Howard B. White, “Bacon’s Imperialism”

Category : Politics

To understand the political philosophy of Francis Bacon, or what he tried  to do in political philosophy, one must make the clear-cut distinction he saw, I believe, between a provisional and a definitive political teaching. The latter, which he put chiefly in the New Atlantis and the De Sapientia Veterum, could be but imperfectly explored, because man could only build a final political
teaching out of an as yet unconstructed natural philosophy. The former, on the other hand, could be known and conveyed with some precision. It was to serve the purpose of furnishing a temporary station for mankind, one that would be liveable and even comfortable as a dwelling place, and one that would at the same time, permit philosophy or science its own discovery of something better. Of the provisional political order, as Bacon saw it, there were three pillars: crown, church, and empire. The imperial pillar is certainly the most important to him of the three, and its construction required a greater boldness than the construction of either of the others.

Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 1958), pp. 470-489

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