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Bacon et Descartes

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Élodie Cassan

Partie I. Bacon, Descartes : deux figures concurrentes de la modernité philosophique ?

Chapitre V

The Place of the Imagination in Bacon’s and Descartes’ Philosophical Systems

Guido Giglioni

Texte intégral

1In the history of philosophy, the imagination has been portrayed at times as a faculty of deception and at others as a powerful source of intellectual creativity. The value one intends to assign to the imagination ultimately depends on the emphasis placed on the act of ‘inventing,’ fingere, i.e., on the mind’s capability of representing, fashioning and contriving reality. The ambivalent nature of fingere—involved in the ability to feign and yet form things—signals a tension (sometimes a clash) between the domains of creative thinking and reality. The two tendencies can be traced in Bacon’s and Descartes’ work and they reveal fundamental differences in their philosophical attitudes. For Bacon, the imagination is, first and foremost, a world of fabricated reality, enchanted glasses, self-delusion, vanity and insanity. For Descartes, while the imagination can signify all these things, it also denotes—and in a crucial way—the world of what one might call la physique retrouvée, a world of geometrical constructions, metaphysical freedom and plausible scenarios for the actions of our everyday life.

  • 1 F. Bacon, OFB, XI, p. 166. On “poesy,” see F. Bacon, DAS, in SEH, I, p. 494: “Per Poësim autem hoc (...)
  • 2 R. Descartes, Le monde, AT, XI, pp. 31-32.
  • 3 F. Bacon, De sapientia veterum, SEH, VI, pp. 654-657.
  • 4 R. Descartes, La Dioptrique, AT, VI, pp. 83-86. On Descartes’ attempt to redefine vision, see P. Ga (...)
  • 5 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, pp. 84-85. “Lumen siccum, optima anima,” is the way Bacon translates He (...)

2In all likelihood, Bacon wouldn’t have gone so far in trying to find a way of justifying the cognitive function of the imagination. Although he acknowledged the key role of fictional reality in human culture (“poesy”), when speaking of nature (in naturae sinu) he postulated the existence of hidden aspects (multa recondita) that are beyond the reach of the imagination (sita sunt extra vias phantasiae).1 By contrast, Descartes remained confident that one could imagine the material universe in a proper way, provided that the faculty of mental representation followed the laws of metaphysics.2 It is significant to point out here that, in terms of physics, the starting point for Descartes was the phenomenon of light, presented by him as transparent to the principles of geometry and mechanics, while for Bacon the initial step had to be looked for in material desire, which by definition is blind, portrayed as the child of the night, to use the expression used by Bacon in the fable of Cupid which he recounted in De sapientia veterum.3 Here are the main differences between the two authors. Descartes’ world is a world of light; and yet it is a world that in the final analysis is not visible. How can then one describe the light and the world it reveals if he doesn’t see the light? As a blind man, it is Descartes’ answer, that is, by imagining it and by using the material motions that impinge on our senses as tools and words through which we can provide a reliable description of this world.4 Bacon’s world, on the other hand, is a universe of darkness, in which the Heraclitean “dry light” of the intellect dispels the intrusive shadows of the Protagorean senses and their claims to be the adequate measure of reality.5

3In the rest of this essay, I will examine Bacon’s and Descartes’ attitudes towards the imagination by taking into account their views about matter and the intellect. It will become apparent how the two authors advocated strikingly different strategies in order to explain the complex relationship between aspects of materiality and intelligibility.

The Relationship between the ‘real’ and the ‘fabled’ world of nature

  • 6 See Aristotle, De anima, I, 1, 403a; III, 7, 431a; De memoria et reminiscentia, I, 449b.

