Francis Bacon

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I have taken all knowledge to be my province.

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban KC (22 January 15619 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman and essayist.

See also: The Great Instauration

Quotes[edit]

The monuments of wit survive the monuments of power.
Knowledge itself is power.
Nothing is terrible except fear itself.
Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home.
  • The monuments of wit survive the monuments of power.
    • Essex's Device (1595).
  • Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est.
    • Knowledge itself is power.
    • Meditationes Sacræ [Sacred Meditations] (1597) "De Hæresibus" [Of Heresies]
    • Variants:
    • Scientia Ipsa Potentia Est.
    • Scientia potentia est.
      • Knowledge is power.
    • Scientia potestas est.
    • Scientia est potentia.
  • Nay, number (itself) in armies, importeth not much, where the people is of weak courage; for (as Virgil saith) it never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be.
    • Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral (1597), XXIX: "Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates."
  • I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends, as I have moderate civil ends: for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations, and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions and discoveries; the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain glory, or nature, or (if one take it favourably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable countenance doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man's own; which is the thing I greatly affect.
    • Letter to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, published in The Works of Francis Bacon: Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Alban, and Lord High Chancellor of England 14 Vols. (1870) James Spedding, Robert L. Ellis, Douglas D. Heath, editors, Vol. VIII p. 109.
  • Aristotle… a mere bond-servant to his logic, thereby rendering it contentious and well nigh useless.
    • Rerum Novarum (1605).
  • I do plainly and ingenuously confess that I am guilty of corruption, and do renounce all defense. I beseech your Lordships to be merciful to a broken reed.
    • On being charged by Parliament with corruption in office (1621).
  • Lucid intervals and happy pauses.
    • History of King Henry VII, III (1622).
  • Nil terribile nisi ipse timor.
    • Nothing is terrible except fear itself.
    • De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II, Fortitudo (1623).
  • Riches are a good handmaid, but the worst mistress.
    • De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II, Antitheta (1623).
  • Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.
    • Hurl your calumnies boldly; something is sure to stick.
    • De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623).
  • I bequeath my soul to God... My body to be buried obscurely. For my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and the next age.
    • His will (1626).
  • We have also sound houses, where we practice and demonstrate all sounds and their generation. We have harmonies which you have not, of quarter sounds and lesser slides of sounds. Divers instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have; together with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep; likewise divers trembling and warblings of sounds, which in their original are entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which set to the ear to do further the hearing greatly. We have also divers strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and as if it were tossing it; and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice, differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have also means to convey sounds in tubes and pipes, in strange lines and distances...
  • It is true that may hold in these things, which is the general root of superstition; namely, that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss; and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other.
    • Sylva Sylvarum Century X (1627).
  • Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home.
    • An Essay on Death published in The Remaines of the Right Honourable Francis Lord Verulam (1648) but may not have been written by Bacon
  • Ne mireris, si vulgus verius loquatur quam honoratiores; quia etiam tutius loquitur.
    • (Do not wonder, if the common people speak more truly than those of high rank; for they speak with more safety.)
  • He that defers his charity 'till he is dead, is (if a man weighs it rightly) rather liberal of another man's, than of his own.
    • Ornamenta Rationalia [#55]
  • Whence we see spiders, flies, or ants entombed and preserved forever in amber, a more than royal tomb.
    • Historia Vitæ et Mortis; Sylva Sylvarum, Cent. i. Exper. 100, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • When you wander, as you often delight to do, you wander indeed, and give never such satisfaction as the curious time requires. This is not caused by any natural defect, but first for want of election, when you, having a large and fruitful mind, should not so much labour what to speak as to find what to leave unspoken. Rich soils are often to be weeded.
    • Letter of Expostulation to Coke, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • It is not the pleasure of curiosity, nor the quiet of resolution, nor the raising of the spirit, nor victory of wit, nor faculty of speech … that are the true ends of knowledge … but it is a restitution and reinvesting, in great part, of man to the sovereignty and power, for whensoever he shall be able to call the creatures by their true names, he shall again command them.
    • Valerius Terminus: Of the Interpretation of Nature, Works, vol. 1, p. 83
  • Knowledge, that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation.
    • Valerius Terminus: Of the Interpretation of Nature, Works, vol. 1, p. 83

Meditationes sacræ (1597)[edit]

  • "You err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" This canon is the mother of all canons against heresy; the causes of error are two; the ignorance of the will of God, and the ignorance or not sufficient consideration of his power.
    • Of Heresies
  • If thou shalt aspire after the glorious acts of men, thy working shall be accompanied with compunction and strife, and thy remembrance followed with distaste and upbraidings; and justly doth it come to pass towards thee, O man, that since thou, which art God's work, doest him no reason in yielding him well-pleasing service, even thine own works also should reward thee with the like fruit of bitterness.
    • Of The Works Of God and Man
  • For a man to love again where he is loved, it is the charity of publicans contracted by mutual profit and good offices; but to love a man's enemies is one of the cunningest points of the law of Christ, and an imitation of the divine nature.
    • Of The Exaltation of Charity

The Advancement of Learning (1605)[edit]

All knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself.
If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.
In this theater of man's life it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on.
Seek first the virtues of the mind; and other things either will come, or will not be wanted.
  • For all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself.
    • Book I, i, 3.
  • Time, which is the author of authors.
    • Book I, iv, 12.
  • The two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients: the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation: If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.
    • Book I, v, 8.
  • Antiquitas saeculi juventus mundi. [The age of antiquity is the youth of the world.] These times are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient ordine retrogrado, by a computation backward from ourselves.
    • Book I, v, 8.
  • The greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge: for men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a tarrasse, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate.
    • Book I, v, 11.
  • It is manifest that there is no danger at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large soever, lest it should make it swell or out-compass itself; no, but it is merely the quality of knowledge, which, be it in quantity more or less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof, hath in it some nature of venom or malignity, and some effects of that venom, which is ventosity or swelling. This corrective spice, the mixture whereof maketh knowledge so sovereign, is charity, which the Apostle immediately addeth to the former clause; for so he saith, “Knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up”.
    • Book I.
  • The sun, which passeth through pollutions and itself remains as pure as before.
    • Book II.
  • Sacred and inspired divinity, the sabaoth and port of all men's labours and peregrinations.
    • Book II.
  • Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.
    • Book II.
  • States as great engines move slowly.
    • Book II.
  • The use of this feigned history hath been to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in those points wherein the nature of things doth deny it, the world being in proportion inferior to the soul; by reason whereof there is, agreeable to the spirit of man, a more ample greatness, a more exact goodness, and a more absolute variety, than can be found in the nature of things. Therefore, because the acts or events of true history have not that magnitude which satisfieth the mind of man, poesy feigneth acts and events greater and more heroical: because true history propoundeth the successes and issues of actions not so agreeable to the merits of virtue and vice, therefore poesy feigns them more just in retribution, and more according to revealed providence: because true history representeth actions and events more ordinary, and less interchanged, therefore poesy endueth them with more rareness, and more unexpected and alternative variations: so as it appeareth that poesy serveth and conferreth to magnanimity, morality, and to delectation. And therefore it was ever thought to have some participation of divineness, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind; whereas reason doth buckle and bow the mind into the nature of things.
    • Book II, iv, 2.
  • They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.
    • Book II, vii, 5.
  • But men must know that in this theater of man's life it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on.
    • Book II, xx, 8.
  • We are much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do.
    • Book II, xxi, 9.
  • The obliteration of the evil hath been practised by two means, some kind of redemption or expiation of that which is past, and an inception or account de novo for the time to come. But this part seemeth sacred and religious, and justly; for all good moral philosophy (as was said) is but a handmaid to religion.
    • Book II, xxii, 14.
  • Only charity admitteth no excess. For so we see, aspiring to be like God in power, the angels transgressed and fell; Ascendam, et ero similis altissimo: by aspiring to be like God in knowledge, man transgressed and fell; Eritis sicut Dii, scientes bonum et malum: but by aspiring to a similitude of God in goodness or love, neither man nor angel ever transgressed, or shall transgress.
    • Book II, XXII.
  • For man seeketh in society comfort, use, and protection: and they be three wisdoms of divers natures, which do often sever: wisdom of the behaviour, wisdom of business, and wisdom of state.
    • Book II, xxiii.
  • Primum quaerite bona animi; caetera aut aderunt, aut non oberunt
    • Seek first the virtues of the mind; and other things either will come, or will not be wanted
    • Book II, xxxi.
  • I could not be true and constant to the argument I handle, if I were not willing to go beyond others; but yet not more willing than to have others go beyond me again: which may the better appear by this, that I have propounded my opinions naked and unarmed, not seeking to preoccupate the liberty of men's judgments by confutations.
    • Book II
  • Silence is the virtue of a fool.
    • Book VI, xxxi
  • As we divided natural philosophy in general into the inquiry of causes, and productions of effects: so that part which concerneth the inquiry of causes we do subdivide according to the received and sound division of causes. The one part, which is physic, inquireth and handleth the material and efficient causes; and the other, which is metaphysic, handleth the formal and final causes.
    • Book VII, 3
  • This misplacing hath caused a deficience, or at least a great improficience in the sciences themselves. For the handling of final causes, mixed with the rest in physical inquiries, hath intercepted the severe and diligent inquiry of all real and physical causes, and given men the occasion to stay upon these satisfactory and specious causes, to the great arrest and prejudice of further discovery. For this I find done not only by Plato, who ever anchoreth upon that shore, but by Aristotle, Galen, and others which do usually likewise fall upon these flats of discoursing causes.
    • Book VII, 7
  • The natural philosophy of Democritus and some others, who did not suppose a mind or reason in the frame of things, but attributed the form thereof able to maintain itself to infinite essays or proofs of nature, which they term fortune, seemeth to me... in particularities of physical causes more real and better inquired than that of Aristotle and Plato; whereof both intermingled final causes, the one as a part of theology, and the other as a part of logic, which were the favourite studies respectively of both those persons. Not because those final causes are not true, and worthy to be inquired, being kept within their own province; but because their excursions into the limits of physical causes hath bred a vastness and solitude in that tract.
    • Book VII, 7
our Saviour Christ... not being like man, which knows man’s thoughts by his words, but knowing man’s thoughts immediately, He never answered their words, but their thoughts.
  • Neither did the dispensation of God vary in the times after our Saviour came into the world; for our Saviour himself did first show His power to subdue ignorance, by His conference with the priests and doctors of the law, before He showed His power to subdue nature by His miracles. And the coming of this Holy Spirit was chiefly figured and expressed in the similitude and gift of tongues, which are but vehicula scientiæ.
  • Touching the secrets of the heart and the successions of time, doth make a just and sound difference between the manner of the exposition of the Scriptures and all other books. For it is an excellent observation which hath been made upon the answers of our Saviour Christ to many of the questions which were propounded to Him, how that they are impertinent to the state of the question demanded: the reason whereof is, because not being like man, which knows man’s thoughts by his words, but knowing man’s thoughts immediately, He never answered their words, but their thoughts. Much in the like manner it is with the Scriptures, which being written to the thoughts of men, and to the succession of all ages, with a foresight of all heresies, contradictions, differing estates of the Church, yea, and particularly of the elect, are not to be interpreted only according to the latitude of the proper sense of the place, and respectively towards that present occasion whereupon the words were uttered, or in precise congruity or contexture with the words before or after, or in contemplation of the principal scope of the place; but have in themselves, not only totally or collectively, but distributively in clauses and words, infinite springs and streams of doctrine to water the Church in every part. And therefore as the literal sense is, as it were, the main stream or river, so the moral sense chiefly, and sometimes the allegorical or typical, are they whereof the Church hath most use; not that I wish men to be bold in allegories, or indulgent or light in allusions: but that I do much condemn that interpretation of the Scripture which is only after the manner as men use to interpret a profane book.
    • XXV. (17)

