Friday, October 21, 2005

Four Idols

We have had a discussion about Bacon/Shakespeare - arising from our reading Finnegans Wake. I want to post a few interesting bits from a discussion we had about Bacon last year, as they seem relevant to the Maybe Logic and General Semantics interest in the things that facilitate or inhibit clear thinking. 'Idols' is a term which Bacon used figuratively for fallacies which block or distort men's perception of reality and their pursuit of truth. They are psychological barriers - prepossessions, prejudices, and delusions, emotional and sentimental biases. In short, they include all the imaginings which prevent men from seeing the object 'as it really is'. Most of this summary got culled from this excellent site, which goes into the Idols in more detail, with examples - I have jotted notes of my own amongst them.

Novum Organum
Aphorisms concerning The Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man.
Aphorism XXXIX. There are four classes of Idols which beset men's minds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names, -- calling the first class Idols of the Tribe; the second, Idols of the Cave; the third, Idols of the Market-place; the fourth, Idols of the Theatre.

Idols of the Tribe: (Human Chauvinism - sensory limits - bodymind?)

A person's education:
The books a person reads:
The people a person admires: (try not to end up with their bad habits, too)
A person's experiences:
Our need to seek more and more regularity in the world than there really is: (23s and The Law of Fives?)
Our tendency to seek out evidence of that which we already believe to be true: (self-fulfilling prophecy, The Prover proves what the Thinker thinks)
Our tendency to see personal truths as universal: (opinion disguised with isness)
Our belief in empirical data: (only part of the spectrum)
Our tendency to let emotions rule reason: (faith-based vs experiment-based)

Idols of the Cave: (Personal reality-tunnels)

People see things in light of their own special knowledge and opinions:
Some of us are governed by similarities, others by differences:
Those who love the past and those who love the possibilities of the future obscure the knowledge of the present:
Some of us see only the details and others see only the global:
Bacon advised students to hold in suspicion any idea which particularly appealed to them

Idols of the Marketplace: (General Semantics and NLP)
Words are misused or misunderstood:
Words have a true and a vulgar meaning: (slang and jargon)
Words cannot be defined because we need words to define them:
Names of things which do not exist confuse our understanding: (nominalizations)
'Idols of the Market Place are the most troublesome of all'
'It is not possible to divorce ourselves from these fallacies and false appearances, because they are so inseparable from our nature and condition of life'

Idols of the Theatre: (The State - true believers - ready-made fictions)
Political systems (democracy, communism, etc.):
Political parties:

Systems of dogma or philosophy which have been invented with little or no regard to realities: they resemble the fictions of stage plays which distract audiences from 'what is' to illusory worlds. Such systems may be sophistical, extracting a great deal from a few facts, or empirical, extracting a little from many things, or superstitions, mixing philosophy with theology and tradition. All of these are errors because they do not see knowledge truly. The Sophists do not consult experience; the Empiricists are too easily satisfied; and the Superstitious contaminate knowledge and spread their fallacies widest of all. The Idols of the Theatre also influence the mind into excesses of dogmatism or denial.

1 comment:

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