Artigo substituído em Setembro de 2008 por solicitação do editor do periódico.
This text aims at examining the relations between Bacon’s reflections on the limits of our
despite the many references to that philosophy. Even though these references seem at first sight
somewhat vague and imprecise, we came to the conclusion that not only a close exam can
reveal the relevance of the theme in regard to the comprehension of Bacon’s own philosophy,
but also show his interest in contemporary skeptical literature. The distinctive features of his
own interpretation seem to anticipate how skepticism is to be understood by future philosophers
as Hume, for instance.
Keywords: Bacon, Skepticism, Idols, Empiricism, Montaigne, Descartes.
As Michel Malherbe says in his edition of the French version of Novum organum,
Although he alludes here to its fortunes in France, his remark is relevant in a much more
general way, in spite of the fact that some of the most important modern philosophers
have made use of this author in order to define the meaning of their own enterprises.
Hume refers to Bacon as the father of experimental physics and depicts his science of
human nature as an attempt to continue the work he embarked upon and which was
carried on by other British moralists, since they made experience the foundation for
As an epigraph to his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant picked out a passage
HUME (1984), p. 44. It is worth comparing the Introduction of the Treatise with aphorism I, §80 of Novum
progress and depth, not only to mechanical arts and medicine, but also to “logical sciences” and “civil and moral
philosophy”. The references to the Novum Organum indicate firstly the book, then the number of the aphorism,
instead of founding a new sect, aimed to lay the foundations for a collective work,
capable of eradicating a recurrent mistake.
overstatement - not even the relative lack of studies on Baconian philosophy seems to
us to justify the shortcomings in the approaches to his relations with philosophical
skepticism. We are aware of only one paper entirely devoted to this theme — a quite
recent article, incidentally;
and the topic received nothing but casual or general
though Bacon frequently refers to skepticism and its adepts in acatalepsia throughout
his work, from his earlier writings, such as The Praise of Knowledge (1592), up to such
mature works as the Novum organum (1620).
Considering that the commentaries have
the intellectual traditions of the Renaissance — such as that by Lisa Jardine, who was
concerned with dialectic, or that of Paolo Rossi, who highlighted, among other aspects,
Bacon’s relationship with so-called “natural magic”
— the gap becomes even more
vision of how the skeptical traditions of the Renaissance, both academic and Pyrrhonist,
have contributed towards the constitution of modern thought in a not yet well-defined
and finally the page number of the first volume of The Works of Francis Bacon, Spedding-Ellis-Heath edition (see
Bibliography). All the references to this edition here will include “Sp”.
KANT (1980). This epigraph was included in the Second Edition of this work.
Cf. GRANADA. This author evaluates the state of art of the question closely to the way we do here. We are
grateful for his kindness in allowing us to refer to a preliminary version of his article which has not yet been
There are other works in which Bacon explicitily alludes to skepticism, such as Valerius Terminus (1603), The
JARDINE (1974); ROSSI (1968); GRANADA