Novum Organum (1620)[edit]

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.
Novum Organum Scientiarum also known as The New Organon
  • Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm by spoiling and putting an end to other men's efforts than good by their own. Those on the other hand who have taken a contrary course, and asserted that absolutely nothing can be known — whether it were from hatred of the ancient sophists, or from uncertainty and fluctuation of mind, or even from a kind of fullness of learning, that they fell upon this opinion — have certainly advanced reasons for it that are not to be despised; but yet they have neither started from true principles nor rested in the just conclusion, zeal and affectation having carried them much too far....
    Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy to explain; and it is this. I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty. The evidence of the sense, helped and guarded by a certain process of correction, I retain. But the mental operation which follows the act of sense I for the most part reject; and instead of it I open and lay out a new and certain path for the mind to proceed in, starting directly from the simple sensuous perception.
  • We are wont to call that human reasoning which we apply to Nature the anticipation of Nature (as being rash and premature) and that which is properly deduced from things the interpretation of Nature.

Book I[edit]

Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed...
The subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of argument.
We cannot command nature except by obeying her.
In my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion.
We cannot conceive of any end or limit to the world, but always as of necessity it occurs to us that there is something beyond…
By far the greatest obstacle to the progress of science and to the undertaking of new tasks and provinces therein is found in this — that men despair and think things impossible.
Let men but think over their infinite expenditure of understanding, time, and means on matters and pursuits of far less use and value; whereof, if but a small part were directed to sound and solid studies, there is no difficulty that might not be overcome.
Truth therefore and utility are here the very same thing…
  • 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.
    • Aphorism 1.
  • Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.
    • Aphorism 3.
  • It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.
    • Aphorism 6.
  • The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search for truth. So it does more harm than good.
    • Aphorism 7.
  • The cause and root of nearly all evils in the sciences is this — that while we falsely admire and extol the powers of the human mind we neglect to seek for its true helps.
    • Aphorism 9.
  • There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried.
    • Aphorism 19.
  • There is a great difference between the Idols of the human mind and the Ideas of the divine. That is to say, between certain empty dogmas, and the true signatures and marks set upon the works of creation as they are found in nature.
    • Aphorism 23.
  • It cannot be that axioms established by argumentation should avail for the discovery of new works, since the subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of argument. But axioms duly and orderly formed from particulars easily discover the way to new particulars, and thus render sciences active.
    • Aphorism 24.
  • Further, it will not be amiss to distinguish the three kinds and, as it were, grades of ambition in mankind. The first is of those who desire to extend their own power in their native country, a vulgar and degenerate kind. The second is of those who labor to extend the power and dominion of their country among men. This certainly has more dignity, though not less covetousness. But if a man endeavor to establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the universe, his ambition (if ambition it can be called) is without doubt both a more wholesome and a more noble thing than the other two. Now the empire of man over things depends wholly on the arts and sciences. For we cannot command nature except by obeying her.
    • Aphorism 28.
  • There are four classes of Idols which beset men's minds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names — calling the first class, Idols of the Tribe ; the second, Idols of the Cave; the third, Idols of the Market-Place; the fourth, Idols of the Theater.
    • Aphorism 39.
  • The Idols of Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
    • Aphorism 41.
  • The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature, owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature; or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like. So that the spirit of man (according as it is meted out to different individuals) is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance. Whence it was well observed by Heraclitus that men look for sciences in their own lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.
    • Aphorism 42.
  • There are also Idols formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, which I call Idols of the Market Place, on account of the commerce and consort of men there. For it is by discourse that men associate, and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. Nor do the definitions or explanations wherewith in some things learned men are wont to guard and defend themselves, by any means set the matter right. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.
    • Aphorism 43.
  • Lastly, there are Idols which have immigrated into men's minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the Theater, because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion.
    • Aphorism 44.
  • The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. And though there be many things in nature which are singular and unmatched, yet it devises for them parallels and conjugates and relatives which do not exist. Hence the fiction that all celestial bodies move in perfect circles, spirals and dragons being (except in name) utterly rejected.
    • Aphorism 45.
  • The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.
    • Aphorism 46.
  • …it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives…
    • Aphorism 46.
  • The human understanding is moved by those things most which strike and enter the mind simultaneously and suddenly, and so fill the imagination; and then it feigns and supposes all other things to be somehow, though it cannot see how, similar to those few things by which it is surrounded.
    • Aphorism 47.
  • The human understanding is unquiet; it cannot stop or rest, and still presses onward, but in vain. Therefore it is that we cannot conceive of any end or limit to the world, but always as of necessity it occurs to us that there is something beyond... But he is no less an unskilled and shallow philosopher who seeks causes of that which is most general, than he who in things subordinate and subaltern omits to do so.
    • Aphorism 48.
  • But by far the greatest hindrance and aberration of the human understanding proceeds from the dullness, incompetency, and deceptions of the senses; in that things which strike the sense outweigh things which do not immediately strike it, though they be more important. Hence it is that speculation commonly ceases where sight ceases; insomuch that of things invisible there is little or no observation.
    • Aphorism 50.
  • But the best demonstration by far is experience, if it go not beyond the actual experiment.
    • Aphorism 70.
  • In the same manner as we are cautioned by religion to show our faith by our works we may very properly apply the principle to philosophy, and judge of it by its works; accounting that to be futile which is unproductive, and still more so, if instead of grapes and olives it yield but the thistle and thorns of dispute and contention.
    • Aphorism 73.
  • It is not possible to run a course aright when the goal itself has not been rightly placed.
    • Aphorism 81.
  • But by far the greatest obstacle to the progress of science and to the undertaking of new tasks and provinces therein is found in this — that men despair and think things impossible.
    • Aphorism 92.
  • The beginning is from God: for the business which is in hand, having the character of good so strongly impressed upon it, appears manifestly to proceed from God, who is the author of good, and the Father of Lights. Now in divine operations even the smallest beginnings lead of a certainty to their end. And as it was said of spiritual things, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” so is it in all the greater works of Divine Providence; everything glides on smoothly and noiselessly, and the work is fairly going on “before men are aware that it has begun. Nor should the prophecy of Daniel be forgotten, touching the last ages of the world: —“Many shall go to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased;” clearly intimating that the thorough passage of the world (which now by so many distant voyages seems to be accomplished, or in course of accomplishment), and the advancement of the sciences, are destined by fate, that is, by Divine Providence, to meet in the same age.
    • Aphorism 93.
  • Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested. Therefore from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never yet been made), much may be hoped.
    • Aphorism 95.
  • No one has yet been found so firm of mind and purpose as resolutely to compel himself to sweep away all theories and common notions, and to apply the understanding, thus made fair and even, to a fresh examination of particulars. Thus it happens that human knowledge, as we have it, is a mere medley and ill-digested mass, made up of much credulity and much accident, and also of the childish notions which we at first imbibed.
    • Aphorism 97.
  • Another argument of hope may be drawn from this — that some of the inventions already known are such as before they were discovered it could hardly have entered any man's head to think of; they would have been simply set aside as impossible. For in conjecturing what may be men set before them the example of what has been, and divine of the new with an imagination preoccupied and colored by the old; which way of forming opinions is very fallacious, for streams that are drawn from the springheads of nature do not always run in the old channels.
    • Aphorism 109.
  • There is another ground of hope that must not be omitted. Let men but think over their infinite expenditure of understanding, time, and means on matters and pursuits of far less use and value; whereof, if but a small part were directed to sound and solid studies, there is no difficulty that might not be overcome.
    • Aphorism 111.
  • Let men learn (as we have said above) the difference that exists between the idols of the human mind, and the ideas of the Divine mind. The former are mere arbitrary abstractions; the latter the true marks of the Creator on his creatures, as they are imprinted on, and defined in matter, by true and exquisite touches. Truth, therefore, and utility are here perfectly identical.
    • Aphorism 124.
  • Again, we should notice the force, effect, and consequences of inventions, which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the whole world; first in literature, then in warfare, and lastly in navigation: and innumerable changes have been thence derived, so that no empire, sect, or star, appears to have exercised a greater power and influence on human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.
    • Aphorism 129.

