Monday, 5 October 2009

Francis Bacon and his Idols

This week has been really busy for me, so I apologise if this blog looks a bit empty at the minute, I will try to work more on it in the next few weeks.
Today, I have read the chapter about Francis Bacon in History of
Western Philosophy (yes, I'm part of the 50% of the class who read the wrong chapters last week, though it was pretty interesting to learn that in Pythagoras' religion it was not allowed to eat beans ... )
I have studied Bacon's philosophy when I was at the lycée (or high school) and I think that some aspects of his philosophy are worth a more detailed explanation than the one you can find in Russell's book.

You probably (don't) remember that at some point Russell refers to Bacon's Idols, he explains quickly their meaning, but from my point of view the explanation is not totally clear. I think this is an important concept to understand, because it's one of the unavoidable philosophical topic.

The first Idol is the Idol of the Tribe. This refers to the prejudices shared by the whole mankind, for example, men tend to trust their first impression and their senses.

The second Idol is the Idol of the Cave. This concept certainly refers to Plato's cave myth. All of us are brought up in a certain historical context, education which will influence our temperament. Then, our temperament makes us think in a particular way and not in another. Therefore, all of these element prevent us from being objective. For Bacon, the cave is designed by all of these elements. Although Plato's version sounds a bit more complex, I think the two concepts are very similar. It's easy to link this concept to the journalism world: even if a journalist is supposed to report the truth and only the truth, is he totally objective?

The third Idol is the Idol of the Market Place: In Bacon's opinion, no thought is possible without language to express it. Therefore, when men communicate, misunderstandings and bad interpretations occur regularly because men use the same words to express different ideas. I believe this particular idol is also important because as future journalists (hopefully), it is recommended to choose our words carefully!

The fourth Idol is the Idol of the Theater: Basically, this refers to beliefs and religions accepted without a single question by people because they are supported and spread by well educated minorities.

That is what I've been taught in France. However, interpretations can vary and I hope I made it clear enough, it is already hard work to be clear in philosophy when I can speak French, but in English, it's almost Mission: Impossible !


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