4It is safe to say that for Descartes what is imaginable does not coincide with what is intelligible. While according to the Aristotelian (and then scholastic) position what is intelligible (at least, what is humanly intelligible) has to be imaginable6, Descartes thinks that the scholastic view of the relationship between the imaginable and the intelligible is simply a rationalisation of commonsensical opinions. As he explains in the Discours de la méthode,

  • 7 R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, AT, VI, p. 37.

il y en a plusieurs... qu’ils sont tellement accoustumez a ne rien considerer qu’en l’imaginant, qui est une façon de penser particuliere pour les choses materielles, que tout ce qui n’est pas imaginable, leur semble n’estre pas intelligible. Ce qui est assez manifeste de ce que mesme les Philosophes tiennent pour maxime, dans les Escholes, qu’il n’y a rien dans l’entendement qui n’ait premierement esté dans le sens, où toutefois il est certain que les idées de Dieu et de l’ame n’ont iamais esté.7

  • 8 Ibid., pp. 37-38.

5Contrary to the tenets of scholastic Aristotelianism, Descartes maintains that not everything that is intelligible has to be imaginable: the soul and God are not imaginable, but they are intelligible. Indeed, what is not imaginable can provide access to what is most intelligible. A chimera is easily imaginable, but it is a frivolous distraction; my non-existence is not imaginable, but the fact that I cannot imagine myself as non-existing is the most solid truth to which I can have access. The truth of the cogito is counterintuitive in that it presupposes something that cannot be imagined: my non-existence.8

  • 9 R. Descartes, Principia philosophiae, AT, VIII, p. 326. See id., Principes de la philosophie, AT, I (...)

6As is proved by the example of the chimera, not everything that is imaginable is intelligible: commonsensical opinions of everyday life, implausible figments and artistic fictions remain at the level of the senses. Physics, on the other hand, can be intelligible while being imagined. Descartes’ mechanised world is the place where the imagination and the intellect overlap to a certain extent. As Descartes writes in Principia philosophiae, “nullae sunt in Mechanica rationes, quae non etiam ad Physicam, cujus pars and species est, pertineant”, that is to say: nothing is in mathematics—‘mixed’ as this may be (i.e., mechanics)—which is not in reality (i.e., physics), or: everything that is in the realm of mathematics can be imagined in the realm of physics.9

  • 10 On the connection between metaphysical and theological truths in Descartes, see the classic Sur la (...)

7It must be said that Descartes has an ambivalent attitude towards the notion of “likelihood” (vraisemblance). The fact that I cannot stretch the powers of my imagination to the point of visualizing myself as not existent represents for Descartes the very limit of that faculty, and it is a limit that defines his notions of likelihood and believability. The result, however, is the opening up of a vast field for metaphysical investigation, since, with the only exception of my non-existence, I can imagine everything I like. The cogitating ego is the solid atom of reality engulfed in a universe of likely reality. In this way, the reality of the cogito makes all other entities that inhabit the physical world fictitious and imaginable, pliant to the power of virtual existence. In addition, the theological premises of Descartes’ system of philosophy expand the scope of likely imagination almost to infinity. One has only to think of his position concerning the creation of eternal truths, or his view that, as human beings, we cannot know how the world has been fashioned by God in its internal structures and mechanisms; indeed, God might have created the world in such a way that its outward appearances may be compatible with an infinite number of causal models. Most of all, while the fables of the poets may distort the very notion of likelihood because of the many contingencies of history, childhood and desires, the fables of the philosophers, by delicately mediating between theological and philosophical imagination, may subvert ordinary notions of likelihood and enhance the argumentative power of the imagination.10

8This is what happens at its best in “l’invention d’une Fable” which Descartes recounts in Le monde. He suggests abandoning for a little while this world of familiar appearances and contemplating the new world that the imagination displays in front of our eyes out of virtual spaces. Let us play with the notion of the infinite, Descartes tells us, so that we can “lose sight of all creatures created by God five or six thousand years ago:”

  • 11 R. Descartes, Le monde, op. cit., pp. 31-32.