Book II[edit]

Truth will sooner come out from error than from confusion.
  • Truth will sooner come out from error than from confusion.
    • Aphorism 20.
  • Above all, every relation must be considered as suspicious, which depends in any degree upon religion, as the prodigies of Livy: And no less so, everything that is to be found in the writers of natural magic or alchemy, or such authors, who seem, all of them, to have an unconquerable appetite for falsehood and fable.
    • Aphorism 29.
  • Since my logic aims to teach and instruct the understanding, not that it may with the slender tendrils of the mind snatch at and lay hold of abstract notions (as the common logic does), but that it may in very truth dissect nature, and discover the virtues and actions of bodies, with their laws as determined in matter; so that this science flows not merely from the nature of the mind, but also from the nature of things.
    • Aphorism 42.
  • To God, truly, the Giver and Architect of Forms, and it may be to the angels and higher intelligences, it belongs to have an affirmative knowledge of forms immediately, and from the first contemplation. But this assuredly is more than man can do, to whom it is granted only to proceed at first by negatives, and at last to end in affirmatives, after exclusion has been exhausted.
    • Aphorism XV.

Apophthegms (1624)[edit]

Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.
Adversity Is Not Without Bacon Jambalaya.jpg
  • My Lord St. Albans said that Nature did never put her precious jewels into a garret four stories high, and therefore that exceeding tall men had ever very empty heads.
    • No. 17.
  • Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
    • No. 36.
  • Like strawberry wives, that laid two or three great strawberries at the mouth of their pot, and all the rest were little ones.
    • No. 54.
  • Sir Henry Wotton used to say that critics are like brushers of noblemen's clothes.
    • No. 64.
  • Sir Amice Pawlet, when he saw too much haste made in any matter, was wont to say. "Stay a while, that we may make an end the sooner."
    • No. 76.
  • Alonso of Aragon was wont to say in commendation of age, that age appears to be best in four things — old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.
    • No. 97.
  • Pyrrhus, when his friends congratulated to him his victory over the Romans under Fabricius, but with great slaughter of his own side, said to them, "Yes; but if we have such another victory, we are undone".
    • No. 193.
  • Cosmus, Duke of Florence, was wont to say of perfidious friends, that "We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends."
    • No. 206.
  • Cato said the best way to keep good acts in memory was to refresh them with new.
    • No. 247.

Essays (1625)[edit]

What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.
Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince's part to pardon.
The joys of parents are secret; and so are their griefs and fears. They cannot utter the one; nor they will not utter the other.
All rising to great place is by a winding stair...
In charity there is no excess.
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.
A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.
It were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an opinion, as is unworthy of him.
Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.


Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished.
There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures.
In dealing with cunning persons, we must ever consider their ends, to interpret their speeches; and it is good to say little to them, and that which they least look for.
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
Be angry, but sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Anger must be limited and confined, both in race and in time.
The greatest vicissitude of things amongst men is the vicissitude of sects and religions.
  • Come home to men's business and bosoms.
    • Dedication to the Essays (edition 1625).
  • What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.
    • Of Truth.
  • No pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of truth.
    • Of Truth.
  • Truth is a naked and open daylight, that doth not shew the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candlelights.
    • Of Truth.
  • It is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it, that doth the hurt.
    • Of Truth.
  • Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
    • Of Truth.
  • There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious. And therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquired the reason, why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace, and such an odious charge? Saith he, If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth, is as much to say, as that he is brave towards God, and a coward towards men. For a lie faces God, and shrinks from man. Surely the wickedness of falsehood, and breach of faith, cannot possibly be so highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last peal, to call the judgments of God upon the generations of men; it being foretold, that when Christ cometh, he shall not find faith upon the earth.
    • Of Truth.
  • 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.
    • Of Death.
  • It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man, so weak, but it mates, and masters, the fear of death; and therefore, death is no such terrible enemy, when a man hath so many attendants about him, that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over death; love slights it; honor aspireth to it; grief flieth to it; fear preoccupieth it.
    • Of Death.
  • Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.
    • Of Revenge.
  • Base and crafty cowards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark.
    • Of Revenge.
  • Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince's part to pardon.
    • Of Revenge.
  • Vindictive persons live the life of witches; who, as they are mischievous, so end they infortunate.
  • Certain Laodiceans, and lukewarm persons, think they may accommodate points of religion, by middle way, and taking part of both, and witty reconcilements; as if they would make an arbitrament between God and man. Both these extremes are to be avoided; which will be done, if the league of Christians, penned by our Savior himself, were in two cross clauses thereof, soundly and plainly expounded: He that is not with us, is against us; and again, He that is not against us, is with us; that is, if the points fundamental and of substance in religion, were truly discerned and distinguished, from points not merely of faith, but of opinion, order, or good intention.
  • Of Unity Of Religion
  • It is yet a higher speech of his than the other, “It is true greatness to have in one the frailty of a man and the security of a god.”
    • Of Adversity.
  • It was a high speech of Seneca (after the manner of the Stoics), that “The good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.”
    • Of Adversity.
  • Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.
    • Of Adversity.
  • The virtue of prosperity, is temperance; the virtue of adversity, is fortitude; which in morals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New; which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's favor. Yet even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David's harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols; and the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath labored more in describing the afflictions of Job, than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes.
    • Of Adversity.
  • Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.
    • Of Adversity.
  • Virtue is like precious odors — most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed.
    • Of Adversity.
  • The joys of parents are secret; and so are their griefs and fears. They cannot utter the one; nor they will not utter the other.
    • Of Parents and Children.
  • He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means, have married and endowed the public.
    • Of Marriage and Single Life.
  • Wives are young men's mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men's nurses.
    • Of Marriage and Single Life.
  • A man that hath no virtue in himself, ever envieth virtue in others. For men's minds, will either feed upon their own good, or upon others' evil; and who wanteth the one, will prey upon the other; and whoso is out of hope, to attain to another's virtue, will seek to come at even hand, by depressing another's fortune.
    • Of Envy.
  • For there was never proud man thought so absurdly well of himself, as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, That it is impossible to love, and to be wise.
    • Of Love.
  • For it is a true rule, that love is ever rewarded either with the reciproque, or with an inward and secret contempt.
    • Of Love.
  • Nuptial love maketh mankind, friendly love perfecteth it, but wonton love corrupteth and embaseth it.
    • Of Love.
  • Men in great place are thrice servants,—servants of the sovereign or state, servants of fame, and servants of business.
    • Of Great Place.
  • It is an assured sign of a worthy and generous spirit, whom honor amends. For honor is, or should be, the place of virtue and as in nature, things move violently to their place, and calmly in their place, so virtue in ambition is violent, in authority settled and calm. All rising to great place is by a winding stair; and if there be factions, it is good to side a man's self, whilst he is in the rising, and to balance himself when he is placed. Use the memory of thy predecessor, fairly and tenderly; for if thou dost not, it is a debt will sure be paid when thou art gone. If thou have colleagues, respect them, and rather call them, when they look not for it, than exclude them, when they have reason to look to be called. Be not too sensible, or too remembering, of thy place in conversation, and private answers to suitors; but let it rather be said, When he sits in place, he is another man.
