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Francis Bacon


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Table of Contents

PrefaceReferences and AbbreviationsCh. 1Introduction: Bacon's Two Lives3Ch. 2Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Knowledge: The Genesis of Bacon's Project25Ch. 3The Great Instauration74Ch. 4Human Philosophy: Morals and Politics129Ch. 5Language, Law, and History175Ch. 6Conclusion221Notes229Index281

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This is a masterly book which brings together the two major Bacons--the politician and the philosopher...Impeccably researched, elegantly written, and comprehensive in scope, it is simply the best synthetic study of Bacon now available. -- Donald Kelley, Rutgers University

About the Author

Perez Zagorin is Joseph C. Wilson Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Rochester and a Fellow of the Shannon Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of numerous books, including Rebels and Rulers, 1500-1660; Ways of Lying: Dissimulation, Persecution, and Conformity in Early Modern Europe; and Philosophy, Religion, and Science in England, 1640-1700.


Francis Bacon, one of the preeminent architects and prophets of the scientific revolution, is frequently acknowledged by philosophers and historians, says Zagorin, but he is almost as frequently misunderstood. This is not so much a biography as an attempt to portray the full range of his intellectual ambitions, which were nothing less than an often futuristic reworking of how humans should think about their natural and social environments. Drawing both on well-known published works such as Novum Organum and The Advancement of Learning as well as on lesser-known fragments, Zagorin (Rebels and Rulers, 1500-1660) attempts to reconstruct the thought and character of this true Renaissance man. Although he starts out with an extensive examination of Bacon's natural philosophy, he does not neglect Bacon's less celebrated investigations into jurisprudence or moral philosophy. In the public sphere, Bacon was, as Zagorin rather daintily puts it, "preeminently practical." In fact, Bacon, a fawning admirer of Machiavelli, took great pains to distance himself from his patron, the Earl of Essex, once the latter fell out of favor. It's not Bacon's finest moment and is sometimes skirted by biographers, but Zagorin generally treats Bacon's shortcomings with historical honesty. Even translated from the (usual) Latin, Bacon's works can still be difficult for modern readers. Unfortunately Zagorin's interpretation doesn't always help matters‘witness his translation of Instauratio Magna as The Great Instauration. Also while the book begins enthusiastically, some repetition and lack of focus slow the pace of the last few chapters. (May)

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1998 "A concise but detailed analysis of [Bacon's] whole range of thought... This penetrating account of Bacon's work can be recommended as the best single-volume study available."--Brian Vickers, The Times Literary Supplement "[Francis Bacon] will be useful to scholars for its ability to organize and explain a large and sometimes unwieldy topic ... and, because of its lucidity and clear-sightedness, it will be of interest to the general reader."--Charles Davis, Boston Book Review "A sensitive and sympathetic analysis... There is always a suspicion, when one reads such a fine-lettered stylist as Bacon, that the prose is glittering with too many nice turns and rhetorical tricks. Zagorin's homage shows the substance to be reassuringly there behind it all."--Nigel Spivey, Financial Times "Zagorin ... brings a lifetime of learning, as well as personal enthusiasm, to his presentation of Bacon's intellectual accomplishments. This is a book not just to taste, but to chew and digest."--Washington Post "[An] excellent new biography."--Roger Kimball, The Wall Street Journal "Eminently readable, expansive in scope, and scintillating... [A] thoroughly researched, authoritative account."--Choice

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