Sir Francis Bacon: The Advancement of Learning



THE parts of human learning have reference to the three parts of man's understanding--history to his memory, poetry to his imagination, and philosophy to his reason. Divine learning receives the same distribution, so that theology consisteth of history of the Church; of parables, which are divine poetry; and of holy doctrine or precept. For prophecy is but divine history, in which the narrative is before the fact.

History is natural, civil, ecclesiastical and literary; whereof the first three are extant, but the fourth is deficient. A true history of learning throughout the ages is wanting.

History of nature is of three sorts--of nature in course, of nature erring or varying, and of nature altered or worked; that is, history of creatures, history of marvels and history of arts. The first of these is extant in good perfection; the two others are handled so weakly that I note them as deficient.

The history of arts is of great use towards natural philosophy such as shall be operative to the benefit of man's life.

Civil history is of three kinds: memorials, perfect histories, and antiquities, comparable to unfinished, perfect and defaced pictures. Just or perfect history represents a time, a person or an action. The first we call chronicles; the second, lives; and the third, narrations or relations.

Of modern histories the greater part are beneath mediocrity. Annals and journals are a kind of history not to be forgotton; and there is also ruminated history, wherein political discourse and observations are mingled with the history of the events themselves.

Ecclesiastical history receives the same divisions with civil history, but may further be divided into history of the Church, history of prophecy and history of Providence. The first of these is not deficient, only I would that the sincerity of it were proportionate to its mass and quantity. The history of prophecy, sorting every prophecy with the event fulfilling the same, is deficient; but the history of Providence, and the notable examples of God's judgements and deliverances have passed through the labour of many. Orations, letters and apophthegms are appendices to history.

Thus much concerning history, which answers to memory.

POETRY refers to the imagination. In respect of its words it is but a character of style, but in respect of its matter it is nothing else but feigned history, which may as well be in prose as in verse. The use of this feigned history is to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in those points wherein the nature of things denies it; poetry serves magnanimity, morality and delectation. It is divided into narrative, representative and allusive or parabolical poetry. In poetry I can report no deficience; it has sprung up and spread abroad more than any other kind of learning.

In philosophy, the contemplations of man either penetrate unto God, or are circumferred to nature, or are reflected upon himself; whence arise three knowledges--divine philosophy, natural philosophy and human philosophy or humanity.

But it is good to erect one universal science, Philosophia Prima, 'primitive' or 'summary philosophy,' before we come where the ways part and divide; and this universal philosophy is a receptacle for all such profitable observations and axioms as do not fall within the compass of any of the special parts of philosophy or sciences, but are common and of a higher stage.

Divine philosophy, or natural theology, is that knowledge concerning God which may be obtained by the contemplation of His creatures; and in this I note an excess rather than a deficience, because of the extreme prejudice which both religion and philosophy have received by being mixed together, making an heretical religion and a fabulous philosophy.

Of natural philosophy there are two parts, the inquisition of causes and the production of effects; speculative and operative; natural science and natural prudence.

NATURAL science is divided into physic and metaphysic. But since I have already defined a summary philosophy, and, again, a natural theology, both of which are commonly confounded with metaphysic, what is there remaining for metaphysic? This, that physic inquires concerning the material and efficient causes, but metaphysic handles the formal and final causes. So physic is in a middle term between natural history and metaphysic; for natural history describes the variety of things, physic the variable or respective causes, and metaphysic the fixed and constant causes.

Of metaphysic I find that it is partly omitted and partly misplaced. In mathematics, which I place as a part of metaphysic, I can report no deficience. But natural prudence, or the operative part of natural philosophy, is very deficient. It were desirable that there should be a calendar or inventory made of all the inventions whereof man is possessed, with a note of useful things not yet invented. A calendar, also, of doubts, and another of popular errors, are to be desired.

We come now to the knowledge of ourselves--that is, to human philosophy or humanity. First, a general study of human nature will have regard to the sympathies and concordances between mind and body. Then, since the good of man's body is of four kinds--health, beauty, strength and pleasure--the knowledge of the body is also of four kinds--medicine, decoration or cosmetic, athletic and the art voluptuary. Medicine has been more professed than laboured, and more laboured than advanced, the labour having been rather in circle than in progression.

The knowledge respecting the faculties of the mind is of two kinds, the one respecting understanding and reason, and the other respecting will, appetite and affection, the imagination being active in both provinces.

The intellectual arts are four--inquiry or invention, examination or judgement, custody or memory, and elocution or tradition; and these are severally divided into various sciences and arts. The knowledge of the appetite and will, or moral philosophy, leading to the culture and regiment of the mind, is very deficient.

CIVIL knowledge has three parts--conversation, negotiation and government--since man seeks in society comfort, use and protection. The first of these is well laboured, the second and third are deficient. Thus we conclude human philosophy, and turn to the sacred and inspired divinity, the port of all men's peregrinations.

Divinity has four main branches--faith, manners, liturgy and government--in which I can find no ground vacant and unsown, so diligent have men been, either in sowing of seed or tares.





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