Permettez donc pour un peu de temps à vostre pensée de sortir hors de ce Monde, pour en venir voir un autre tout nouveau, que je feray naistre en sa presence dans les espaces imaginaires.11

9We shouldn’t be misled by the trenchant distinction with which Descartes separates the sphere of the imaginable reality from that of the intelligible one. In his work, the philosophical imagination enjoys an extraordinary degree of freedom, for, in producing a new kind of matter, it seems to have the power to extend its representative faculty to infinity. Both the imagination and its matter are supple. Provided that it undergoes a certain amount of self-control and self-discipline, the imagination allows the mind to create worlds without incurring in theological strictures of any kind. As a result, in the domain of physics, the imagination may have that degree of poetic licence that would not be acceptable in the spheres of metaphysics and theology.

  • 12 R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, op. cit., p. 37.

10The most important consequence deriving from postulating the existence of a matter that is, so to speak, ‘fantastic,’ i.e., thoroughly pliant to the representative power of the imagination (la liberté de feindre cette matiere à nostre fantaisie), is that the mind has the unique privilege of imagining a type of matter that is the most transparent to the intellect. The naive imagination of the commonsensical mind is stuck with the fictitious matter of the sensible appearances (the imagination is “une façon de penser particuliere pour les choses materielles”).12 By contrast, the trained imagination of the natural philosopher produces a brand-new matter, an intelligible matter.

  • 13 R. Descartes, Le monde, op. cit., p. 33.

Or puisque nous prenons la liberté de feindre cette matiere à nostre fantaisie, attribuons luy, s’il vous plaist, une nature en laquelle il n’y ait rien de tout que chacun ne puisse connoistre aussi perfaitement qu’il est possible.13

11Descartes goes to great lengths to make clear that this matter devoid of all sensible forms and qualities is not the prime matter of the traditional philosophers:

Et ne pensons pas aussi d’autre costé qu’elle soit cette Matiere premiere des Philosophes, qu’on a si bien dépoüillée de toutes ses Formes et Qualitez, qu’il n’y est rien demeuré de reste, qui puisse estre clairement entendu. (Ibid.)

12On the contrary, the abstractedness of Descartes’ matter signals the highest level of intelligibility compatible with the study of nature.

Mais concevons-la [i.e., la matiere] comme un vray corps, parfaitement solide, qui remplit également toutes les longueurs, largeurs, et profondeurs, de ce grand espace au milieu duquel nous avons arresté nostre pensée. (Ibid.)

13The positive and exhilarating tone of Descartes’ language—“nous prenons la liberté de feindre cette matiere à nostre fantaisie”, “ce grand espace au milieu duquel nous avons arresté nostre pensée”—is a clear indication of the extent to which Descartes’ notions of imagination and matter differ from the ones espoused by Bacon, for whom matter remains instead a murky substratum riddled with obscure desires, and the imagination is an adulterated mechanism of representation which is irreparably stained with the same passions that pervade matter. In a way Bacon’s matter would look to Descartes as the most stained mirror of all, namely, a naive reduplication of human desires projected onto the physical world, the res extensa. Bacon is indeed convinced that matter (what he calls the globus materiae) and the intellect (the globus crystallinus) are connected by a parallel correspondence. As Bacon writes in De augmentis scientiarum, everything that is in the “globe” of matter is also in the “globe” of the intellect:

  • 14 F. Bacon, DAS, SEH, I, p. 772. On the question of the parallelism between the two globi—the matter (...)

legitimae inquisitionis vera norma est, ut nihil inveniatur in globo materiae, quod non habeat parallelum in globo crystallino sive intellectu.14

  • 15 F. Bacon, DAS, ibid. On the theme of the weakened power of the mind as a result of the Fall, see P. (...)

