Note on aphorisms concerning the interpretation of nature and the kingdom of men

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Source: Bacon
Source: Bacon

Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man

In the Novum Organum, Francis Bacon classified the intellectual fallacies of his time under the four headings which he called idols. He distinguished them as idols of the tribe, idols of the cave, idols of the market place and idols of the theatre. An idol is an image, in this case, held in the mind which received veneration but is without substance in it. Bacon says that idols are the obstacle in the interpretation of the nature of knowledge. We try to understand the mystery of nature and meaning of the things but there are so many obstacles in our effort to understand them. But sometimes we face many threats in our observation that disturb our objectivity. These obstacles to our knowledge are regarded as the idols. Bacon says that we encounter many obstacles while interpreting the nature. Basically, there are four types of idols. They are idols of a cave, idols of the market place, idols of the theatre and idols of a tribe.

The hindrances that bacon calls idols. In general, it is the image that we appreciate. But according to bacon idols are the falls and illusion that distorts our true sense of knowledge. These are four idols that Bacon thinks, stop or harm the human mind to achieve the true and objective knowledge of nature.

Idols of the tribe are the obstacle past by human nature. It is the incompetence of the sense having no competency to interpret the mystery of nature. It belongs to the race of people.

Idols of the Cave are those which arise within the mind of the individual. This mind is symbolically a cavern. The chemists see chemistry in all things and the courtier ever-presents at the rituals of the court unduly emphasize the significance of kings and princess. It is the narrow-mindedness of the individual, limited knowledge which is also can be one-sided knowledge. Such knowledge is generally pre- occupied knowledge. It is made of human nature, have it , biases through the pre-conception. Pre-conception stops individual in getting reality. So, idols of the cave should be stopped.

Idols of the market place are errors arising from the falls significance best owed upon words and in this classification. The constant impact of words variously used to without attention to their true meaning only in turn condition the understanding and breed fallacies. It is the obstacles imposed by many people whom we meet them in the market place either they are our relatives, guardians or teachers. When we meet them they give us some fails idea but we take them as a real one. As a result, such habit prevents of from getting the real knowledge. It is the result of the misuse of language. Such kind of language often does not help us reflecting the true knowledge. It is generally resulted because of our tendency and habit of using language.

Idols of the Theatre are those which are due to sophistry and falls learning. These idols are building up in the field of theology, philosophy and science and because they are defended by learned groups or accept without question by the masses. When falls philosophies have been cultivated and have attained a wide sphere of dominion in the world of the intellect they are no longer questioned. Falls superstructure is raised on falls foundations and in the end systems barren of merit parade their grandeur on the stage of the wall. A careful reader of the Novum Organum will show that Bacon use the theater with its curtain and its properties as a symbols of the worlds stage. It might even be profitable to examine the Shakespearean plays with this view point in mind. These are the ideas in composed by some philosopher or the religious books. Aristotelian idea of deduction false under the idol of the theatre as the writer says. Religious and philosophical areas are like theatre.

Idols are not born or imitated but they are imposed upon us. This generally results in the abuse of authority. We easily accept what the so-called great people and philosopher have said and we do not have any courage to go against them. But we can overcome these idols personally by avoiding; we should not a belief on the hearsay. Rather we should believe on neither the fact nor the fable.

After summarizing the faults which distinguish the learning of his times, Bacon offered his solutions. To him, true knowledge was the knowledge of causes. By this definition along his position in the platonic descent is clearly revealed. Has he chosen Aristotle as his mentor the definition would have been reversed? This he called instauration manga’ but unfortunately the project was never completed. He left enough, however, so that other men could perfect the work. The very diversity of his achievements contributed to the unity of his thinking. From Plato, he derived a breadth of reason and from Aristotle a depth of penetration. Knowledge was not to be acquired for merely its own sake, which is learning but for its use which is intelligence.

In the above citation Bacon want to say that there should not be any gap between the method of acquiring truth and the method of conveying truth. Knowledge acquire through certain method must be conveyed in the same method. Bacon is alert is to say that sometimes methods and means also make knowledge unclear. As a scientist the main purpose of Bacon is to give advice to those who like to find truth by following proper methods. That is why he wrote the ‘Aphorism’. He wants to maintain similarities between the method of finding out truth and the method of conveying truth. Before maintaining a kind of sameness between the method of acquiring knowledge and delivering it, Bacon had to point out the clear and scientific method of acquiring truth. To explain how we can save inductive method from the harmful effect of idols, Bacon wrote the ‘Aphorism’. Even at the time of Bacon the inductive method of finding out a new truth was in practice. Bacon saw numerous errors in these methods. So he decided to replace these methods with new and somewhat radical methods of exploring truth. The new method is called inductive method.


Lohani, S. (2012). Western Intellectual Tradition. Kathmandu: M.K Publication.

  • Francis Bacon classified the intellectual fallacies of his time under four heading which he called idols.
  • An idol is an image in this case held in the mind which received veneration but is without substance in it.
  • Idols of the tribe are abstractions in error arising from common tendencies to exaggeration, distortion, and disproportions.
  • Idols of the cave are those which arise within the mind of the individual.
  • Idols of the market place are errors arising from the falls significant bestowed upon words.
  •  Idols of a theater are those which are due to sophistry and falls learning.




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