Tag Archives: francis bacon

Samuel Johnson Rambles on the practicality of knowledge – essay

Ignorance is the timorous and indolent plight from fear because knowledge is considered to be remotely extensive and inscrutable to be comprehended. It retards the progress of the mind and numbs the sense. Samuel Johnson avers in his weekly essay ‘The Rambler, No. 137’ avers that one remains unenlightened unless he is diligent to search for the origin of wonder with a pause of reason, a sudden cessation of mental progress when confronting the unknown to him. The need for general knowledge, the knowledge that confers Citizenship of the World, is an essential element of human characteristics, and an easy task to fulfill in search of meaning in life.

Johnson’s idea of knowledge is simplicity. It is jettisoned from a concatenation of needless abstrusely sophisticated theories and ideologies. It also chimes the bell with the Renaissance virtuoso Leonard da Vinci’s adage that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication in all principles. However intimidating or formidable the unknown is, the essential feature is simple to understand by way of ‘Divide and Conquer,” a principle that complication is a confederacy of the abstruse that can be broken into parts marked by the gradations from the first agent to the last consequence. The force that breaks the shackle of fear for conquering the unknown huddle is patient diligence armored in confidence. The labor of inquiry for wonder follows natural curiosity and confidence that eclipses the soul’s darkness. It comes to fruition by ceaseless efforts to ascertain the origin of the wonder in simple ways. The English philosopher who also advocated democratic pedagogy, John Locke, affirms that the surest way of thorough comprehension knowledge is to attempt little by way of repetition. For the widest excursions of the mind result from short flights of mental imagery and instant thoughts triggered by neurons fired in our cerebral cortex, which can be transformed into an organization of ideas firmly engraved in the mind.

However, knowledge loses its purpose if it dissipates into the possessor’s cerebral ether or is locked in the mind’s cabinet. It becomes useful and purposeful when put into practice. That is why Johnson gives heed to those who pride themselves in the impressive educational backgrounds and belittle others whose mental capacities they arbitrarily judge ignorable or even ordinary. Knowledge is for share, and it is a duty of a scholar who has a wider variety of knowledge through years of academic endeavors for the common benefits of the world he lives in. As Francis Bacon fittingly concurs, books can never teach the use of books. Generally speaking, it is common for intellectuals, despite their ostensible calls for democracy and justice for all, to live out of touch with the practical realities of life and often regard such matters as trifles. But what is worthy of their glorious learning if it does not accommodate the purpose of life? Johnson criticizes such lofty arrogance of the rarified subset of the general population because they lose their days in unsocial silence and live in the crowd of life without a touch of humanity. It also reminds me of Bacon’s utterance of loneliness in a group as such: “Magna Civitas, Magna solitudo.” In this regard, George Orwell is together with Johnson because they saw the educated’s superciliousness, the intellectuals, who often conferred their knowledge to their honor in the voluntary seclusion.

Upon reading Johnson’s essay, I could not help but wholeheartedly agree with the purpose of knowledge and the idea of sharing it with others for the world’s common good. I was also glad to learn that I was not the only one who thought that people with academic credentials were frequently dismissive of the opinions of what they regarded as the mortals of the ordinary among whom I am. Therefore, I hope that the reader who reads this essay of mine should not belittle the soul attempting to obtain the sunshine of the light of letters to understand the world in a perspicuous way to declare to the world that I also can think and express it cogently. That is my essay on knowledge for the purpose of life.

Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit

Shakespeare said that fool thinks he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. This also means that a wise man knows what and when to speak. In this respect, simulation and dissimulation according to English Philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon is wisdom providing you with a strong heart to discern the opportune time to tell truth and to do it in protect of yourself against derisive remarks and false opinions on you by whom you talk to at work and any other social occasions. In Other Words: you take false shadows for true substance lest you should lose yourself under the misapprehension that revealing all of yourself will develop rapports for socialization.

In this “Express Yourself” era that lionize glory of show-it-all and tell-it-all in the form of memoirs and selfies, vying for a legion of followers cossetting juvenile mentality of the authors, Bacon’s tenets of veiling yourself may be deemed anachronistic and unreconstructed. However, it would contradict the importance of self-respect if we let ourselves peddled by the melee nitpicking someone’s weaknesses.  That said, the advantages of simulation and dissimulation and how to do according to Bacon are as follows:

  1. Advantages
  • To quiet opposition and to surprise
  • To reserve a fair retreat to yourself. By concealing yourself to a certain degree, you can protect yourself in a situation that you fee inappropriate to you.
  • The better to discover the mind of another by letting the other party open him/herself without sacrificing yourself to disclosing your inner thoughts that might be incompatible to the other, and that will generate a false impression on you.

2.  How-to-do

  • Have openness in appearance, such as smiling countenance and civil manner of listening to another.
  • Keep your true feelings and thoughts to yourself. I have read that the former British Prime Minister David Cameroon was good at being canny enough not to speak of his opinions on politics during his university years, lest he should ruffle other students of different political opinions.
  • Pretend to be what you are not if there seems to be no other way than to speak your mind in a setting where your true opinion will be unwelcome.

The aforesaid may seem boring or passé, but then there’s good reason why a wealth of wisdom shared by great minds of history still ring true, resounding through the leaps of time and borders of nations and boundaries of cultures. The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves and speak their minds when their ripe judgment of Reason deems the time apropos. Maybe it’s high time we got off the bandwagon of “Follow Me” and took a nice long walk alone around in romantic solitude and reflection thereof.