14However, the nature of the correspondence between matter and intellect is not always clear. Unlike Descartes, for whom there is no parallelism between the res cogitans and the res extensa (that would be Spinoza’s case), Bacon maintains that the globus intellectualis is a one-to-one reflection of the material world, as is being reflected through memory, imagination and reason. The rays, however, are variously refracted, so that the correspondence between reality and its reflection, while based on a form of ontological parallelism, is not always straightforward from the point of view of human knowledge. The reason why Bacon maintains that the world of nature needs to be approached initially through meticulous compilations of natural histories is that human beings can only know intermittent refractions of the natural light and from that they can patiently piece together the fragments of the shattered mirror of nature (a view in which the Fall of the human soul has a key role).15

Medicine of the mind

  • 16 F. Bacon, NO, OFB, XI, p. 84: “intellectus humanus illis quae simul et subito mentem ferire et sub (...)
  • 17 Ibid.
  • 18 Ibid., p. 82.
  • 19 Ibid., p. 214. On Bacon’s views on the imagination, see: K. R. Wallace, Francis Bacon on Communicat (...)

15The way Bacon and Descartes look at the role played by the imagination in mediating between the intellect and matter reflects their more general positions concerning the relationship between reality and the mind. Bacon maintains that, in principle, the human intellect could and should mirror nature in a faithful way. Better: as it was originally created by God, the intellect is perfectly qualified to be a transparent mirror of reality. However, due to the decline of nature following the Fall, the correspondence between the world of matter and the world of knowledge has been irreparably distorted, and the ‘species’—i.e., the representations that the imagination has interposed between res, phantasmata and verba—have wrought havoc on our descriptions of the world.16 As a result, the mind has no longer an unmediated and unadulterated relationship with reality and it needs to be made aware of its delusions through a strict discipline (per duras leges et violentum imperium).17 The most dangerous of such delusions, in Bacon’s opinion, is the human intellect’s tendency to assume that there is in reality more order and uniformity (aequalitas) than it can see (intellectus humanus ex proprietate sua facile supponit maiorem ordinem et aequalitatem in rebus quam invenit).18 Bacon is firmly convinced that, in our knowledge of nature, one should not imagine or invent more than what can be found in reality (neque enim fingendum aut excogitandum, sed inveniendum, quid Natura faciat aut ferat).19

16Descartes’ position concerning the power of the intellect is quite different. When he investigates the relationships between the intellect, the imagination and reality, he does not assume that the intellectual faculties underwent an irreparably process of corruption. He transfers the question of empirical ‘reality’ to the level of what ‘might be’ real, concentrating on issues of plausibility and likelihood. Such a move is indeed bold. In imagining what reality might be, we understand that things are the way we think of them, but this does not mean that they are like this in reality. This is clearly stated in the Principia philosophiae:

  • 20 R. Descartes, Principia philosophiae, AT, VIII, p. 327; IX, p. 322.

At quamvis forte hoc pacto intelligatur, quomodo res omnes naturales fieri potuerint, non tamen ideo concludi debet, ipsas revera sic facta esse. [And in the French translation : “bien que j’aye peut-estre imaginé des causes qui pourroient produire des effets semblables à ceux que nous voyons, nous ne devons pas pour cela conclure que ceux que nous voyons sont produits par elles.”]20

  • 21 The “medicining of the mind” is Bacon’s expression. See Advancement of Learning, p. 149.
  • 22 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, p. 102.
  • 23 Ibid., p. 109.
  • 24 F. Bacon, Temporis partus masculus, in SEH, III, p. 529. See D. Deleule, “Introduction” to F. Bacon (...)

