'Mens Businesse and Bosomes': bacon's thetical rhetoric in 'Of Truth' and 'Of Anger'.
The main problem with this is that if the 'essay form' is a method in which Bacon simply projects precepts in a forceful and 'readily acceptable' manner, then how are we to account properly for the ways in which critical and astute readers, with potentially significant rational objections, could possibly find mere exempla'readily acceptable'? (5) More specifically, given Bacon's exclusion from the political scene after 1621 and his attempt in the Essayes to regain the counsellor's role, one of great importance to him, how can we understand that attempt as a demonstration of his qualities as a counsellor if the rhetoric of the Essayes is merely a matter of literary entertainment or the circulation of 'proven' points that anybody could list? Cultural precepts and moral traditions are certainly constraining but they are hardly unquestionable. The role of commonplaces in early modern thought and argument is immensely significant but, especially in highly politicized rhetorical contexts like that of the 1625 Essayes, commonplaces are constantly being advanced as rational evidence and then deconstructed in defence. Does Bacon really expect those whom he is writing to persuade, and re-ingratiate himself with, simply to accept his commonplaces without any reactive thought? Anyone upholding such a thesis would be forced to admit that Bacon's rhetoric appeals only to those seduced by its affective power, since it apparently has no recourse to the critical faculties. (6)
In this study, I take a different approach from that adopted by Jardine. Assuming, rather, that the reasoning capabilities of readers are an important factor in Bacon's rhetorical planning, I seek to situate his rhetoric in the 1625 Essayes within the ancient rhetorical concept of 'ductus' and the meditative traditions which transmitted it. (7) While I focus here on the interesting connection between the 1625 Essayes and Bacon's post-1621 situation, there is no reason why the same approach could not also be applied to the earlier versions of his essays.
Rhetoric does, for Bacon, 'apply reason to imagination', yet the relative rationality of the imaginative processes evoked by rhetoric is still an important question. (8) One's dialectical training was not only useful for critically following the 'sinces' and 'therefores' of an essay, editing out the exemplary 'chaff' and joining up the 'dots' of a syllogistic structure; in a meditational structure like the essay, the reasoning faculty potentially engages with what each stage of the structure requires from the imagination. Can not particular aphoristic propositions, exempla, or quotations elicit, from the reader who is awake and interested, specific memories of people and feelings connected to the topic in question? Far from getting in the way, couldn't such memories play a part in the functions of the essays? The critical questions raised in the reading mind by Bacon's series of propositions and quotations, which might eventually affirm or negate individual and cultural memory, do not have to be totally open-ended. It is probable that Bacon has in mind some of the questions people may ask themselves about the 'authority' of his examples and quotations as he plans their sequences, as well as what sort of reasoning is most likely to occur to his readers.
Stanley Fish's reading of Bacon's essays, in Self-Consuming Artifacts, does provide a significant alternative to the approach taken by Jardine, in which their 'reason' is related to the 'experience' of reading the essays. (9) Fish points out the similarities between Bacon's essays and other 'self-consuming artifacts' like Plato's dialogues, in which structures and syllogisms ultimately implode in order to give birth to something else, a higher truth of some kind; however, in the end, Fish denies the explaining power of his own category. (10) At times, Fish's category of the self-consuming virtually requires that there be a large gap between the traditional moral and civil 'wisdom' Bacon presents and the wisdom of natural philosophical progress he is 'really' on about. That is, Fish implies at times that all traditional wisdom (of every kind) must be broken down before the new Baconian science may emerge. (11) It is admitted that 'when Bacon has finished [an essay] the ideal remains' and that it is rather the illusion of achieving the ideal easily that has disappeared. Fish also admits that Baconian induction (reflected in the essays) attempts to 'refine' things that are already understood. (12) However, those confessions only make a self-consuming structure that much more difficult to apply to the essays. Furthermore, Fish's model takes little account of the way in which the rationality required by the essays is useful for Bacon's own self-representations as 'good counsellor', especially in the post-1621 context, in which he needs to present moral and civil wisdom in a way that is compelling, even if, at a deeper level, it is sometimes subversive.
While I agree with Fish that the challenging rational 'experience' of the essays is what they are all about, I would suggest that understanding the essays as meditational structures allows us to describe that experience more fully within its various contexts: political, moral, and scientific. Thus I shall argue that describing the 1625 Essayes' rhetoric as an engagement of personal and cultural memory will help to make better sense of their apparent bits and pieces, especially within two of their most pressing contextual issues: Bacon's situation after his fall from grace in 1621 and the troublesome conflicts that exist between morality and politics in his larger project.
I will first foreground those contextual issues more clearly. Then it will be necessary to make clear the ductus model within which I will be considering the Essayes as meditational structures. I will then provide a reading of two examples--'Of Truth' and 'Of Anger'--in order to show, first, how Bacon employs a 'thetical' rhetoric to engage the rational faculties and, second, the importance that has for his role as a counsellor of people who live with moral intentions in the compromising troubles of civic politics as well as its importance for 'training' readers to resist the Baconian 'idols'. I am therefore aligning Bacon, in some respects, with the ratio recta tradition by focusing on the relevance of reason for Bacon in both the philosophical and the political realms, that is, in both his defence (and reformulation) of moral principles as well as his attempts to develop knowledge in the natural sphere. (13) It needs to be emphasized here that I will be mostly concerned with how Bacon's argument is conducted rather than with what Bacon argues, though the two can hardly be separated.
