Francis Bacon on Reading
3/07/2011 | Author: RCW
One of my many favorite philosophers is Francis Bacon...*

Bacon had some pretty sound advice when it comes to reading.  You can find it in his essay                "Of Studies":

              Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and       
              discourse; but to weigh and consider.  Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and 
              some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts;                     
              others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention... 

In layman's language,  Bacon is saying:

    Don't read a book...
  • simply to prove it wrong.   [He wasn't really talking about the Bible, but many skeptics read the Bible this way...with their conclusions already deeply fixed in their mind before they've read a single word.] 
  • thinking it or its author is beyond error.  [Again, he wasn't really talking about the Bible, but many people do read it this way**...and I'm not entirely sure that Bacon would have had a problem with it though I'm definitely no Francis Bacon expert.] 
  • just to have something to talk about with others.  [These people are annoying...especially since they rarely choose anything worthwhile to read.  I don't think Francis Bacon would think of People magazine or Cosmo as "reading" or "studies" if you're wondering.]
    Instead, Bacon suggests that we read a book in order that we might weigh and consider what it
    is saying.  Read a book with your brain turned on, using your critical thinking skills -- not distrusting
    the book, nor being overly trusting of the book to the point of naivety.   

Many Christians I know (and tragically, even some pastors) have far too much trouble even knowing how to discern what is a good book from what is in all reality not.  I have personally lamented that the problem with America is not that we can't read, it is that we don't read.  And even the people who do read, too often don't read anything worthwhile. 

Thoughts?  Comments?


* I mostly enjoy Bacon's essays and am much less fond of his idealistic modernist belief that science and technology could ultimately create a Utopian society.  The twentieth century, postmodernism, and human experience have since well-refuted that fanciful notion [although Biblical wisdom had refuted the idea ages before].  If you want to understand modernity and my last couple of sentences a little bit better, read this book.  As for Bacon, I know for certain that he was a theist, and I think to a lesser extent some people conclude he was a Christian.  And if you're wondering, No, I don't believe he's any relation to Kevin Bacon.
** I have no problem with people reading the Bible this way provided they also at some point recognize that while the Bible is a divine book, the Bible didn't magically float down from heaven.  God didn't bypass the humanity of the human writers, their circumstances, their language, their personalities, their brains, their emotions, or the like when He inspired them to write. But this blog entry is not really meant to be about Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration, etc.
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