17In this sense, even when the malin génie is released out of the meditating imagination, the ‘medicine of the mind’ promoted by Descartes is less dramatic than the one recommended by Bacon.21 Descartes maintains that the human mind has the power to toy with the imagination and, in the end, to remain aware of the game it is playing. This is precisely the ability that Bacon mistrusts. Before the mind can play—if ever the mind will regain the serenity and leisure to play—, it must undergo a most severe treatment. For this reason, the study of nature is both the therapy and the result expected from the therapy. Since investigation of nature means for Bacon knowledge of reality, the cure of the mind is a necessary preliminary exercise. Pace Popper, Baconian inductions have not only, and certainly not the principal aim of making us aware that all swans are white. Bacon’s induction, as a cure of the mind, has the much more urgent objective of reconciling our lives with reality. Being deluded, minds are clouded with suspicions, fears, superstitions, and they prevent us from seeing things, res, because passions are the very matter of our prejudices and expectations.22 The primary meaning of induction is the path that leads towards a much needed reality check. Bacon’s philosophical investigation as a whole is concerned throughout with the need to reconcile the split between realities that are “in imagination” and realities that are “in fact.”23 As the disassociation of reality and imagination has led the mind to a dramatic state of estrangement from both itself and nature, he describes the first stage in the philosophical research of truth as the attempt to overcome a condition of universal madness (universalis insania).24

  • 25 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, p. 34.
  • 26 On the condition of “visual uncertainty” characteristic of the early modern period, see S. Clark, V (...)

18Bacon’s emphasis on the importance of a method to escape the condition of madness may have influenced Descartes’ own search for a reliable way of governing our thoughts. In a way, Bacon’s recurrent phrase intellectus sibi permissus, which for him represents a negative trait of human nature, can only have a positive meaning for Descartes. It is precise when the intellect is left to itself that it works better, and the imagination is used as a stepping stone to reach that land of intelligible ordo and aequalitas, which for Bacon exists only in the dreams of reason, every time reason is led astray by the imagination. Accordingly, unless they find an application in reality, good thoughts are only good dreams.25 And human thoughts, for Bacon, are often dreams in disguise, for intellectual exercises can be the easiest way for the impatient intellect to fulfil the urge of desire. As Bacon makes clear at the very beginning of his “Of Empire,” intellect and cupidity are inextricably interwined: “It is a miserable State of Minde, to have few Things to desire, and many Things to feare.” This “State of Minde,” in which desire deflates and fear grows—a miserable state indeed—is the condition that Bacon attributes to men of power, kings especially, who, “being at the highest, want Matter of desire, which makes their Mindes more languishing; and have many Representations of Perills and Shadowes, which makes their Mindes the lesse cleare.”26

  • 27 F. Bacon, NO, OFB, XI, pp. 382-416.
  • 28 R. Descartes, Les passions de l’âme, AT, XI, p. 349.
  • 29 R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, op. cit., p. 25.
  • 30 Ibid., p. 25-26.

19The idea that the narrowing of desire is in inverse proportion to the expansion of fear fits squarely with Bacon’s metaphysics. The essence of matter is raw desire (as evidenced by the nineteen original appetites that fold and unfold matter, described in the New organum)27, and desire is inherently material, for Bacon’s notion of appetite has nothing to do with the Aristotelian view that all appetitive tendencies (orexis) are natural powers teleologically driven to their target, nor does Bacon’s appetite presuppose the primacy of the will as a rational faculty. Appetite here is meant to be a remorselessly blind urge. The more one is alive, the more intensively he, she—or even ‘it’—desires, and vice versa. Surprising as it may sound, but on this specific point it is Spinoza to be close to Bacon, not Descartes. What connects Bacon to Spinoza via Hobbes is the conatus. The question is different with Descartes: desire is not material; most of all, matter has no desire. Desire is a passion of the soul, therefore it is a confused thought.28 In one of his provisional rules for improving one’s ethical life, Descartes explains that it is preferable to “changer… mes desirs que l’ordre du monde”29, while for Bacon, who looks at this question from a very different position, we can change the order of the world only if we change the desires of matter, and induction becomes operative superinduction. In the same part of the Discours de la méthode, Descartes goes on to say that he decided to become accustomed to “croire qu’il n’y a rien qui soit entierement en nostre pouvoir, que nos pensées” (whereas for Bacon nothing is more slippery than our thoughts) and to “rien desirer;” which is precisely the opposite of what Bacon maintains, as we have just seen, the empowerment of desire is for Bacon the path towards knowledge, happiness and usefulness. Finally, while Descartes believes that the intellect, through the will, can persuade the refractory power of desire (“nostre volonté ne se portant naturellement a desirer que les choses que nostre entendement luy represente en quelque façon comme possibles”), for Bacon, once again, it is the other way around.30

  • 31 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, p. 55.
  • 32 Ibid., p. 64. The fable of Jupiter eating Metis and “Pallas armed” coming out of Jupiter’s head is (...)