I. Two Important Rhetorical Contexts for the (1625) Essays
As an example of the Renaissance genre of 'Advice to Princes', the main concern of the Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall is to make practical use of 'counsel' in both the moral and careerist senses. (14) In 1625, of course, Bacon is in a very different situation from when the earlier versions were published. As Kiernan has said, Bacon had always craved the role of counsellor so that his impeachment for bribery in 1621 took away more than his Lord Chancellorship, but also a role of great value to him which was part of his own identity and connected to the value of his own personal and professional experiences. (15) Bacon's dedication of the Essayes to Buckingham, as the King s last 'favourite', becomes then his only possible way of maintaining and potentially even regaining the role to some extent. (16)
Indeed the 'civil' is not their only context; the Essayes are both civil and moral, and in that sense, as Vickers says, they speak to both public and private life.17 Yet even in the context of Bacon's attempt to regain a role, it is not possible to think of the civil and moral as entirely distinct. First, it is the quality of Bacon's moral precepts as traditional but testable and thus personally applicable 'truths' for one's conduct that will endear him to the King or Buckingham as a moral thinker. How will he appear exemplary in encouraging a reflective application of moral ideas to life if his essays simply follow common and unchallenging argumentation structures, or, are simply a congeries of commonplaces intended merely for readers to tick off? Second, and on the other side of the coin, the very ring of truth which his moral precepts need to have will not be successful if they are not set within the context of inevitable political compromises. How will he appear exemplary as a moral and civil thinker if his own long experience of those constraints does not itself speak commensurably to minds that will immediately consult their own experience of moral compromise? Both elements are important. For the essays and their claims to 'come home, to Mens Businesse, and Bosomes'--Bacon's wider rhetorical net--and for the moral ideas to have an impact there, moral mandates have to be situated in the reality of the different contexts of human imperfection that most of Bacon's readers will have felt personally. The fact that anger may need to be raised and reduced in another man for political purposes takes nothing away from the moral good of self-control, if, that is, the world is the kind of place, for now, in which morally compromising tactics are necessary. Bacon's precepts need to be borne out by experience and his humanist rhetoric ropes apparently valuable moral ideas from tradition together with the reality of political limits for testing and either approval or rejection.
Recent attempts by critics of Bacon's Essayes to understand the conflict there between morality and politics have left two important questions largely open. First, how does Bacon's rhetoric in the Essayes work? Second, how does his rhetorical context, as yearning counsellor, itself relate to conflicts between the moral and the politic? In so far as recent criticism has even been related to those questions it has tended to absorb them into the larger (problematic) division between Bacon's 'philosophical' and 'literary' work. John Miller, for example, has argued that the essays are an exercise in the advancement of the contingent and hasty self more than the advancement of learning, which is what 'determines their difference from Bacon's progressive writings'. (18) For Miller there is a radical division between the growth of the (selfish) self and Bacon's rational project for the betterment of humanity. Yet, why is it not possible that the yearning counsellor, for all his practicality, does not wish, through the growth of the self, to improve political culture? Ian Box identifies a contradiction, even within the Essayes, between their Machiavellian practical politics and the 'Christian' moral tone that Box associates with the New Atlantis and indeed the instauration itself. (19) That tension, for Box, makes the relationship of the Essayes to Bacon s larger moral project problematic. I argue that if we can place Bacon's rhetoric, as an activation of the rational faculties, within his attempt to reassert a role as counsellor, it will provide a place from which to question the necessity of the 'conflicts' identified by Miller and Box.
II. Thetical Rhetoric--Ductus and Meditation
Before beginning the analysis of Bacon's 'Of Truth' and 'Of Anger' I need to identify the relevance of three key concepts that have been developed around the study of rhetoric, meditation, and the ars memoriae in order to make clear what is meant by the phrase 'thetical rhetoric'. Those concepts are the rhetorical notions of ductus, ornament, and skopos. (20) Identifying them will help to construct a model for the analysis of the Essayes.
The rhetorical term 'ductus', connected with the Latin verb ducere, was developed in the fourth century first by Consultus Fortunatianus and then by Martianus Capella as a useful term for the way a forensic case might be handled holistically. (21) To the question 'quid est ductus', Fortunatianus answers: 'quo modo tota causa agenda sit' [how a whole case should be pleaded]. (22) For Martianus Capella, 'ductus autem est agendi per totam causam tenor sub aliqua figura servatus' [ductus is the course of action through the whole cause, preserved under some figure]. (23) Montefusco describes the 'essential elements' of Fortunatianus' view of ductus, maintained also by Capella, as 'the way to approach a case and to plead it consistently in its entirety'. (24)
A particular legal case would thus take a different overall form depending on its particular requirements, and these ancient forms were heavily retheorized by the Italian Quattrocento theorist George of Trebizond, who had a considerable influence on sixteenth-century humanist rhetoric. (25) However, it is the connections that Mary Carruthers has made between ductus and meditative cognition which are of most value here for understanding how Bacon's arguments are conducted.
Carruthers has described the practice of monastic meditation as a composition. Meditative composition is characterized as a 'flow' or a journey (ductus) from a start (status) to an end (skopos) in order to describe the way in which it 'guides a person to its various goals'. (26) An essay and its argument, as a meditative composition, moves in the same way towards its own goal, or skopos--the reader's assent. (27) Of particular interest within this model is the way that 'ornaments' function. Ornaments in Carruthers's work are understood as the things that the reflective mind encounters on its pathway and include, in the context of monastic meditation, bible passages, church art, and architecture. (28) The mental processes that ornaments evoke, including the functions of the imaginative and reasoning faculties, can be described as 'recollective cogitation'. (29) If Bacon's Essayes can be thought of as having a ductus pathway, or pathways, through which a reader is made to move in meditative reflection on a series of ornamental 'places' or 'stages', then the apparently jumbled accumulatio of quotations, examples, Bible verses, sententiae, and so on, will begin to make much more sense as components of a ductus. Some of the places in the ductus pathways created by Bacon are simply moral precepts or philosophical propositions, towards and perhaps beyond which he wants to lead meditating readers; other places, however, often arranged as if they were 'proof' of those precepts, are constituted by quotations and sententiae, which will be described here as Bacon's 'thetical rhetoric'.
