Francis Bacon: The Temper of a Man
The portrait Bowen paints of this controversial man, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), balances the outward life and actions of Bacon with the seemingly contradictory aspects of his refined philosophical reflections. When Bacon's more notorious attributes are set in historical context, his actions seem less personally vindictive against the backdrop of an entire age seemingly devoted to the very vanity and ingenuousness with which he is so often accused. As Lord Chancellor of England, Bacon was impeached by Parliament for taking bribes in office, convicted, and banished from London an the law courts. In a prayer Bacon composed during the interval following his punishment, he reveals that the dichotomy of his existence was no more deeply felt than by himself, and he readily admits that his obligations to society were not as suited to his nature as the study of philosophy, science and law. Modem scholars hold Bacon's philosophical works, "Novum Organum", "Advancement of Learning" and "New Atlantis" as his greatest achievements. Bowen's story reveals a man whose genius it was not to immerse himself in the rigour of scientific experimentation, but to realise what questions science should ask, and thereby reach beyond the status quo and appeal to the wider imagination of his generation. In his writings, Bacon challenged established social and religious orders, raised questions about mind/body relation and the role of dreams, and foresaw the day when scientists at colleges and universities would share experimentation. It is Bacon's legacy to have gone beyond his age and, out of pure intuition, anticipate the concerns of future generations.
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Page xii - 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...