who held this opinion in simplicity and integrity”.
Thus, in addition to his distinction
adopting a skeptical position: a more radical mode, which accepted the impossibility of
recognizing the truth entirely and at once (mainly associated with Pyrrhonism but
maybe also, as he says, with some academics), and a milder mode, exemplified by
Socrates and Cicero, according to which it is possible to admit a suspension subjected to
different purposes, or a non-integral refusal of the possibility of recognizing the truth. If
we compare this passage with aphorism I § 67 of Novum organum quoted above, it
seems to suggest that Bacon was inclined to see a greater proximity between his own
way of thinking and the position endorsed by some of the philosophers generally
associated with the New Academy, insofar as he projects on them a weaker kind of
skepticism, without explicitly using this expression, however (and thereby closer to
enabling the development of an investigation concerning the truth). Moreover, this text
seems to strengthen the suggestion that Bacon had some contact with the skeptical
works of Cicero (an author who, according to him, belongs to those who joined the New
Academy in order to hold forth eloquently in utramque partem, i. e., regarding both
sides of the question),
and even, in view of the contents of his interpretation, with the
as has been suggested by Emil Wolff.
Even so, it is noticeable how some aspects of the exposition of the doctrine of the
See Sp. I, 621-622; IV, 412.
According to E. Wolff, even though Bacon distinguishes between Pyrrhonians and Academics, he always quotes
from Cicero and Diogenes Laertius (apud GRANADA). As we saw, he seems to rely also upon the De Natura
Deorum when considering the notion of idolum.
See the note above. Granada seems to equally tend towards the same evaluation concerning the sources Bacon
body, soul, education, habit and circumstances as they are affected by objects in
general. The Second Trope of Enesidemus claims that the differences between men,
whether with regard to their bodily constitution (also including the diversity of
preferences and how they are affected by sense organs), or regarding the supposed
difference of their souls (derived from the irreducible variety of their opinion), must
lead us to a suspension of judgment given the nonexistence of criteria by means of
which we could put an end to the controversy.
Notwithstanding the differences that
oppositions established or, as Moody Prior pointed out, the absence of the kind of
reasoning that is proper to the Pyrrhonist trope
— here and elsewhere in the doctrine
what we observed in the texts of Sextus: for instance, the Baconian refusal of the
anticipation of spirit that is present in traditional philosophy (described as similar to the
Pyrrhonist critique of propéteia, the dogmatic’s precipitation in the quest for truth),
the way in which “novelty” or habit can distort cognitive activities (as Sextus says in the
of the Third Trope, based on opposing perceptions according to different human senses,
or to the Fifth Trope, based on the opposition according to the diversity of perspectives
and situations of perception).
N.O., I §41, §§53-58; HP I, 80.
See PRIOR (1986), p. 141. Nevertheless we think he overstates the case when he proposes that we can find all the
N.O. I, §9, §§19-30, §56; cf. HP I, 20, 177, 186; II, 17, 21, 37; III, 280.
N.O. I§§56, §119; cf. HP I, 141.
N.O. I§50, cf. HP I, 91, 118.
materials through other sources. According to Granada, in the critique of the idols, in
regard to the senses as well as to the intellect in its spontaneous activity, it is possible to
find a “coincidence” with skeptical critique, both Greek and Renaissancist.
that their presence does not necessarily refer to Sextus. Even though Bacon’s explicit
mentions of skeptics and academics seem to refer fundamentally to the ancient
philosophers, maybe we should give more importance to the contemporary sources that
he considered akin to skepticism. Moreover, it is important to bear in mind the way
Bacon acknowledges the presence of skeptical elements in authors who, according to
him, did not “sincerely” support the suspension of judgment, for it shows that he could
have admitted them in the elaboration of his doctrine of the idols without having
considered them to be totally skeptical.
At any rate, Bacon also alludes to contemporary authors that he relates to
skepticism. However critical they might be, theses allusions reveal his attention to the
peculiarities of skepticism of that period. In the opuscule Temporis partus masculus, he
refers to Agrippa of Nettesheim, author of De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum et
atrium (1531), as a kind of laughable “street buffoon” (trivialis scurra) who distorts
everything, and describes skepticism as a philosophy that “cheers him up and makes
him laugh” by making philosophers “walk in circles”.
As Granada proposed, it may be
intellectualist fideism espoused by that author. In turn, we should perhaps consider that,
throughout the 16
century, skepticism was frequently the subject of a literary
See GRANADA. OLIVEIRA (2007, p. 536.77) holds that Bacon’s work would be a “fundamental link between the
founders of the Royal Society.”
See Sp III, p. 536.