    • Of Great Place.
  • It is a strange desire, to seek power and to lose liberty.
    • Of Great Place.
  • Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people assembled. Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still he was never a whit abashed, but said, "If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill."
    • Of Boldness.
  • There is in human nature generally more of the fool than of the wise.
    • Of Boldness.
  • Boldness is ever blind; for it seeth not dangers and inconveniences.
    • Of Boldness.
  • A good name is like a precious ointment; it filleth all around about, and will not easily away; for the odors of ointments are more durable than those of flowers.
    • Of Praise.
  • In charity there is no excess.
    • Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature.
  • If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.
    • Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature.
  • The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall.
    • Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature.
  • Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.
    • Of Seditions and Troubles.
  • The remedy is worse than the disease.
    • Of Seditions and Troubles.
  • I had rather believe all the fables in the legends and the Talmud and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind. And therefore, God never wrought miracle, to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it.
    • Of Atheism.
  • A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.
    • Of Atheism; in the original archaic English this read: It is true, that a little Philosophy inclineth Mans Minde to Atheisme; But depth in Philosophy, bringeth Mens Mindes about to Religion.
  • The Scripture saith, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; it is not said, The fool hath thought in his heart; so as he rather saith it, by rote to himself, as that he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it, or be persuaded of it. For none deny, there is a God, but those, for whom it maketh that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more, that atheism is rather in the lip, than in the heart of man, than by this; that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it, within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened, by the consent of others.
    • Of Atheism
  • You shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects. And, which is most of all, you shall have of them, that will suffer for atheism, and not recant; whereas if they did truly think, that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves?
    • Of Atheism
  • The great atheists, indeed are hypocrites; which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling; so as they must needs be cauterized in the end.
    • Of Atheism
  • Therefore, as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself, above human frailty.
    • Of Atheism
  • It were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an opinion, as is unworthy of him. For the one is unbelief, the other is contumely; and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity.
    • Of Superstition.
  • Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience. He that traveleth into a country before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel.
    • Of Travel.
  • Princes are like heavenly bodies, which cause good or evil times, and which have much veneration but no rest.
    • Of Empire.
  • The greatest trust, between man and man, is the trust of giving counsel. For in other confidences, men commit the parts of life; their lands, their goods, their children, their credit, some particular affair; but to such as they make their counsellors, they commit the whole: by how much the more, they are obliged to all faith and integrity.
    • Of Counsel.
  • Fortune is like the market, where many times, if you can stay a little, the price will fall.
    • Of Delays.
  • Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.
    • Of Cunning.
  • In things that a man would not be seen in himself, it is a point of cunning to borrow the name of the world; as to say, "The world says," or "There is a speech abroad."
    • Of Cunning.
  • There is a cunning which we in England call "the turning of the cat in the pan;" which is, when that which a man says to another, he lays it as if another had said it to him.
    • Of Cunning.
  • It is a good point of cunning for a man to shape the answer he would have in his own words and propositions, for it makes the other party stick the less.
    • Of Cunning.
  • Be true to thyself, as thou be not false to others.
    • Of Wisdom for a Man's Self.
  • It is the nature of extreme self-lovers, as they will set an house on fire, and it were but to roast their eggs.
    • Of Wisdom for a Man's Self.
  • As the births of living creatures at first are ill-shapen, so are all Innovations, which are the births of time.
    • Of Innovations.
  • He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.
    • Of Innovations.
  • Affected dispatch is one of the most dangerous things to business that can be. It is like that, which the physicians call predigestion, or hasty digestion; which is sure to fill the body full of crudities, and secret seeds of diseases. Therefore measure not dispatch, by the times of sitting, but by the advancement of the business.
    • Of Dispatch.
  • Seeming wise men may make shift to get opinion; but let no man choose them for employment; for certainly you were better take for business, a man somewhat absurd, than over-formal.
    • Of Seeming Wise.
  • It hath been an opinion that the French are wiser than they seem, and the Spaniards seem wiser than they are; but howsoever it be between nations, certainly it is so between man and man.
    • Of Seeming Wise.
  • A crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.
    • Of Friendship.
  • But we may go further, and affirm most truly, that it is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends; without which the world is but a wilderness; and even in this sense also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections, is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beast, and not from humanity.
    • Of Friendship.
  • Cure the disease and kill the patient.
