The Advancement Of Learning "The Voice Of The People Has Something Divine"

Francis Bacon

"The Voice Of The People Has Something Divine"

Context: Sir Francis Bacon was, in several respects, a remarkable man. He served his country both politically and intellectually. Trained in the legal profession, he served many years in Parliament and associated himself with various royal favorites, including Essex (whom he helped to convict after the latter's rebellion) and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. The latter attachment at first resulted in a series of royal favors for Bacon; but when Buckingham's popularity vanished, Bacon was charged with accepting bribes from persons who had appeared in his court. He admitted the truth of this charge, but denied that he had perverted justice. Pardoned after a stiff fine and a brief imprisonment, he was forbidden to reenter politics and was allowed to retire. His last years were devoted to the literary and philosophical activities for which he is now remembered. A voluminous writer, Bacon concentrated largely upon the promotion and explanation of his intellectual ideals; and most of his principal writings were intended to be part of an enormous work entitled The Great Instauration. His plan was to reorganize all systems of knowledge on an experimental and inductive basis. De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarium (Of the Dignity and Advancement of Learning, usually shortened to The Advancement of Learning) was to form the first part; a full-length work in itself, it is a synopsis and summary of all knowledge and learning current in Bacon's time. In it he stresses his ideals of clear observation, objectivity, and critical awareness. Its influence upon the realists who followed him, and upon the much later utilitarian school of philosophy, was enormous. Book VI of The Advancement of Learning discusses rhetoric, discourse, and argument; here Bacon cites examples of fallacious reasoning (sophisms) and follows them with various "antitheses"–encapsulated commonplace arguments for and against certain things. An example follows: IX. PRAISE, REPUTATION

Praise is the reflexion of virtue.
Praise is the honour that comes by free votes.
Honours are conferred by many forms of government; but praise comes everywhere of liberty.
The voice of the people has something divine; else how could so many agree in one thing?
Marvel not if the vulgar speak truer than the great, for they speak safer. 12
Fame is a worse judge than messenger.
What has a good man to do with the slaver of the common people?
Fame is like a river, it bears up the light and lets the solid sink.
The lowest virtues are praised by the common people, the middle are admired; but of the highest they have no sense or perception.
Praise is won by ostentation more than by merit, and follows the vain and windy more than the sound and real. 13