To put in perspective what is meant by a 'thetical rhetoric' it will be necessary to start by foregrounding the close connection between aphorisms and the other terse forms of argumentative style such as Bacon's sententiae. Bacon discusses the nature and usefulness of aphorisms particularly in Chapter Two of Book VI of De Augmentis, just before moving into a discussion of rhetoric in Chapter Three. He gives aphorisms three qualities: first, they test the knowledge of the writer; second, they 'give directions for practice'; third, they 'invite others to contribute and add something in their turn' (Works, iv, 450-51). Further, in the preface to Regulae, Bacon suggests that aphorisms are useful because presenting knowledge in 'distinct and disjoined aphorisms doth leave the wit of man more free to turn and toss' (Works, vii, 321). Aphorisms then can be understood as terse, summarized, and un-argued statements which direct and open up discussion. (30) However, in this respect they are closely related to the sententiae that make up Bacon's 'Preparatory Store', and which he uses in the different versions of his essays. (31) The similarity strikes us because the citations from classical and biblical literature that Bacon uses can indeed be aphoristic moral statements themselves. Bacon describes the 'commonplaces' or sententiae from his Antitheta Rerum as 'skeins or bottoms of thread which may be unwinded at large when they are wanted' (Works, iv, 472), and in another place as 'seeds' rather than 'flowers' (Works, iv, 492). Vickers saw in those sententiae the same 'pregnant applicability' that he had connected with the aphorisms in Bacon's Essayes. (32) Furthermore, the similarity between aphoristic statements, commonplaces, adages, sententiae, maxims, and so on, most of which form the very material of Bacon's essays, leads Lanham, in his handlist, to include all of them with others under the rubric 'proverb'. (33) Though there is a clear conceptual similarity between these terms, what is important is how they function as 'ornaments' in the places of the Essayes.
Tobias Reinhardt has used the word 'thetical' in a recent edition of Cicero's Topica to refer to the mature Cicero s more philosophical approach to rhetorical invention in distinction from his contemporaries and the habits of his youth. (34) Reinhardt characterizes Cicero's developed rhetorical theory as 'thetical' because it responds to Hermagoras's famous distinction between Beasic (theses), or 'abstract, general questions', and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (hypotheses), or 'particular questions'; Cicero prefers to approach the particular details of any given case through abstract philosophical 'theses' rather than directly. (35) Reinhardt's use of the term 'thetical' for Cicero's generalizing philosophical approach to rhetorical argument can be extended as a way of describing the 'commonplace' tradition which developed out of it. (36) Daniel Mortensen has described that development as a movement from 'ideal' loci to 'affective' loci: that is, from generalized non-context-specific arguments (theses) to the 'formulaic or cliched passages in speeches or literature' that so conspicuously characterize Renaissance rhetorical argument. (37) Mortensen's examples of such 'affective' topics, the formulaic passages, are from a selection of Cicero's speeches illustrating how a large developed moral argument can be compacted and then imported into any given composition as a quoted example. The process involves picking up the 'footprint' left by a good past example of generalized thetical argument and imitating it time and time again until it becomes a quotable commonplace. (38)
When an orator uses a quotation to compress an already well-thoughtout argument, it therefore has a 'thetical' function, amplifying and supporting a larger argument. Such sententiae 'gather' authority because they are used, broken down, tested, and reapplied time and time again. I want therefore to extend Reinhardt's term 'thetical' to encompass the continuity of that spectrum, from abstractly developed thesis to quoted passage or proposition, and use it to illuminate the functional role of the ornamental quotations and sententiae in Bacon's Essayes. Two important things will come from that. First, the progymnasmata and school 'theme' exercises stand the more clearly behind Bacon's rhetoric, situating that rhetoric within the disputational habits of thought inculcated by the humanist education system. (39) In that larger context, the essays of Montaigne and Cornwallis are not the only forms influencing what Bacon's own essays do. Second, if we describe as 'thetical' the ornamental sententiae and quotations filling places positioned along a ductus, it will enable us to see them more clearly as compressed arguments that need to be pulled apart by the reading mind, analysed through the details of personal memory, and re-evaluated. Their persuasive power will then be understood within their aphoristic qualities and not merely as accumulatio.
'Thetical' quotations are usually items strongly lodged in cultural and personal memory through education. Their 'authority' is derived in large part from that. (40) It is precisely that prominent position, however, that requires them to be treated seriously by seventeenth-century readers and compared analytically with memories of lived experience. This is especially the case since the very structure of their presentation juxtaposes the thetical places as if they were 'proofs' of the moral precepts and philosophical propositions Bacon makes, yet without any syllogistic explanation. (41) It must be remembered that we are not dealing with Bacon's approach to readers who will simply gloss over the Essayes and say to themselves: 'yes, true'.
We now have a model for understanding Bacon's rhetoric in the Essayes as an attempt to bring the materials of memory together and persuade a
III. 'Of Truth'
Tracing the places along the ductus of an essay can be done in different ways: by its partitio, say, or from the very start to the very end, or within separate distinct parts with their own 'status' and 'skopos'. However, since we are focused here on how Bacon's 'argument' is conducted, it will be necessary to focus on particular sections of each essay selected where a moral precept or philosophical proposition is given and then examples, quotations, and other thetical places are presented as if they were 'proof' of the precept, that is, sections where a separate argument of sorts is built.
Bacon's essay 'Of Truth' moves around two key arguments or sections: the first is that 'lies' can give people more delight than the truth (a better reason for why people don't seek it than the difficulty of seeking it); the second is that the benefits of truth are a much greater pleasure and good than those of 'lies'. Those arguments are 'made' consecutively in the first two major sections of the essay, each of which I will treat as a ductus. I will discuss the stages or places of each ductus that are relevant to argumentation, the specifically thetical places, as well as the questions and imaginative thought they potentially evoke. For the most part I use the terms 'stage' and 'place' interchangeably.