    • Of Friendship.
  • Riches are for spending.
    • Of Expense.
  • He that commands the sea is at great liberty, and may take as much and as little of the war as he will.
    • Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates.
  • The greatness of an estate, in bulk and territory, doth fall under measure; and the greatness of finances and revenue, doth fall under computation. The population may appear by musters; and the number and greatness of cities and towns by cards and maps. But yet there is not any thing amongst civil affairs more subject to error, than the right valuation and true judgment concerning the power and forces of an estate.
    • Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates.
  • There is a wisdom in this beyond the rules of physic. A man's own observation, what he finds good of and what he finds hurt of, is the best physic to preserve health.
    • Of Regimen of Health.
  • Beware of sudden change, in any great point of diet, and, if necessity inforce it, fit the rest to it. For it is a secret both in nature and state, that it is safer to change many things, than one.
    • Of Regimen of Health.
  • As for the passions and studies of the mind: avoid envy; anxious fears; anger fretting inwards; subtle and knotty inquisitions; joys and exhilarations in excess; sadness not communicated. Entertain hopes; mirth rather than joy; variety of delights, rather than surfeit of them; wonder and admiration, and therefore novelties; studies that fill the mind with splendid and illustrious objects, as histories, fables, and contemplations of nature.
    • Of Regimen of Health.
  • Suspicions amongst thoughts, are like bats amongst birds, they ever fly by twilight. Certainly they are to be repressed, or at least well guarded: for they cloud the mind; they leese friends; and they check with business, whereby business cannot go on currently and constantly. They dispose kings to tyranny, husbands to jealousy, wise men to irresolution and melancholy. They are defects, not in the heart, but in the brain; for they take place in the stoutest natures.
    • Of Suspicion.
  • Intermingle...jest with earnest.
    • Of Discourse.
  • Discretion of speech, is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him, with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words, or in good order.
    • Of Discourse.
  • So ambitious men, if they find the way open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy than dangerous; but if they be checked in their desires, they become secretly discontent, and look upon men and matters with an evil eye, and are best pleased, when things go backward.
    • Of Ambition.
  • Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished.
    • Of Nature in Men.
  • Men's thoughts, are much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches, according to their learning and infused opinions; but their deeds, are after as they have been accustomed.
    • Of Custom and Education.
  • If a man look sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune; for though she is blind, she is not invisible.
    • Of Fortune.
  • Chiefly the mold of a man's fortune is in his own hands.
    • Of Fortune.
  • If a man look sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune; for though she is blind, she is not invisible.
    • Of Fortune.
  • Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business.
    • Of Youth and Age.
  • Virtue is like a rich stone — best plain set.
    • Of Beauty.
  • There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
    • Of Beauty.
  • Deformed persons are commonly even with nature; for as nature hath done ill by them, so do they by nature; being for the most part (as the Scripture saith) void of natural affection; and so they have their revenge of nature.
    • Of Deformity.
  • Houses are built to live in, not to look on; therefore, let use be preferred before uniformity, except where both may be had.
    • Of Building.
  • God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures.
    • Of Gardens.
  • And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes, like the warbling of music) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight than to know what be the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air.
    • Of Gardens.
  • The planting of hemp and flax would be an unknown advantage to the kingdom, many places therein being as apt for it , as any foreing parts.
    • Of Trading .
  • If you would work any man, you must either know his nature and fashions, and so lead him; or his ends, and so persuade him or his weakness and disadvantages, and so awe him or those that have interest in him, and so govern him. In dealing with cunning persons, we must ever consider their ends, to interpret their speeches; and it is good to say little to them, and that which they least look for. In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees.
    • Of Negotiating.
  • Costly followers are not to be liked; lest while a man maketh his train longer, he make his wings shorter.
    • Of Followers and Friends.
  • To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.
    • Of Studies.
  • Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
    • Of Studies.
  • Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
    • Of Studies.
  • Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.
    • Of Studies.
  • Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.
    • Of Studies.
  • A wise man will make more opportunities, than he finds.
    • Of Ceremonies and Respect.
  • Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swoln, and drowns things weighty and solid.
    • Of Praise.
  • Glorious men are the scorn of wise men, the admiration of fools, the idols of parasites, and the slaves of their own vaunts.
    • Of Vain-Glory.
  • The winning of honor, is but the revealing of a man's virtue and worth, without disadvantage.
    • Of Honor and Reputation.
  • Judges ought to remember, that their office is jus dicere, and not jus dare; to interpret law, and not to make law, or give law.
    • Of Judicature.
  • To seek to extinguish anger utterly, is but a bravery of the Stoics. We have better oracles: Be angry, but sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Anger must be limited and confined, both in race and in time.
    • Of Anger.
  • The greatest vicissitude of things amongst men is the vicissitude of sects and religions.
    • Of Vicissitude of Things.
The world's a bubble, and the life of man
Less than a span.

