In what ways is Sir Francis Bacon a man of the Renaissance?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Sir Francis Bacon can be considered a “man of the Renaissance” in a number of different ways, including the following:

  • He was a man of diverse interests and talents, gifted as a writer, scientific thinker, judge, and politician, to name just a few of his roles. Since the term “Renaissance man” refers to a man who deliberately cultivated numerous talents, Bacon is a man of the Renaissance in this respect. Thinkers in the Renaissance believed that God had gifted humans with great potential and that people had a serious obligation to cultivate that potential and use it wisely and well.
  • As a philosopher and scientific thinker, Bacon sought to promote the responsible use of reason, which he considered one of the most important gifts God had given to man. Thinkers of the Renaissance almost universally prized reason, and Bacon was no exception.
  • At the same time, Bacon and other Renaissance thinkers believed that reason was fully compatible with Christian faith; they considered Christianity an eminently reasonable religion.
  • Because he did believe that Christianity was reasonable, Bacon (like many other Renaissance thinkers) sought to show how truths discovered by the ancient Greeks and Romans were compatible with Christian truth.
  • At the same time, Bacon believed that it was possible to carry the reasonable pursuit of truth even further than it had been carried already. Humans should not be content to rely merely on conventional authority but should seek to discover truths about the world by using what might be called the scientific method, which is an especially disciplined use of reason.
  • Bacon was also a typical Renaissance thinker in his emphasis on ethics and morality. Truth should not simply be known but should also be practiced, especially in one’s dealings with other persons. It is not surprising, then, that his essays deal with topics “Civil and Moral.”
  • Yet despite his tendency to prize truth and reason, Bacon was under no illusions about human nature. For instance, in his essay “Of Truth,” he makes clear his belief that humans have natural tendencies to want to be willful and to lie.
  • Bacon was a typical Renaissance thinker in the range of his intellectual ambitions. Not content to specialize in one area of thought or practice, he gave serious thought to many different kinds of topics, as the mere titles of his various essays suggest. He also fulfilled a wide variety of social roles.

In all these ways, then, Bacon might reasonably be called a “man of the Renaissance.”

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