There are six stages in the first argument or section (ll. 1-35): a background focus, a statement of the thesis itself, the images of daylight/candlelight, the images of pearls/diamonds, a rhetorical question, and an allusion to the notion of poetry as Vinum Doemonum. (42) The first stage is a background focus on scepticism. Bacon opens by quoting Pilate's rhetorical question 'What is truth?' and then claims that 'modern' though weaker sceptics still exist (ll. 2-10). His quote and reference to 'certaine discoursing Wits', which even Kiernan feels required to identify, is indeed likely to call to mind any such sceptics a reader might know from his or her own life. (43) At the very least it begs the question. It calls on the memory and the imagination to reflect on real examples of sceptical thinkers and sceptical thought. In the next stage, Bacon makes a clear statement of his thesis for this section (ll. 10-14): that it is 'a naturall, though corrupt Love, of the Lie it selfe', which 'doth bring Lies in favour' (ll. 12-14). Even before looking at the 'support' that follows, it is important to pause and ask what kinds of questions would be raised in the reflecting mind by the simple fact that the thesis follows the background given? After examples of sceptics and sceptical thought have been re-imagined through 'recollective cogitation' in the first stage, one of the most natural questions, on encountering the thesis statement at stage two, is going to be whether that thesis explains the remembered material. Are the sceptics that I know delighted by falseness or Lies? Is a sceptical epistemology itself a kind of false delight? Is the 'delightfulness' of Lies the best way to explain why people would be sceptics or is there actually a good rational basis for their epistemological stance? Answering such questions requires reasoned reflection, inductive and deductive, on the material of memory.
Before shifting into a new stage, Bacon then 'develops' the thesis by alluding to Lucian of Samosata being at a loss to know why people should seem to love lies when they bring neither pleasure nor advantage. Bacon responds by saying 'But I cannot tell'. Oddly though, he has only just claimed that it is because lies bring a certain kind of pleasure that they are satisfying. In saying 'I cannot tell', he seems to negate his own claim. The question of what kind of pleasure Bacon is referring to in his thesis statement, however, is left dangling. As a way of arguing, Bacon's 'I cannot tell' is most clearly not what we would expect from a 'reasoned' discourse. It would be better, surely, for Bacon either to choose another example than the Lucian reference or to define quickly and carefully what kind of pleasure he wishes to link to the ' Lie', but that is left to the reader, perhaps precisely in order further to intrigue and engage. In the second section of 'Of Truth' Bacon will implicitly claim that there are different kinds of pleasure we can attach separately to lies and truth, some 'higher' than others. If we think of the Essayes as requiring an active and reflective participation by the reader, who must work through the material of memory, then it becomes clear that Bacon's refusal to 'support' the thesis of his first section by refining the concepts opens up a mental space in which readers' memories of different kinds of pleasure must play a role in contributing to the 'skopos' of the essay, which will eventually be a much more personal form of accord. Bacon has now begun to ask readers the question of whether experience accords with prevailing wisdom.
The next stage of the first argument is built around two strong and related images: first, the difference between lies figured as candlelight and truth as daylight, and, second, the difference in 'price' between a pearl shining in 'varied lights' and a diamond shining in the daylight. Lies are pearls in candlelight; truth is a diamond in the daylight. Pearls in candlelight might bring any number of memory-concepts to the imagination but among them perhaps, oiliness, seductiveness, especially as distinct from diamonds and their sharpness, crispness, clarity, and value. The different jewels here, with their different emotional register, their wider conceptual associations, and their potential connections to readers' personal memories of actual life events, are forced into metaphoric connections with 'falseness' and 'truth'. Just roping them together evokes analytical questions about experience. Does the difference between pearls in dim light and diamonds by daylight, resemble the difference between my personal knowledge of sceptical thinkers and the great defenders of 'real' knowledge? Does the difference between pearls and diamonds resemble in any way the difference between the comfortable 'older' ways of understanding things and the frightening new knowledge we have recently gained? To cap off the comparison, Bacon states his thesis again: 'A mixture of a Lie doth ever adde Pleasure' (l. 25). The question is, after all that reflection: am I going to agree? In his second-last stage here Bacon asks rhetorically what would be left if all the less than truthful or less than likely fantasies we uphold about our lives were taken away. The question is: how does that apply to me? What would I have left?
In the second section of 'Of Truth', Bacon wishes to argue that truth is the highest pleasure and good of human nature, greater and better than the pleasure of 'lies'. It can be thought of as having three stages. In the first, Bacon states his thesis in emphatically erotic terms, which links it to the pleasure of Lies. 'Truth', he says, itself:
teacheth that, the Inquiries of Truth, which is the Love-making, or Wooing of it; The knowledge of Truth, which is the Presence of it; and the Beleefe of Truth, which is the Enjoying of it; is the sovereign Good of humane Nature. (ll. 41-42)
The second and third stages of this ductus are connected by the way that they bring the concepts of light and sight, respectively, into the abstract idea of 'truth' in order to explain why it is the sovereign good of human nature. In the second stage, Bacon focuses on God's enlightening creation of sense, reason, and the 'Illumination of his spirit' in the 'workes of the dayes' (ll. 42-48). Truth, figured as the 'light of seeing', is here related to the great work of God. As an extension of that, the reasoning which would explain Bacon's thesis that truth is the highest pleasure and good must be constructed by the reader. It could be formulated in the following way: if God's consummate act in the 'workes of days' is his great ongoing 'Sabbath work' (l. 44) of illumination, then our own acts of illumination by seeking the truth must also be our greatest. The reasoning assumes a metaphorical equation of 'truth' with 'light', but it does at least accord with typical early modern assumptions about God's acts being a yardstick for our own.