20That in Bacon’s opinion fear pervades the world of the imagination comes as little surprise. Because of the intertwinement of matter and desire in all imaginative processes, Bacon can point to the aspects of violence and monstrosity associated with the power of the imagination, from the mythological tales of the most ancient “poetic wisdom” to contemporary religious superstitions, bred by the ‘deformity’ of mixed imaginations: “Superstition, without a vaile, is deformed Thing.”31 Fables are the carriers of the most ancient wisdom of humankind, but the imagination through which they manifest themselves bears the traces of an original ambiguity. Ultimately, Bacon looks at fables as dark and monstrous because the imagination itself is a deforming mirror of reality.32

Conclusion

21Exercises in comparative analysis, while productive in hermeneutical suggestions, run the risk of simplifying complex matters and ironing out real difficulties. In offering my tentative conclusions, I am well aware of the risk of making generalizations about Bacon’s and Descartes’ attitudes towards the notion of fable, the power of the imagination and the ontological nature of matter.

22For Bacon, fables are historical artefacts; for Descartes, they are philosophical tools. Bacon thinks that fables are, in a genuinely Platonic sense, residues of the most ancient wisdom which survived the shipwreck of human learning, a shipwreck due to both the Fall and the decline to which all things are inevitably subject (“vicissitude”). However, since Bacon is convinced that the most ancient learning can be restored, indeed, such a recovery is part and parcel of the great instauration of nature, fables and histories have an immensely important role to play in retrieving the truth. By contrast, Descartes thinks that fables—such as his fable of the world—can be conveniently used, in a more Aristotelian and Averroean sense, as devices to convey a likely explanation when the intellectual account is far too abstract to be understood by everyone’s mind.

  • 33 I have examined Bacon’s notion of “matter” (sylva) as a thinking material in “Historia and Materia(...)

23Bacon sees the imagination as a manifestation of the unrestrainable power of desire, Descartes as an attribute of the faculty of the will. Bacon’s imagination is a force of the past; Descartes’s imagination is projected towards the future. For Bacon, the imagination is a power that emerges from the abyss of time and shapes mankind as a whole in terms of traditions and customs; accordingly, its force can be known by studying history better than by scrutinising the recesses of one’s soul. For Descartes, the repository of imaginative loci contained in fables, history and poetry fulfils the preliminary function of enticing the human mind to the long-term recherche de la vérité, but then such a repository needs to be left behind as the activity of thought progresses. Bacon’s imagination is, first and foremost, of an ethical, political, legal and religious nature. The imagination of Descartes is a reservoir of logical energy which is provided by the will and which fuels the mind in its explorations of uncharted intelligible territories. Bacon holds that the wings of the imagination need to be clipped, Descartes entrusts them with the task of flying over the territories of the intellect. For Bacon, the imagination depends on matter as a pre-existing condition; for Descartes the imagination creates a new, intelligible matter (la liberté de feindre cette matiere à nostre fantaisie). In Bacon’s world, we start with matter and we can never severe our ties with matter, and one day we will go back to matter. In Descartes’s world the cogito is the starting point and only a series of circuitous detours allows us to reach a neutral view of matter as mathematical extension.33

  • 34 See W. Rawley’s “Preface” to Sylva Sylvarum, SEH, II, p. 335; R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, (...)

