Review Questions For Bacon
  1. In Aphorism 39 Bacon lists four classes of idols which “beset men’s minds”. By what method does Bacon think that natural philosophers (scientists) may free themselves of these idols and guard against their influence? With what does Bacon compare the identification of these idols?
  2. What are the Idols of the Tribe? Compare Aphorism 40 with Aphorism 36. Are they consistent? Why or why not?
  3. What are the Idols of the Cave? How are they different from the Idols of the Tribe?
  4. What are the Idols of the Market Place? Compare Aphorism 43 with Aphorism 33. What do you make of Bacon’s views on language as revealed in these two Aphorisms?
  5. The last group of idols examined is the Idols of the Theater. To what is Bacon comparing plays here? How can this class of idols hold back human understanding of the world?
  6. The first sentence of Aphorism 45 is striking. Is Bacon here undermining a fundamental assumption of science, or is he undermining faith in human understanding, or both? What is the value of pointing this out to those who would concern themselves with the discovery of scientific truth?
  7. Summarize and comment upon Bacon’s account of the “true business of philosophy” as he lays it out with the simile of “ants, spiders, and bees” in Aphorism 95. Having read this Aphorism, would you revise your opinion of Bacon’s optimism or lack of optimism about the potential of human reason to understand the world? Why or why not?
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