Bacon in his presentation of the faculties of knowledge was more concerned with the reclassification of knowledge. Therefore, he presents knowledge in three major concepts, namely history, philosophy and poesy. This is in line with the three major faculties of thinking memory, imaginations and reasoning. As a result, his way of thinking made philosophy appear higher than other forms of knowledge. Plato, on the other hand, was more concerned with knowledge as a form of recollection of deeply hidden information that was within the soul. He sees knowledge as the recollection of something that was once within the person (Landauer and Dumais). This paper is a comparative analysis of the two philosophers on their theories of knowledge.
One common thing that both philosophers have in their assertions is the root of knowledge as being innate to man as opposed to something extrinsically learned. As a result, Plato asserts that knowledge flows from within and is an object of the manifestation of what is already within the person. On the other hand, Bacon asserts that knowledge is an object of the mind rather than an influence of the universe. Consider his assertion at this juncture: or it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe (Winthrop Faculty). Bacon's presentation notes that the human nature is compared to a false mirror which thinks that information gained is reflected from the universe, while in fact that thought is radiated from within. Plato goes on to give his evidence for the reasoning behind why knowledge flows from within: And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them? in this question, he asks about a conversation among cavemen who have no extrinsic knowledge, yet will adequately discuss issues of concern to them, proving that knowledge is from within rather from without. According to the two authors, knowledge is simply an expression of what is within rather than an impartation of extrinsic values.
Both philosophers equally praise the institution of philosophy above other forms of knowledge as the best method of knowledge recollection. This is because they see philosophy as the true consideration of knowledge in its best form. Bacon, for example, sees memory and imagination as inadequate forms of knowledge. Memory to him is the accumulation of brutish facts that have occurred while imagination is an expression of fake forms of historical evidence. Philosophy, however, embodies the discovery of the intrinsic knowledge source through logical and deep thinking. He considers in his writings:
For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolours the light of nature; owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature; or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like (Winthrop Faculty).
Therefore, Bacon finds that human knowledge without philosophical thinking can amount to a tainted image of the truth to suit the person meditating on it. Similarly, Plato finds that philosophy is a major way in which people find true illumination. In his allegory of the cave, the human mind upon turning to the consideration of proper reasoning can find that they are often faced with the challenge to absorb such knowledge as it appears foreign like a very bright light when they were lurking in the shadows. He makes consideration this way:
At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows (Winthrop Faculty).
Therefore, both philosophers find that logical thinking through the reasoning avenue is the most important form of knowledge. This kind of thinking is found in philosophy.
However, the two philosophers differ on the point of knowledge reception. While these two were very similar in their lines of thought, they were completely dissimilar in their classification of knowledge. While Bacon asserts that knowledge and the idol of the cave for the human being is based purely on self interest, Plato thinks this to be quite opposite. People will often find knowledge to be to the benefit of the majority. Plato mentions: Behold! human beings living in an underground den while Bacon begins his allegory with The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man, clearly showing the difference in intentions for the two philosophers.
While the two philosophers may have their ideas pointing towards the same direction with regards to the importance of critical thinking in philosophy and the ranks of knowledge, their allegories point to different natures of the person in determining the effect on the person.
Landauer, T. K. and S. T. Dumais. "A solution to Plato's problem: The latent semantic analysis theory of acquisition, induction, and representation of knowledge." Psychological review, 104(2) (1997): 211.
Winthrop Faculty. "The Idols" from Novum Organum by Francis Bacon. 2015. 30 May 2016 <http://faculty.winthrop.edu/tebomessinam/The%20Idols.htm>.
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