24Finally, to conclude with the image of the wood (sylva, forest), used by both authors but in a very different sense, we can say that the imagination is for Bacon the very matter of the wood, while for Descartes is the thread that leads one outside the wood. Bacon says that in order not to get lost in the wood one should go in all directions, Descartes that one should take a direction and follow that direction consistently ‘as if’ it were the right direction.34

Notes

1 F. Bacon, OFB, XI, p. 166. On “poesy,” see F. Bacon, DAS, in SEH, I, p. 494: “Per Poësim autem hoc loco intelligimus non aliud quam historiam confictam, sive fabulas. Carmen enim stili quidam character est, atque ad artificia orationis pertinet.” See also, id., The Advancement of Learning, OFB, IV, p. 73. On Bacon’s notion of “poesy” and “feigned history,” see G. Giglioni, “Philosophy according to Tacitus: Francis Bacon and the Inquiry into the Limits of Human Self-Delusion,” Perspectives on Science (20, 2012, p. 159-182).

2 R. Descartes, Le monde, AT, XI, pp. 31-32.

3 F. Bacon, De sapientia veterum, SEH, VI, pp. 654-657.

4 R. Descartes, La Dioptrique, AT, VI, pp. 83-86. On Descartes’ attempt to redefine vision, see P. Galison, “Descartes’s Comparisons. From the Invisible to the Visible,” Isis, 75, 1984, pp. 311-326; D. Judovitz, “Vision, Representation, and Technology in Descartes,” in Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, D. Levin ed., Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993, pp. 63-86; G. Giglioni, “L’immagine come mezzo di comunicazione scientifica nell’anatomia di Jan Swammerdam,” in Le forme della comunicazione scientifica, M. Galuzzi, G. Micheli and M. T. Monti eds., Milan, Angeli, 1998, pp. 393-417. On Descartes’ notion of the imagination, see J. H. Roy, L’imagination selon Descartes, Paris, Gallimard, 1944; D. L. Sepper, Descartes’s Imagination. Proportion, Images, and the Activity of Thinking, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, University of California Press, 1996.

5 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, pp. 84-85. “Lumen siccum, optima anima,” is the way Bacon translates Heraclitus’ fragment. See fr. 118, in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. Griechisch und Deutsch, H. Diels ed., 3 vols, Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, Berlin, 1922, I, p. 100. See also Bacon’s letter to Essex (1593), in SEH, VIII, p. 235. The reference to the dry light of the intellect, not drenched with the “oil” of the passions, recurs often in Bacon’s work. See F. Bacon, Historia naturalis et experimentalis, in OFB, XII, p. 8; Advancement of Learning, OFB, IV, p. 8; De sapientia veterum, in SEH, VI, p. 677; NO, OFB, XI, p. 87.

6 See Aristotle, De anima, I, 1, 403a; III, 7, 431a; De memoria et reminiscentia, I, 449b.

7 R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, AT, VI, p. 37.

8 Ibid., pp. 37-38.

9 R. Descartes, Principia philosophiae, AT, VIII, p. 326. See id., Principes de la philosophie, AT, IX, p. 321: “Et il est certain que toutes les regles des Mechaniques appartiennent à la Physique…, en sorte que toutes les choses qui sont artificielles, sont avec cela naturelles.”

10 On the connection between metaphysical and theological truths in Descartes, see the classic Sur la théologie blanche de Descartes by J.-L. Marion (Paris, PUF, 1981).

11 R. Descartes, Le monde, op. cit., pp. 31-32.

12 R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, op. cit., p. 37.

13 R. Descartes, Le monde, op. cit., p. 33.

14 F. Bacon, DAS, SEH, I, p. 772. On the question of the parallelism between the two globi—the matter and the intellect—see G. Giglioni, Francesco Bacone, Rome, Carocci, 2011, pp. 16-18.

15 F. Bacon, DAS, ibid. On the theme of the weakened power of the mind as a result of the Fall, see P. Harrison, The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

16 F. Bacon, NO, OFB, XI, p. 84: “intellectus humanus illis quae simul et subito mentem ferire et subire possunt maxime movetur; a quibus phantasia impleri et inflari consuevit; reliqua vero modo quodam, licet imperceptibili, ita se habere fingit et supponit, quomodo se habent pauca illa quibus mens obsidetur.”

