timeless and prescient reflections is the essay Of Studies, which touches on a number of familiar and urgent contemporary issues — the brokenness of the education system, the osmosis of reading and non-reading, and the importance of finding your element.
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