Francis Bacon

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What is a critical analysis of "Of Simulation and Dissimulation"?

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In examining the Francis Bacon essay "Of Simulation and Dissimulation," it's worth noting that Bacon was not only of the foremost scientists and philosophers of the Elizabethan period, but also, at various times, the Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. So, although the title might seem to suggest a manual of questionable behavior, the context it describes makes clear that its author intends the essay as strategic advice for conducting oneself in public, rather than private, life; the examples he uses could apply equally to war, business, or politics.

While the essay refers to only two, Bacon actually describes three modes of relative truth-telling. The first is secrecy, which he calls the "Vertue of a Confessour." This entails simply not revealing all one knows, especially not the confidences of others. In this way, "Secret Men come to the Knowledge of Many Things." The second is dissimulation, when a person "lets fall Signs and Arguments" that imply they're not who they really are. As he says, this is a defensive deceit, following naturally from secrecy and designed to deflect the questions of prying opponents. And the last is simulation, when a person "expressly feigns and pretends to be" what they are not. This last Bacon finds "more culpable, and less politic" and advises its use only in "great and rare matters," lest it become a habitual vice.

So, a critical analysis of Francis Bacon's "Of Simulation and Dissimulation" reveals that it is intended as a distillation of advice on communication strategies in public life, particularly suited for war, business, and politics.

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With Francis Bacon essays, the first barrier is the age and antiquity of the language. It is often difficult to make out the sense of even one sentence easily. The whole essay can often seem to be just some kind of alien way of speaking.

However, when you crack through the language barrier, you see that what he is saying actually makes a lot of sense. There are even some really good insights to ponder. So therefore, I urge you not to despair in your study of Francis Bacon essays: they are difficult to crack but there is good stuff in there if you can get to it.

"Simulation and Dissimulation" is an essay about whether you deal honestly with the world or whether you put out a false front. "Simulation" is a false front, because you are "simulating" to be something you are not. "Dissimulation" is even worse, because then you are actually pretending to be something you are not.

So when would you use simulation and dissimulation?

In the military, in politics, in big business.... Lots of places in the world and society.

Now the really tough question: do you personally use simulation and/or dissimulation for any purpose?

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