Bacon then goes on to criticize those philosophers who did not intend to give up
investigation, because, as he says, once human spirit loses its faith in finding the truth,
its interest in investigation weakens and degenerates into mere disputes and pleasant
But who might those philosophers be, according to Bacon? Although the
defenders of the New Academy, that is to say, to those who, without hindering
investigation, take opinions as probabile — the practical criterion according to the
traditional formulation of these philosophers, such as we find in Cicero, for instance.
This interpretative detail might be useful to evaluate Bacon’s contact with the traditional
skeptical sources. In fact, in the Academia, Cicero assumes the position of these
philosophers by maintaining that certainty is not really necessary in order to act
according to common life and to be engaged in the “arts”, and even refers to the
pleasure that academic skeptics seem to find in the investigation of large and hidden
themes, as well as in reaching some result that has only a resemblance with the truth.
But did Bacon put forth this counterpoint with regard to the relation between suspension
Pyrrhonist skeptics, at the beginning of Hipotiposes, as those that “keep on
investigating” precisely in opposition to the defenders of the New Academia, which
supported the impossibility of knowledge as a kind of negative dogmatism?
inquiry as it was planned by Sextus (conceived as a neutralizing activity of the
dogmatic’s precipitation, essentially negative), the terms that he normally uses to
In the Filum Labyrinthi Bacon presents the same lack of hope as cutting the nerves of human investigation. (Sp. II,
See Academica, II, 108, 127-128.
dissertations or a “ride about things”) do not seem to evoke the texts of Sextus but,
rather, those of Cicero himself or even Montaigne.
Furthermore, if we bear in mind
Medicine, on practical assent to phainómenon and especially on how this is compatible
with the practice of the tékhnai, which are aimed at searching for what is useful for
human well-being, as some recent studies have shown, it would be reasonable to admit
that Bacon certainly accepts an even greater affinity between his own perspective and
that of the skeptics.
At least, this seems to suggest that Bacon probably did not read
in the presentation of idola specus.
were right to become skeptics and academics, just following appearances and
probabilities, Bacon says that both Socrates and Cicero did not “sincerely” support the
view that the mind was incapable of obtaining the truth (but only with regard to ironic
and rhetorical purposes), and declares: “It is certain however that there were some here
See HP I, 1-4, 7
See particularly Les Essais, I, 50, 301-302 (ed. Villey): “[A]...Le jugement est un util à tous subjects, et se mesle
partout. A cette cause, aux essais que j’en fais icy, j’y employe toute sorte d’occasion... Tantost, à un subject vain
et de neant, j’essaye voir s’il trouvera dequoy lui donner corps, et dequoy l’appuyer et estançonner. Tantost je le
promenne à un subject noble et tracassé, auquel il n’a rien à trouver de soy, le chemin en estant si frayé qu’il ne
peut marcher que sur la piste d’autruy. Là il fait son jeu à eslire la route quy luy semble la meilleure, et, de mille
sentiers, il dict que cettuy-cy là, qui a esté le meilleux choisi. Je prends de la fortune le premier argument. Ils me
sont egalement bons. Et ne desseigne jamais de les produire entiers.[C] Car je ne voy le tout de rien: ne font pas
ceux qui nous prometent de le faire veoir. De cent membres et visages que a chaque chose, j’en prens un tantost à
lecher seulement, tantost à effleurer; et par fois à pincer jusqu’à l’os. J’y donne une poincte, non pas le plus
largement possible, mais le plus profondement que je sçay. Et aime plus souvent à les saisir par quelque lustre
inusité. Je me hazarderoy de traitter à fons quelque matière, si je me connoissoy moins. Semant icy un mot, icy un
autre, eschantillons despris de lur piece, escartez, sans dessein et sans promesse, je ne suis pas tenu de faire bon, ny
de m’y tenir moy mesme, sans varier quand il me plaist et me rendre au doubte et incertitude, et à ma maitresse
forme, qui est l’ignorance.”
Following the pioneering studies of FREDE (1987), in Brazil the works of BOLZANI (1991), SMITH (1995) and
See Sp. I, p. 164, N.O. I, §42, Adv. Math. I, 133; II, 186.