Niccolo Machiavelli
Niccolo Machiavelli
March 19, 2017
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
March 20, 2017

Renaissance Thought

Francis Bacon

F rancis Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author. He served both as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution.


22 January 1561 Strand, London, England


9 April 1626 (aged 65) Highgate, Middlesex, England


Renaissance philosophy


Western philosophy

Main interests

Natural philosophy, Philosophical logic

Chapter Ⅳ. Renaissance Thought

Francis Bacon


Hayagriva dasa: Francis Bacon is generally acknowledged as the founding father of modern science in England, and although he did not work in a modern laboratory like today's scientists, he inspired what has become known as the scientific method. He believed that science could give man a mastery over nature that would improve his life on this earth. For Bacon, science was not simply an intellectual or academic undertaking, but a utilitarian one.

Srila Prabhupada: It is erroneous for Bacon or any other scientist to think that science can control nature. It is not possible to control birth, old age, disease, and death. During our lifetime, we may be able to make some changes and give some facilities, but that is not the ultimate end.

Hayagriva dasa: Bacon disliked mental speculation about God because we cannot expect God to conform to our own conception. Due to God's infinitude, no conception of God can be unbelievable. By and large, Bacon relegated theology to the realm of faith, and science to the realm of knowledge of the world.

Srila Prabhupada: It is good to be a master architect and make a house with all modern facilities, but if these facilities cause us to forget life's real aim, we have lost a great deal. It is better to remain without facilities, evacuate in the field, and bathe in the river, than overly concern ourselves with modern amenities, facilities for a pampered life. If we forget our real business—how to revive God consciousness—we have not advanced but regressed.

Hayagriva dasa: Bacon did not conceive of science as being a disunifying factor as far as religion or God is concerned. Rather, he believed that science could enable civilization to progress. It could be a binding force between man and God.

Srila Prabhupada: That is certainly a very good idea, but many modern scientists are denying the existence of God. Many are claiming that God is dead, that there is no need of God, or that we can manufacture God and man in our own way.

Hayagriva dasa: Bacon considered some knowledge to be supernatural in that it comes from God, whereas other forms of knowledge are attained through man's own attempts. He admits that the material senses are imperfect and act like false mirrors, which distort the actual world. Thus men are constantly being deceived.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, although they are advancing the cause of material science, they are forgetting God in the process. This is most degrading. Men should prove by scientific methods that God exists and is doing everything. Scientists should use a scientific method to understand how the supreme intelligent Being is working. God's scientific knowledge is perfect, and knowledge that complies with this is very good. But if men have a little knowledge and defy the existence of God, their knowledge is useless. So their little knowledge has become a dangerous thing.

Hayagriva dasa: Bacon says something very much like this. He writes: "It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita:

sarva-yonisu kaunteya
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita

"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father." (Bg. 14.4) If we have a little intelligence and think about this verse, we can understand that all living entities are coming from some womb. Since everyone is the child of some mother, there must be a father. When we are grown, we must understand our father, his property, and his desire. How can we deny a universal father?

Hayagriva dasa: This is Bacon's conclusion: "For a while, the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This is the version given in Bhagavad-gita.

aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate

"I am the origin of everything. Everything is emanating from Me." (Bg. 10.8) The Vedanta-sutra also states: janmadyasya yatah. "The Supreme Being is He from whom everything is emanating." It is a fact that there must be a source of everything, and it is the business of philosophy to find that original source. It is neither scientific nor philosophic to try to obscure or ignore the original source.

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning superstition, Bacon writes: "It were better to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him. For one is unbelief, and the other is contumely."

Srila Prabhupada: Why should we remain superstitious? Why not introduce education whereby everyone can understand God and His nature? We are trying to establish such an institution with this Krsna consciousness movement. If the government participates and cooperates, the masses of people can understand this science of God and benefit.

Hayagriva dasa: Bacon distinguished between sects and religions. Sects change, but true religion "is built upon the rock; the rest are tossed on the waves of time...."

Srila Prab hupada: Real religion comes directly from God because religion is the law of God. Therefore we must philosophically and scientifically understand God and His law. That is the perfection of knowledge.

Hayagriva dasa: Many of the Indian sects are successful in America because their leaders do not impose any restrictions,

Srila Prabhupada: They have no conception of God. They come for some material profit, and this is revealed in the course of time.

Hayagriva dasa: Bacon also believed in the divine right of kings, maintaining that the king is empowered by God to make laws. He also felt that a national church could best provide for the people's spiritual needs.

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore it is necessary that the king be so trained as not to misuse his power. According to the Vedic system, the king was educated to abide by the instructions of saintly persons, brahmanas. The brahmanas would advise, and the king would follow their desire. If a king misuses his power, he is good for nothing. His monarchy will be abolished, and the people will replace it with something else.

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