Francis Bacon Questions and Answers

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How does learning affect a person's judgement?

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Francis Bacon was an English writer, philosopher and statesman. He is often referred to as the father of empiricism. Empiricism states that knowledge comes only from sensory experience—therefore, learning can only come from a careful observation of nature.

In his book Of Studies, Bacon states,

They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.

For Bacon, the whole question of how studies and learning affect a person's judgement depends upon how they learn. If a person's studies are not "perfected by experience," they are not useful.

Bacon goes on to advise on how to read, as reading is a central element in learning. He says,

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.

So, the act of reading itself is to learn how to judge—how to weigh and consider matters. It is not enough to read and argue, to read and believe, to read and discuss. Reading is an exercise in thinking, a tool and a goal unto itself. Its purpose is to teach a person how to be thoughtful and to have more effective judgement. Bacon's suggestion is that if one is not reading and learning how to better weigh and consider matters, then one's judgement may be deluded.

"Studies permeate and shape manners," Bacon writes. He believes that there is no "impediment in the wit" that cannot be fixed or improved by learning, and "every defect of the mind may have a special receipt." So, our judgement is always improved by learning, as long as we know how to learn well.

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