In the third stage, Bacon refocuses on truth as 'sight' by shifting us into a reflection on a paraphrase of Lucretius that also provides explanatory material for why truth is the highest good of human nature: 'But no pleasure is comparable, to the standing, upon the vantage ground of Truth' (ll. 53-54). For that to be an explanation the reflecting reader must have no problem with the implied premise that truth also (as well as 'Lies') is a kind of pleasure. The very fact that the paraphrase follows the thesis and the first stage as if it were further evidence asks the reader to supply the implied premise and consider it. The kind of reasoning, then, around which a reader might build mental accord can be mapped out in the following way. The experience of truth is the greatest kind of pleasure we can find (Lucretius). Good can be thought of as a better and incorruptible kind of 'pleasure' than the pleasure of 'Lies'. To the extent that the best kind of pleasure is a great good, truth is a great good, and perhaps the greatest if other arguments can be brought in too. Even if Bacon predicts the gaps in such kinds of reasoning toward mental accord, and has better arguments in mind himself, the important thing is that a reflecting reader is moving toward Bacon's convictions on a topic and potentially moving beyond them with new forms of accord each time the aphoristic statements recur to them and are reevaluated in the context of new memories.
The 'argumentation' in 'Of Truth' seems to encourage the kind of reasoning that I have described precisely because a rigid syllogistic framework is not there. Critically astute readers cannot simply climb over a gratuitous syllogism here with their habitual structures of thought. They must bring those structures to the essay, but the structures themselves are potentially challenged at the intersection of memory and precept. Invention itself, and newer forms of it, are required to create the reasoning that Bacon may be suggesting. Consequently, his rhetorical method leaves open the possibility of disagreement and the transformation of moral and philosophical ideas when new contexts arise. New and evolving forms of accord have to be found between specific memories and 'Bacon's' ideas. An essay built to manage such a process is able to bring about a much livelier and forward-looking kind of assent because it can gather and link a great deal more from personal memory. It asks readers to bring all sorts of things from personal memory to the 'authoritative' ideas that 'everybody knows', question them, and reapply them to everyday exigencies in a way that constantly reevaluates their usefulness for guiding attempts to be good in the imperfect moral conditions of civil (and private) business.
IV. 'Of Anger'
The essay 'Of Anger' states at its beginning that some anger cannot be avoided, but that anger must be limited. Bacon follows with a partitio into three sections which define three issues arising from that basic premise. I will focus on the first section, in which Bacon explains how anger can be tempered. The first place in the ductus is an aphoristic statement that tells us how:
There is no other Way, but to Meditate and Ruminate well, upon the Effects of Anger, how it troubles Mans Life. And the best Time, to doe this, is, to looke backe upon Anger, when the Fitt is throughly over. (ll. 12-15)
The whole aphorism incorporates a couple of claims: anger affects a person's life negatively; thinking about its negativity will show us why anger must be tempered; looking back on its negative effects is a good way to temper it. In support of these multiplicitous claims, Bacon leads us through four thetical places, each of which is likely to be a marked place in the memory of educated individuals (ll. 15-27). In a short space we are given metaphoric propositions about anger from Seneca, Luke's gospel, Virgil, and Plutarch. Each place compares anger to a different experience; those are, respectively, a breaking ruin, dispossession of the soul, bee-stings, and a base weakness. Seneca's 'place'--'That Anger is like Ruine, which breakes it Selfe, upon that it falls'--asks a reader to bring personal memories of being angry, or seeing anger, into a reflection on the negative effects those experiences might have caused and to compare them to a breaking ruin. The power of the allusion to stimulate reasoned reflection depends partly on the fact of the image's vivid physicality and partly on the comparison being adduced as evidence for the aphoristic idea that anger troubles life. Any engaged reader needs to determine then whether the thetical place is a satisfying description of memories filed under anger.
The other thetical topics play a similar role. Is it true to say, thinking with the quotation from Luke's gospel, that when a person (myself or someone else) is angry, that person is out of control of his soul? To answer this, the memory must be mined for angry persons 'out of control'. Again, thinking through the Virgil quotation (l. 20), what relationship is there between my personal experiences of being angry or seeing anger and the bee losing its life from stinging something? Does the loss of reputation anger involves seem like that too? Is the metaphor a satisfactory similarity when compared with all my memories as well as my knowledge of other proverbial wisdom? Since all the thetical topics are also propositions, they may be combined to build deductive arguments that confirm Bacon's precepts and initial statements. For example, if anger--self-destruction, lack of control, base weakness, and so on--always troubles life in those ways, and if it is true that my reflections on the memories of anger and its negative effect have made me want to get rid of it, then it is true to say that reflecting on the negativity of anger leads to temperance in respect of it.
