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4 Idols of Bacon

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Francis Bacon was a very controversial philosopher. In Book 1 of the Novum Organum, Bacon begins with the introduction of the “four idols”. The four idols were four natural tendencies that people believe and seem to live by. The idols consisted of idols of the tribe, idols of the cave, idols of the marketplace, and idols of the theatre. These four idols, essentially began the start of modern psychology for the benefit and teaching of man.

The first idol, the idol of the tribe, was a symbol that represented the idea that people’s beliefs and actions were based off of “what they were born with”. The idol of the tribe was the foundation in human nature of the race of man. This idol resulted in the failing of man’s perception of nature. The idol of the tribe is a deceptive belief that inherents within the mind of a man, and therefore belonging to the human race as a whole. These mistakes are abstractions in mistake arising from common desires to distortion, disproportion, and exaggeration.

The second idol, the idol of the cave, was based on your upbringing and is naturally “within you”. A cavern or den was the symbol of the idol of the cave, representing the mind of every individual. The idol of the cave meant that everyone has their own individual perspective on life. Since all men are different, views on nature vary greatly amongst all peoples.

The third idol, the idol of the marketplace, represents the false language often used within commerce that wonderfully mangles the correct use of language as often the speech and rhetoric which man used to incorrectly communicate within commerce and intercourse with each other. In other words, men often use ill and unfit choices of words that do not correctly convey the meaning of their intentions. Language is ambiguous, and often confuses our understanding of nature. According to Bacon, mistakes arise from the false or misleading definitions of words themselves while being used without care and without due attention to clear and distinct meanings.

The fourth and final idol, idol of the theater, comes from widely differentiated philosophies; Bacon states the point that all philosophies are no better than plays in the theatre. This idol migrated into men’s minds from different dogmas of philosophy. In other words, all of the received systems are but stage plays representing worlds of their own creation.

Bacon notes various styles of the idol of the theatre; superstitious, sophistic, and emperical philosophy. The philosophy of superstition included the philosophical corruption made by false religion. Sophistic philosophy was created by Aristotle, who’s main concern, to him, was with intelectual debates than with the natural occuring phenamenons. Empirical philosophy focuses within the narrow range of experiments to the exclusion of everything else.

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