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Being a man with a strong belief in the scientific principles of observation and experimentation, Bacon did not believe in what he called “pseudo sciences.” This kind of learning may be found amongst magicians and astrologers in Bacon’s time and amongst religious leaders and fundamentalists today. Contentious learning (or vain altercations): Contentious learning refers to excessive contestation amongst those deeply entrenched in a particular academic discipline, including arduous arguments about the most minute, inconsequential details, which ultimately lead to no fruitful gain.
These innate faults are of the tribe, because they come to us at birth, and are common to all humans, not necessarily acquired through exposure to a given set of experiences.
These idols include sensory defects, tendencies to make premature decisions, engage in wishful thinking and overthink phenomena, creating more complications and order than actually exists. Idols of the Cave: This set of idols is not common to the “tribe” but rather specific to each individual and the “cave” they live in, which is their mind.
The word idol is used as derived from the classical Greek term “eidolon” which means phantom or image, just as Bacon believed that the idols of the mind would create false or phantom images of the world and of nature. Idols of the tribe: The “tribe” referred to here is the tribe encompassing all of humanity.
As human beings, we are born with innate faults in the mind.
This section will cover the major propositions found in Bacon’s works, namely the idols of the mind, the distempers of learning, classification of knowledge and Baconian induction.
Bacon believed that by virtue of being human, the mind had some inherent faults, which must be corrected if we are to engage in any sort of true and meaningful learning.He believed that these three disciplines would lead to true advancement, and that the importance of philosophy must be greatly elevated in order for academics to truly progress.As a scientific thinker, he denounced and greatly looked down upon the humanist subjects, namely literature and history.If one shirt at a particular store does not match the condition, then the survey work done before does not go to waste.Instead, the researcher merely concludes that only store X and Y sell clean and hole free clothing. However, there were criticisms to this method, with contemporary thinkers questioning just how much research is needed before making a general conclusion.Instead of directly drawing a conclusion, a researcher following Bacon’s method would first visit all the shops available, survey the garments and ensure they are clean and without holes, and only then proceed to make a general conclusion like “all clothes bought from stores are clean and without holes.” Bacon’s approach, according to him, is foolproof.This is because it enables the researcher to build “a stable edifice of knowledge”.For example: a philosopher will see all of nature’s phenomena as questionable and will attempt to find purpose. Idols of the Marketplace: The marketplace refers to the communications between men, or as Bacon put “association of men with each other.” The tools that contribute to the existence of these idols are words and language.We either assign abstract terms or give name to things that exist only in our minds. Ironically, words were created so humans could express themselves, but this distemper prevents us from doing so. Idols of the Theatre: This is again a set of idols, which are learnt by us through our respective culture, a practice acquired by humans through socialization and cultural exposure.No new discoveries or recoveries of knowledge are made, and therefore, such learning is delicate and not true and rigorous.Bacon believed that engaging in these three kinds of learning would lead to two main ill effects, namely “prodigal ingenuity” (waste of talent and mental resources) and “sterile results” (no fruitful outcome beneficial to the wider world).