The World (1629)[edit]

  • The world's a bubble, and the life of man
    Less than a span.
  • Who then to frail mortality shall trust
    But limns the water, or but writes in dust.
  • What then remains but that we still should cry
    Not to be born, or, being born, to die?

Resuscitatio (1657)[edit]

  • Books must follow sciences, and not sciences books.
    • Proposition touching Amendment of Laws.

Quotes about Bacon[edit]

  • The "Baconian" sciences were the kind Francis Bacon had in mind when he issued a call to revitalize science by basing it on craftsmen's knowledge of nature. Bacon is remembered as the most effective critic of the traditional learning promulgated the elite institutions of his day. ...Bacon advocated compiling a "history of arts," or encyclopedia of crafts knowledge...
    • Clifford D. Conner, A People's History of Science (2005)
  • Francis Bacon had essayed to sum up the past of physical science, and to indicate the path which it must follow if its great destinies were to be fulfilled. And though the attempt was just such a magnificent failure as might have been expected from a man of great endowments, who was so singularly devoid of scientific insight that he could not understand the value of the work already achieved by the true instaurators of physical science; yet the majestic eloquence and the fervid vaticinations of one who was conspicuous alike by the greatness of his rise and the depth of his fall, drew the attention of all the world to the 'new birth of Time.'
  • Descartes was an eminent mathematician, and it would seem that the bent of his mind led him to overestimate the value of deductive reasoning from general principles, as much as Bacon had underestimated it.
    • Thomas Henry Huxley, The Advance of Science in the Last Half-Century (1889)
  • To anyone who knows the business of investigation practically, Bacon's notion of establishing a company of investigators to work for 'fruits,' as if the pursuit of knowledge were a kind of mining operation and only required well-directed picks and shovels, seems very strange.
  • Since... it appears that Aristotle very distinctly recognized the cardinal principles of the Baconian philosophy, why... has the world credited Bacon with a great reform in the very attacks he made on Aristotle? The answer is simple. Bacon did not attack the Method which Aristotle taught; indeed, he was very imperfectly acquainted with it. He attacked the Method which the followers of Aristotle practised.
  • If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shin'd
    The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.
  • When Bacon, who commended Henry VII for protecting the tenant right of the small farmer, and pleaded in the House of Commons for more drastic land legislation, wrote "Wealth is like muck. It is not good but if it be spread," he was expressing in an epigram what was the commonplace of every writer on politics from Fortescue at the end of the fifteenth century to Harrington in the middle of the seventeenth.
  • The Lord Chancellor was not particularly interested in the writings of the humanists.
    • Carlos G. Noreña. 1907. Juan Luis Vives. Springer Science & Business Media. 241.
  • If Bacon had weighed well all that Science had achieved in his time, and had laid down a complete scheme of rules for scientific research, so far as they could be collected from the lights of that age, it would still be incumbent upon the philosophical world to augment as well as preserve the inheritance which he left; by combining with his doctrines such new views as the advances of later times cannot fail to produce or suggest; and by endeavouring to provide, for every kind of truth, methods of research as effective as those to which we owe the clearest and surest portions of our knowledge. Such a renovation and extension of the reform of philosophy appears to belong peculiarly to our own time.
  • The Great Reform of Philosophy and Method, in which Bacon so eloquently called upon men to unite their exertions in his day, has, even in ours, been very imperfectly carried into effect. And even if his plan had been fully executed, it would now require to be pursued and extended.
    • William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (1837)
  • The Novum Organon of Bacon was suitably ushered into the world by his Advancement of Learning; and any attempt to continue and extend his Reform of the Methods and Philosophy of Science may, like his, be most fitly preceded by, and founded upon, a comprehensive Survey of the existing state of human knowledge.


Disputed[edit]

  • Imagination was given to man to compensate for what he is not, and a sense of humor to console him for what he is.
    • Attributed to Bacon without citation of work in Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists (2007) by James Geary, p. 112; this is sometimes attributed to others, also without citation of works, but is most often quoted as an anonymous aphorism, with no published sources yet located prior to The Deke Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 3 (1938).


Misattributed[edit]

  • Choose the best life; for habit will make it pleasant
  • For behavior, men learn it, as they take diseases, one of another.
    • In an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Solitude and Society" in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, (December 1857), p. 228, this follows a statement clearly attributed to Bacon, which might be a paraphrase. Without explicit citation, this is added to the parapgraph with quote marks but seems to be a paraphrase of lines by William Shakespeare, from King Henry IV, Part II, Act V, scene 1: "It is certain that either wife bearing or ignorant carriage is caught, as men take diseases, one of another: therefore let men take heed of their company."

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