The Advancement Of Learning "Silence Is The Virtue Of A Fool"

Francis Bacon

"Silence Is The Virtue Of A Fool"

Context: Sir Francis Bacon, remembered today as a philosopher, spent most of his life in politics. His list of titles is impressive: Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, and Lord High Chancellor of England. A member of Parliament for many years, he was trained in the legal profession and was a magistrate, though not one immune to temptation. He took care to associate himself with royal favorites; one was the ill-starred Essex, whose final conviction he assisted, and another was George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Bacon received a number of royal favors before Buckingham's popularity failed; afterward he was charged with accepting bribes from persons who had appeared in his court. He admitted the truth of these charges and was fined, imprisoned briefly, and pardoned. Forbidden to enter politics again, he was allowed to retire and spent his remaining years engaged in the voluminous writings which have insured his lasting fame. Most of these were devoted to the promotion of his intellectual ideals and were intended to form parts of a vast work entitled The Great Instauration. His purpose was to reorganize all systems of knowledge on a sound and comparatively scientific basis, using inductive reasoning and an experimental approach. The introductory essay, De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarium (Of the Dignity and Advancement of Learning, a title usually shortened), is a full-length work in itself. In it Bacon surveys and summarizes the knowledge of his time and sets forth his ideals of scientific observation, critical examination and objectivity. He exerted an enormous influence on later thought. In Book VI of The Advancement of Learning, Bacon takes up rhetoric, discourse, and argument. Following a discussion of sophistry, he presents a list of antitheses–aphoristic and epigrammatic arguments for and against particular things. An example follows: XXXI. LOQUACITY

He that is silent betrays want of confidence either in others or in himself.
All kinds of constraint are unhappy, that of silence the most miserable of all.
Silence is the virtue of a fool. And therefore it was well said to a man that would not speak, "If you are wise you are a fool; if you are a fool, you are wise."
Silence, like night, is convenient for treacheries.
Thoughts are wholesomest when they are like running waters.
Silence is a kind of solitude.
He that is silent lays himself out for opinion.
Silence neither casts off bad thoughts nor distributes good.
Silence gives to words both grace and authority.
Silence is the sleep which nourishes wisdom.
Silence is the fermentation of thought.
Silence is the style of wisdom.
Silence aspires after truth.