Bacon’s pragmatism and worldly wisdom temper his philosophy throughout. Elaborate.
Bacon was, no doubt, man of letters of his era. He has been given the title of father of English essays due to his contribution to English literature but the philosophy, which he has presented in his essays, has been dominated by his worldly wisdom. It has been said that he was a mentally giant but morally dwarf. He prefers world and personal ambitions on morality and decency. He was not an ethical moralist but a practical person having tips and tricks to spend a successful life. By hook or crook, if one wants to gain success, I refer him the essays of Sir Francis Bacon. Many of his essays deal with political opinions or advise to the king. His philosophy is materialistic. He thinks with mean nature, therefore, his attitude towards life is considerably wrong. He is the person, who can do anything to gain success in his life. Pope has rightly defined the nature of Sir Francis Bacon in following words:-
“If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shined
The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind”.
Materialistic success is the main topic of many of the essays of Bacon. Although, he was born in a well settled family with a golden spoon in his mouth yet he struggled too much in his life because of the death of his father. His career is full of fight with society, therefore, he became selfish in order to settle himself in his life. His knowledge of law and keen observation makes him different from other writers of that era. In fact, his pleasurable tongue and knowledge of law are two prominent traits of his personality, which has given him success in every field of life. When he talked, people listen him without winkling. In spite of having too much enemies, he survived and became a successful person. He wants practical benefit from every person and everything. For instance, his views about knowledge are poles apart from common writers. According to him, a person should not gain knowledge in order to contradict or believe but to weigh and consider. He writes “Read not to contradict, nor to believe but to weigh and consider”.
Sir Francis Bacon was also an opportunist. He advises that one should not miss the opportunity for his own cause. He does not hesitate to change his own principle for a specific opportunity. Treachery, meanness and fluttery are weapons, which he has used for this purpose. Moreover, he was an immoral person. He faced criticism because of his immorality. No moral lesson has been given by Bacon, in his essays, which is remarkable. He was emotionless in this regard. He prefers friends not because they are companions but he considers them useful in difficulties. He is a selfish utilitarian; he does not consider marriage a good thing but he thinks materialistically and according to him, marriage as well as children is bondage for a person.
Lack of morality is another personality trait of Sir Francis Bacon. He never preferred morality in his life. He was a lusty person, having a lot of ambitions. He could do anything for luxuries of life. Although, philosophically, he is against corruption but he was a corrupt person. He had good knowledge and his philosophy is acceptable by anyone but his philosophical approach is mainly concerned with worldly desires. He does not want moral honour but worldly respect. According to him, money is synonym for respect and one should do anything for this purpose. Machiavellian approach can be found in every essay of Sir Francis Bacon. His philosophy is based on “end justifies means”. His essays have a common message that one should get success and money by hook or crook. He ignored the idea of eternal life and adored the worldly life.
It is not wrong to say that Sir Francis Bacon was a selfish person. His philosophy has marks of selfishness. His attitude towards Earl of Essex is evident that he can do anything for his own pleasures. He gathered evidence and produced in the Court, against a person, who once did a favour for him. Instead of returning the favour, he went against him and made his condition critical. In his essays, he says friends are good because they are need of the hour. He suggested friendship; as friends are good defense against cruel times. Bacon’s belief recommended that friends are best to get any kind of favour for free. He did not care for humanity. He freely broke heart of people for the purpose of his goals. He did not care about the feelings of anyone. In fact, he happily hurt anyone in order to gain any opportunity or to get benefit. His marriage is also evident of his worldly desires as it was not the reason of love.
On the other hand, some of the critics have defended Bacon in this regard. They think that it is not Bacon, who is speaking in essays but it is the reflection of that century. Through his essays, Bacon presented that era. The attitude of those people was mean. Everyone was selfish. No one cares about humanity in that era, Bacon presented his philosophy, which is interested for those people, so that they could gain success in their lives.
At last but not the least, Bacon’s worldly wisdom is remarkable. He is man of the world. His worldly wisdom can be called his philosophy. Although, he had influence in that era and still his essays are being read around the world but his total philosophy is based on worldly knowledge. His philosophy ignores morality. It dominates humanity. It prefers opportunities in every situation. It suggests to go against your family and friends even in hard times in order to save yourself. In short, Bacon’s philosophy is in contrast to his practical experience. Many of the incidents can be found in his life, when he went again his own principles. For instance, in his essays, he is against corruption but he was the most corrupt person of his era. He said something and did its opposite. Thus, it is true that his practice and his worldly wisdom take over his philosophy.