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid., p. 82.

19 Ibid., p. 214. On Bacon’s views on the imagination, see: K. R. Wallace, Francis Bacon on Communication and Rhetoric, Chapel Hill, 1943; J. M. Cocking, “Bacon’s View of Imagination,” in Francis Bacon. Terminologia e fortuna nel XVII secolo, Rome, Bulzoni, 1984, pp. 43-58; M. Fattori, “Phantasia nella classificazione baconiana delle scienze,” in Francis Bacon, pp. 117-137; G. T. Olivieri, “Galen and Francis Bacon. Faculties of the Soul and the Classification of Knowledge,” in The Shapes of Knowledge from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, D. R. Kelley and R. H. Popkin eds., Dordrecht, Kluwer, 1991, pp. 61-81; G. Giglioni, “Fantasy Islands. Utopia, The Tempest, and New Atlantis as Places of Controlled Credulousness,” in World-Building and the Early Modern Imagination, A. B. Kavey ed., New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, pp. 91-117; S. Corneanu and K. Vermeir, “Idols of the Imagination. Francis Bacon on the Imagination and the Medicine of the mind” (Perspectives on Science, 20, 2012, p. 183-206).

20 R. Descartes, Principia philosophiae, AT, VIII, p. 327; IX, p. 322.

21 The “medicining of the mind” is Bacon’s expression. See Advancement of Learning, p. 149.

22 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, p. 102.

23 Ibid., p. 109.

24 F. Bacon, Temporis partus masculus, in SEH, III, p. 529. See D. Deleule, “Introduction” to F. Bacon, Récusation des doctrines philosophiques et autres opuscules, D. Deleule ed., Paris, Hermann, 2009, pp. 5-45.

25 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, p. 34.

26 On the condition of “visual uncertainty” characteristic of the early modern period, see S. Clark, Vanities of the Eye. Vision in Early Modern European Culture, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.

27 F. Bacon, NO, OFB, XI, pp. 382-416.

28 R. Descartes, Les passions de l’âme, AT, XI, p. 349.

29 R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, op. cit., p. 25.

30 Ibid., p. 25-26.

31 F. Bacon, Essayes, OFB, XV, p. 55.

32 Ibid., p. 64. The fable of Jupiter eating Metis and “Pallas armed” coming out of Jupiter’s head is characterised by Bacon as “monstrous.” On the meaning of Bacon’s fables, see C.W. Lemmi, The Classic Deities in Bacon. A Study in Mythological Symbolism, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1933; P. Rossi, Francesco Bacone. Dalla magia alla scienza, Turin, Einaudi, 1974, pp. 130-220; P. Pesic, “Wrestling with Proteus. Francis Bacon and the ‘Torture’ of Nature,” Isis, 90, 1999, pp. 81-94; R. Lewis, “A Kind of Sagacity. Francis Bacon, the Ars Memoriae and the Pursuit of Natural Knowledge,” in Intellectual History Review, 19, 2009, pp. 155-75; id., “Francis Bacon, Allegory and the Uses of Myth,” in The Review of English Studies, 10, 2010, pp. 1-30.

33 I have examined Bacon’s notion of “matter” (sylva) as a thinking material in “Historia and Materia. The Philosophical Implications of Francis Bacon’s Natural History” (in Early Science and Medicine, 17, 2012, p. 62-86).

34 See W. Rawley’s “Preface” to Sylva Sylvarum, SEH, II, p. 335; R. Descartes, Discours de la méthode, op. cit., p. 24: “Imitant en cecy les voyasgeurs qui, se trouvant esgarez en quelques forest […] ils arriveront au moins a la fin quelque part, où vraysemblablement ils seront mieux que dans le milieu d’une forest.”

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