Bacon now shifts, unproblematically it seems, into the means by which anger may be provoked or appeased in another for political purposes (ll. 56- 65), means which appear to involve different standards of judgment from those by which he has just described the negativity of anger. With a similar tone of self-contradiction, at the end of the essay 'Of Truth', discussed above, Bacon upholds the value of 'cleare and Round dealing' (l. 64) even when being completely honest might mean the end of one's political career. In the larger civil context that the Essayes also speak to, many of the moral ideals seem to be embedded in political constraints. For Box, there is a conflict in the Essayes between the tendency to promote the same Christian moral ideals that stand behind the New Atlantis and the Great Instauration and the tendency to concede the need to negate them at times in public life. (44) Yet either Bacon doesn't really believe in the moral principles he espouses, and presents them with knowing scepticism to other Machiavellian politicians, or both are juxtaposed so closely because political constraints are themselves just a given within Bacon's worldview. The kind of world that makes the ugly realities of politics necessary for Bacon can be seen as a function of the fall of humankind into a state of disorder, of which politics is the management, a necessary evil, rather than the cure. (45) Describing Bacon's political philosophy in that way involves, of course, cutting him off in significant ways from the 'enlightenments' that followed him. Within that older world-view, moral progress itself always has to deal with politics and work within political constraints, unless it can itself contribute to the evolution of political philosophy in positive directions. New Atlantis may be a dream of epistemological and moral harmony that escapes from the ugly realities of politics, but it was read by people who were immersed in those realities, and asked them to consider their own moral impulses within the context of humanity's apparent limits. Perhaps a private vice is at times a public virtue--the anger of another man may be very useful--but only, for Bacon, insofar as it contributes to the management of social evils and, in a small way, to the greater wellness of humanity. The problematic but necessary behaviours of the civil sphere are more easily seen as a small part of the larger human progress toward better things than the other way around.
The analysis above has foregrounded a range of questions, inductions, and deductions that might be developed by reasoning readers of the Essayes. They do not all have to be cogent and predicted by Bacon because, given his context, he is both teaching and leaving room for explorative thought, all within the same thetical procedure. To the extent that he is teaching he must be constructing the thetical rhetoric in particular ways to respond to his own analysis of personal and cultural memory and his own view of the best moral arguments, with a view to having other people agree. That would be the case even if he is at points breaking traditional wisdom down. At the same time, moral, political, and natural knowledge are all in a state of development for Bacon, as is clear from his larger project. From that point of view it is necessary that he brings an openness into the essays just as he does in the Novum Organum in order to encourage explorative thought on a topic.
At this point, given that I have argued for a strong connection between Bacon's moral projects in the Essayes and his philosophical projects in the Novum Organum, it might reasonably be asked whether and how much Bacon is actually using the Essayes not just to be 'open' but also to train readers to avoid the idols of the mind, especially, that is, if his 'thetical' rhetoric in the Essayes seems to rely on the very university skills--disputation and reasoning with commonplaces--that Bacon is at pains to decry in other places. However, for Bacon to be training his readers to read against the pressure of the idols, he does not also have to be secretly rejecting all the aphoristic moral thoughts he presents; a level of 'training' appropriate to the essay genre is achieved just by slowing down the impulse to scan syllogisms and conclude quickly, and by forcing readers to search for remembered instances that conflict with the thesis being evaluated. In that respect, the moral statements that Bacon presents, as well as the thetical topics he uses to 'support' them, are analogous, in natural philosophical terms, less to the idols themselves than to the axioms derived from what Bacon calls the 'first harvest' in Novum Organum. (46) A first harvest axiom, like the one Bacon provides on the nature of heat, represents thought that has already been isolated through a process of slowed inductive observation and potential negative instances, and thus approved; yet it is only held provisionally, with the assumption that further thought will be given to the subject when the conditions are right, potentially refining the conclusion. That approved-yet-provisional status is analogous to the status of Bacon's apparent moral thought, and suggests how it might be both serious and potentially limited. (47)
Since the idols of the mind are habits perpetuated by the education system of Bacon's day, rather than simply that system's ideas, it is perfectly reasonable for Bacon to be training his readers in the Essayes to think with better habits while at the same time treating its moral and political ideas seriously, even if with reserve. (48) Bacon is not, of course, expecting readers to be free of the influence of the idols, especially when reading essays that operate principally in the moral and political sphere; however, by making specific choices about which thetical topics to put down, and in which order, Bacon has some control over the levels of rational response that will be made, as well as the extent to which those responses would or would not check 'idolatrous' reading. If Bacon expects readers of the Essayes to read, or to have read, his Novum Organum at some point too, then he can also expect their subsequent readings of the Essayes to be, in turn, more significantly influenced by the Novum Organum's explicit teachings about the idols.
The thetical topics help Bacon to teach his moral principles, as well as to appear to be teaching them well on account of their open rather than merely magistral flavour; yet, they also train his readers in relatively slower and more belaboured thinking. This happens because the 'authority' of thetical topics, as time-approved propositions, shapes the rational response by saying: think about X, Y, and Z in connection with one another. At the same time though, the 'simple' enumeration of thetical topics, without syllogistic language, is forceless enough to require that any sense of rational cogency be located more in a reader's personal memory and observation rather than within the text itself. In that way they forge a conversation between Bacon's 'recollective cogitation' and that of others. The thetical topics then both 'support' an aphoristic statement, and are themselves aphoristic, not because they are simply authoritative to everybody, but because Bacon expects that even after critical reflection and mental accord is sought, some of them will retain their status as ethical truths, though some may not. On that basis he affirms his qualities as a counsellor; he is the thinker who treats of time-tested 'truths' but also goes a step beyond, making it clear that he also sees the necessity of developing the interconnections between morality, politics, and natural knowledge.