Lifeline advice from Francis Bacon

Some wise people take shadows for true substances. Like medieval mounted knights in body armors, they skillfully protect themselves from the exploitation of their true substances in everyday interaction with the people they are forced to work with. How the wise accomplish this art of shielding amounts to an art of war in its defensive and offensive strategical tactics as well as to a discipline of cognitive behavioral therapy in its practical approach to noogenic neurosis or existential crisis. English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) knew all about this intricacies of human nature in conflict with existential planes, ergo he advised to the posterity how to keep our individuality from pressure of false conformity under the pretext of socialization.

According to Bacon, simulation and dissimulation are an armor and a shield to guard oneself from being a subject of malicious gossip or cruel bullying, if used wisely. The dichotomy of two principles is simple: simulation as being what he is not. That is, he pretends to be someone he’s not. Dissimulation as being what he is not by way of concealment. However, simulation and dissimulation should not be confused with signs of diffidence or cowardice. On the contrary, it is for the benefit of anyone whose softness is often mistaken for weakness, his hamartia in all things he hopes to achieve. In fact, Bacon posed the advantage of simulation and dissimulation as thus: (1) to quell opposition and to surprise – that is, being a wolf in sheepskin can be a good thing in social interaction as long as you do not hurt anyone with claws and teeth; (2) to reserve a fair retreat to a man’s self – which means by concealing himself to a certain measured degree, he can protect himself in a situation that he feels inappropriate to him. It’s better kept to yourself in a situation that feels and seems a bit averse to you; and (3) to discover the mind of another by letting the other party open himself and turn his freedom of speech to freedom of thought. Simply put, let the other one do the talking until the tower of barbel rings the bell of the talker’s mind to retreat into his chamber of thought. In the end you will remain unsullied by the pompous self-revelation.

As a coin has two sides to it, the principles have the disadvantage that is inescapable. It casts a shadow of fearfulness that discourages people to flock around the quiet one. Also, it transmits a false impression on others who might otherwise corporate with the the reserved one, which then unfortunately begets a deprivation of camaraderieship or closeness that the thoughtful one does not deserve. Hence, it will be the best to concoct doses of (1) prepossessing demeanor; (2) secrecy in habit; and (3) concealment in use – all for the power to feign, so as not to get hurt unnecessarily by those whose intellect, characters, personalities, and habits do not amount to your class and thus are unworthy of even tying your shoelaces. Bacon’s elegant treaty of simulation and dissimulation may seem heretical, treacherous even to the minds of today’s world where stark self-revelation is highly prided and treasured as a modus operandi of self-empowerment paddled by motivational speakers, clinical social workers, therapists, celeb-turned authors, etc… However, of all the chanting mantras of “being yourself”, Bacon’s method of being yourself by means of simulation and dissimulation to guard your most sacred mental sovereignty is still powerfully resonant with its practicality that strikes the hearts of those whose mildness is used against by the rabble.

Fiddlesticks! – on Smartphones

RE: 8/20/2018 edition of The Los Angeles Times on “Your smartphone is a teddy bear”

We are swimming in a dazzling sea of modern technological conveniences, and we are drowning in it, whether we are against it or not. We have come a long way since the inventions of a talking telegraph (a telephone), an electronic toaster, a walkman, and all other apparatuses that have become inseparable from us, to arrive here in the 21st century where we seldom begin and finish our days without gazing into (or being glued into) monitors with our hands on keyboards. Surely, it’s a marvelous human cultural progress, a fantastic collective enterprise of the human minds for betterment. Hip, hip, Hooray for the magnum opuses.

Apart from the marvels of our ingenious inventions that have made our lives a bit more bearable to fulfill our daily tasks, how about our non-technological aspects of life then? Do we really think that smartphones provision us with the bells and whistles of our equilibrium? At least two researchers at UC Irvine declare the resounding “Yes.” According to their recent study of psychological impacts of smartphones on our behavioral tendencies, the high-tech gizmo guarantees a feeling of security by saving us from social faux-pas in awkward situations. In fact, they “conclude” that smartphones function as efficacious stress relievers.

John Hunter and Susan Pressman are the names of such revelation, and they want to debunk the infamy of a smartphone as a mindless gizmo used for killing away our otherwise productive moments. They conducted an experiment that involved 3 experimental groups of those who had (1) the phones but were not permitted to use them; (2) the phones and were permitted to use them; and (3) no phones among a control group of UC students. The results were all over but the shouting: that those with the phones displayed less degree of anxiousness and anxiety than those who had none when they were purposefully estranged from the control group. Conversely, those without the phones exhibited the highest level of the stress hormone alpha anylase in the saliva. Besides, those with the phone but were not allowed to use them showed the least level of the stress hormone. Consequently, the researchers raved about these results, rhapsodizing about the positive effects of a smartphone on our psyche.

Neither a luddite nor an anachronist adhering to a primeval way of living, I am all for the munificent technological largess of our time with open arms because I also, inevitably, use it myself in my daily life. But the researchers’ triumphant conclusion of their experiment seems rather precarious and cursory in relation to the following speculations: (1) What were the age groups of their experimental groups? Did the researchers target a specific age group? (2) What were the education and social levels of the experimental groups?; (3) were there any variables in the experimental groups and the control group?; and (4) were the researchers by any chance funded by technologically-based companies?  These are the questions that my heart suspects more than my eye can see.

The image of a devil’s advocate is what I am donning on this topic, but this article pushed me into the position on account of rather superficial results of the experiment devoid of the information on the aforesaid speculations. Also, looking at people wallowing themselves in small smartphones everywhere, especially on the subway and the bus, other than books or kindles, renders an apocalyptic image of the world nearing the doomsday or a scene of horror creatures that turn into zombies every night. “Magnas civitas, Magnas solitude,” Francis Bacon once lamented a great feeling of isolation in a great city. That says it, I should think so. Our sense of belonging and security is not bound by a possession of smartphones, nor does it replace your sweet teddy bears.