Western Lit II Lesson 60: “Would Any of Bacon’s Essays Have Been More Persuasive if He Had Talked About His own Experiences? Which Ones? Why?”

Francis Bacon was the Lord Chancellor and Attorney general of England in his time, he was also a philosopher known for his work in creating the scientific method. He wrote many essays.
One essay he wrote was called Of Counsel, Sir Francis Bacon discussed counsel in a general sense at first, describing how important it is for people to speak to someone like a therapist. Then he spoke of the drawbacks, as illustrated in this passage.
“The inconveniences that have been noted, in calling and using counsel, are three. First, the revealing of affairs, whereby they become less secret. Secondly, the weakening of the
authority of princes, as if they were less of themselves. Thirdly, the danger of being unfaithfully counselled, and more for the good of them that counsel, than of him that is
counselled.” -Sir Francis Bacon, Of Counsel.
The rest of the essay is mainly Bacon expanding upon the three points made above. This is one essay where a personal story would have been perfect. This is exactly the sort of topic where an analogy would really help drive the point home.
Another essay of his is called Of Ambition, in this essay he speaks of the great value ambition can have, but also the great downfall it can bring if it is unfulfilled.
“Ambition is like choler [a supposed physical/psychological condition]; which is an humorthat [sic] maketh men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it be not stopped. But if it be stopped, and cannot have his way, it becometh adust [gloomy], and thereby malign and venomous. So ambitious men, if they find the way open for their rising, and still get
forward, they are rather busy than dangerous; but if they be checked in their desires, they
become secretly discontent, and look upon men and matters with an evil eye, and are best
pleased, when things go backward; which is the worst property in a servant of a prince, or
This essay would have been much more interesting if we were able to hear an example of this. Perhaps an ambitious man he once knew who was very successful, and one who fell victim to the dangerous path he warns about in the essay.
Sir Francis Bacon wrote a multitude of very interesting essays. Each had a philosophical take on a topic pertaining to some observation of human nature he had made. Of course, in order to observe human nature he must have been observing humans. The ideas he came up with had to be based in some sort of data collection on his part, which means there are stories to be told. People he encountered who helped him devise these takes on different aspects of human nature. If he had included those encounters in his essays, as he had drawn his observations from them, the audience would be able to see those observations better.


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