The patient observation of memory required of writer and reader at the level of rhetorical planning seems to be exactly the kind of thing that Bacon has in mind in De Augmentis when he links the construction of aphorisms to having done 'some good quantity of observation' (Works, iv, 451). Bacon explicitly links a knowledge gained by induction to the capability of retracing the footsteps of one's cognition (about any topic), 'and by that means to transplant it into another mind just as it grew in his own' (Works, iv, 449). This is just the kind of thing that thetical topics do by compressing potential arguments with which to analyse and explain remembered and re-imagined examples from life. Separating the aphoristic method from the rhetoric of the essays, however, means that their proverbial quotations have to be viewed as mere exempla rather than aphorisms, despite the potential for proverbs to function aphoristically in other contexts. I argue that the essays make use of the aphoristic method, and even perhaps the acroamatic method, precisely because of the interchangeable functions that 'aphoristic' precepts and thetical sententiae have when they compress, as well as open up and make problematic, a debatable topic for consideration. (49)
A similar refusal to associate aphoristic forms of thought at any level with the rhetoric of the Essayes also seems to underlie Miller's treatment of them, since they 'address the needs of a single concrete self' who is in the process of self-advancement and do not 'present the present and future work of many minds', as the scientific, aphoristic writings do. (50) Yet this takes no account of the extent to which the moral and professional transformation of the public individual, something accomplished through reflection and application, contributes to the moral condition of the civic human body--even if at times that individual is compromised by the realities of 'Machiavellian' politics. An accumulative public work, which changes political culture, can itself occur when many minds do the work of 'recollective cogitation' at different levels, applying the aphoristic statements to their own lives, and seeking new and better balances between morality and politics. Bacon's aphoristic thetical rhetoric in the Essayes, then, raises the particularly interesting question of the extent to which that rhetoric leaves moral questions open and for what purpose. Bacon in the Esssayes is the good counsellor reminding people of his experience in bringing about the good of the state even amidst political and legal constraints. Yet he is also the moral thinker seeking to stimulate applications of moral ideals to an imperfect world of politics and self-interest as a contribution to its transformation.
The openness, analysis, and purposeful difficulty that develop around aphoristic thinking in Bacon's natural philosophy can and should be associated with his projects in the Essayes because of the kind of demands made by their thetical rhetoric. In the context of that, morality itself looks a little like technology.
Department of English
(1) 'The Relation of Bacon's Essays to His Program for the Advancement of Learning', in Essential Articles for the Study of Francis Bacon, ed. Brian Vickers (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1972), pp. 272-92 (p. 272). I focus here on the 1625 Essayes, references to which will be from Michael Kiernan, ed., The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, The Oxford Francis Bacon XV (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985; repr. 2006). All other references to Bacon's works, unless specified, are from James A. Spedding, ed., The Works of Francis Bacon, 14 vols (London, 1878).
(2) Francis Bacon: Discovery and the Art of Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974); see especially Chapter 9. For Vickers's discussion of it in the context of rhetoric,
see 'Bacon and Rhetoric', in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. Markku Peltonen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 200-31 (p. 203).
(3) Jardine, pp. 234, 234, and 225 respectively. Bacon discusses the Antitheta Rerum in detail in De Augmentis, Book VI, Chapter 3, in the context of his discussion of rhetoric (Works, iv, 473-92).
(4) See in particular, Jardine, pp. 174-78, and p. 227. Bacon discusses this variety of methods in De Augmentis, Book VI, Chapter 2 (Works, iv, 448-53).
(5) Jardine, p. 228.
(6) Attempts to downplay the rational aspects of Bacon's 'literary' or 'rhetorical' practices in his essays have their roots in earlier studies of Bacon such as Basil Willey's in which Bacon is positioned at the start of the 'touch of cold philosophy' where the 'truth of religion' is separate from the 'truth of science'. From there it is an easy step to the belief that for Bacon the 'truth' of religion, or, of tradition, is not even amenable to the same 'reason' as that by which the 'truth' of natural science is discovered. See Basil Willey, The Seventeenth-Century Background: Studies in the Thought of the Age in Relation to Poetry and Religion (London: Chatto & Windus, 1934), pp. 32-33.
(7) The most useful discussion of ductus for my purposes here has been Mary Carruthers's work on memory, especially The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric and the Making of Images, 400-1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), which helpfully informs the present discussion.
(8) See Michael Kiernan, ed., The Advancement of Learning, The Oxford Francis Bacon IV (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000; repr. 2003), p. 127; and Spedding, ed., The Works of Francis Bacon, iii, 409.
(9) Stanley E. Fish, Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth Century Literature (University of California Press, 1972; repr. Pittsburgh, Duquesne University Press, 1994), pp. 78-155.
(10) While the 'truth' for Plato, Augustine, and Donne is 'above the phenomenal world', the truth for Bacon is 'about the phenomenal world' (Fish, pp. 152-53).
(11) For example, Fish finds a 'pattern' everywhere in Bacon's essays in which 'familiar and "reverenced" witticisms' are followed by 'the introduction of data that call their validity into question' (Self-Consuming Artifacts, p. 92).
(12) Fish, pp. 118, 152.
(13) In Right Reason in the English Renaissance (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1962), Robert Hoopes claims that the main attacks on right reason were Calvinist fideism and scepticism, the very things, of course, that Bacon is moving away from with his Instauratio Magna and in his broader intellectual life.
(14) See Brian Vickers, ed., Francis Bacon: The Major Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996; repr. 2000), p. 713. On Bacon's career context, see also Jonathan Marwil, The Trials of Counsel: Francis Bacon in 1621 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1976).
(15) Kiernan, 'General Introduction', Essayes, p. xxvi.
(16) Bacon may also have been thinking of Buckingham's potential influence with Prince Charles (Kiernan, Essayes, pp. xxvi-xxix).
(17) Vickers, ed., MajorWorks, p. 713.
(18) John J. Miller, '"Pruning by Study": Self-Cultivation in Bacon's Essays', Papers on Language and Literature: A Journal for Scholars and Critics of Language and Literature, 31 (1995), 339-61 (p. 341).
(19) 'Bacon's Moral Philosophy', in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. Markku Peltonen, pp. 260-82.
(20) These have been discussed in much detail by Mary Carruthers in The Crajt of Thought. For other recent work on connections between rhetoric and meditation, see Ceri Sullivan, Dismembered Rhetoric: English Recusant Writing, 1580 to 1603 (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995).
(21) Ductus with that particular rhetorical meaning appears not to predate Fortunatianus, although Quintilian's discussion of the figuratae controversiae (Institutio Oratoria, IX, ii, 66) seems to prefigure it; see John Monfasini, George ojTrebizond: A Biography and a Study of His Rhetoric and His Logic, Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition (Leiden: Brill, 1976), pp. 280-81.
