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What is 'condensed wisdom' according to Francis Bacon?condensed wisdom in Bacon's essays

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salmi | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 16, 2010 at 11:28 PM via web

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What is 'condensed wisdom' according to Francis Bacon?

condensed wisdom in Bacon's essays

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 17, 2010 at 4:55 AM (Answer #1)

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I'm not quite sure what Bacon specifically meant by "condensed wisdom." But I do have an educated guess. Bacon was a fan of aphorisms (very concise sayings which convey a lot of meaning. He also was a reductionist-inductionist in terms of science. This means that he wanted to describe things in their simplest and most fundamental ways: for example, he would describe condensation by talking about the chemical reactions and atomic particles: as gas becomes water: it becomes more dense, more compact.

So, his goal was to break things down into their simplest and most concise terms: in other words, he liked to condense wisdom as a practice.

What I think he would've meant by "condensed wisdom" is the general sum total knowledge of a given society during a particular period n history. I.e., the condensed wisdom of the Ancient Greeks - broken down, simplified.

One of Bacon's famous concepts is that of the ancient-modern analogy. Instead of viewing the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans of antiquity as the "ancients," Bacon viewed the most current time (now) as ancient and those "ancient Greeks" as younger, because the world was younger then.

And for its value and utility it must be plainly avowed that the wisdom which we have derived principally from the Greeks is but like the boyhood of knowledge, and has the characteristic property of boys: it can talk, but it cannot generate; for it is fruitful of controversies but barren of works. From - Instauratio Magna.

For the old age of the world is to be accounted the true antiquity; and this is the attribute of our own times, not of the earlier age of the world in which the ancients lived; and which, though in respect to us it was elder, yet in respect to the world it was younger. From Novum Organum.

In other words, Bacon perceived that the world (like a person) is older now, so now is the ancient time, the wiser time (since the world and those in it have collectively more experience, more experimentation and so on.) The ancient Greeks (the centuries around 400 BCE) existed in the boyhood of the world and we are NOW in the adulthood.

This was Bacon's support of progress, Modernity, and the idea that each successive generation can and should improve on the last. Each successive generation would use the "condensed wisdom" of past generations to build from. So, we take the condensed wisdom of Greek philosophy, Egyptian geometry, Islamic science, etc. and we, the moderns (the actual ancients) improve upon what they've done, making us in the process, and over time, wiser.

The further back in history you go (to when the world was younger), the easier it is to condense the world's collective wisdom, because like a person, we knew less then than we do now.

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