(22) For the Latin text of Fortunatianus' Artis Rhetoricae, and the passage on ductus, see Carolus Halm, ed., Rhetores Latini Minores: Ex Codicibus Maximam Partem Primum Adhibitis Emendabat Carolus Halm; Lipsiae, in Aedibus B. G. Teubneri, 1863 (repr. Frankfurt am Main: Minerva, 1964), p. 84.
(23) Halm, ed., Rhetores Latini Minores, p. 463.
(24) Lucia Calboli Montefusco, 'Ductus and Color: The Right Way to Compose a Suitable Speech', Rhetorica, 21 (2003), 113-31 (pp. 119-23).
(25) For George in the Quattrocento context, see Virginia Cox, 'Rhetoric and Humanism in Quattrocento Venice', Renaissance Quarterly, 56 (2003), 652-94 (p. 657). Both Cox and Montefusco, in 'Ciceronian and Hermogenean Influences on George of Trebizond's Rhetoricorum Libri V', Rhetorica, 26 (2008), 139-64, discuss George's treatment of ductus. For the uniqueness of George's influence, see Thomas Conley, Rhetoric in the European Tradition (NewYork: Longman, 1990), pp. 114-20, as well as Monfasini, George oj Trebizond, pp. 318-27.
(26) 'Late Antique Rhetoric, Early Monasticism, and the Revival of School Rhetoric', in Latin Grammar and Rhetoric: From Classical Theory to Medieval Practice, ed. Carol Dana Lanham (London: Continuum, 2002), pp. 240-43.
(27) ' Skopos, a Greek word, is literally the target of a bowman, the mark towards which he gazes as he aims' (Craft of Thought, p. 79).
(28) Craft of Thought, pp. 261-69.
(29) Craft of Thought, p. 117.
(30) Jardine, Discovery, p. 177.
(31) The preparatory store is discussed by Bacon in De Augmentis as three 'collections': the Colours of Good and Evil (Works, iv, 458-72), the Antitheta Rerum (Works, iv, 472-92), and the Lesser Forms (Works, iv, 492-93). In his essays Bacon mostly uses sententiae from the Antitheta Rerum.
(32) Francis Bacon and Renaissance Prose (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp. 86-87.
(33) See Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 124-25.
(34) Cicero, Topica, trans. and ed. Tobias Reinhardt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), see especially pp. 3-14.
(35) Thus, in his later works, such as De Oratore 2.134-6 and Orator 45-46, Cicero s thetical approach goes against the more common hypothesis approach of his day (Topica, ed. Reinhardt, p. 5).
(36) The best recent work on the renaissance commonplace as it developed in the tradition of the topics has been Ann Moss's study Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), which contains an excellent bibliography of other commentary.
(37) See Daniel E. Mortensen, 'The Loci of Cicero', Rhetorica, 26 (2008), 31-56 (p. 47).
(38) Mortensen, p. 50.
(39) For the progymnasmata exercises, see George A. Kennedy, Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003). The 'thesis' exercise (number 13 in Aphthonius's version) is closely related to the 'commonplace' exercise (number 7) (Kennedy, pp. 105-08 and 120-24). Both progymnasmata exercises are the main curriculum sources for the Elizabethan grammar school 'theme' exercise, which underlies the writing of 'essays'; see Peter Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 24-31.
(40) Moss describes a main virtue of commonplace book keeping, for its proponents, as its 'utility for training and supplying the memory' (Printed Commonplace-books, p. 8). The extent to which the practice structured reading habits and thought is indicated by the practice of commercial 'quotation marks' printed into editions of books, which 'served the habit of looking for excerptable material' (p. 211).
(41) Jardine, of course, could not account for that form of presentation. The quotations and examples were, and could only have been, in her model 'any material which will contribute' to the acceptance of the precepts (Discovery, p. 234). reader to the extent that he or she will find mental accord around the same conclusions Bacon has done, and potentially even better ones.
(42) These stages are areas of focus rather than tightly discrete units through which Bacon's text shifts. The specific ways in which I break the essays down into sections or arguments and stages or places is, of course, contestable, but it is intended as an initial attempt at making sense of the arrangement of Bacon's units.
(43) Kiernan identifies Raleigh, Greville, and Robert Burton as possible 'discoursing Wits' (Essayes, p. 179).
(44) Box, pp. 278-79.
(45) Box emphasizes Bacon's project for the husbandry of the mind also as a form of management rather than cure (pp. 270-71).
(46) That is, vindemiationem primam, the first harvest, or vintage, which is discussed in Novum Organum in Book II, Aphorism XX; see Graham Rees and MariaWakely, eds, The Instauratio magna, Part II: Novum Organum and Associated Texts, The Oxford Francis Bacon XI (Oxford: Clarendon, 2004; repr. 2009), pp. 260-72.
(47) I am not, however, rejecting the possibility that Bacon is employing at times a rhetoric that cynically undermines conventional moral ideas; I am only suggesting that he is not always doing this and that he does not have to be doing this for the Essayes to be seen as having an important relationship to the larger natural philosophy project.
(48) In Novum Organum the idols of the mind are discussed in Book I, Aphorisms XXXIX-XLIV.
(49) James Stephens's book Francis Bacon and the Style of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975) also takes this position. Stephens describes Bacon's scientific rhetoric as a growing attempt to 'echo truth and still enchant the mind' (p. 15) and suggests that the aphoristic language of the essays is intended to be engaging, though he does not explore their capacity to engage the reasoning capabilities of readers.
(50) Miller, '"Pruning by Study"', p. 340.
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|Title Annotation:||Francis Bacon's 'Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall'|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2011|
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