Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is Sarah Palin the modern Bacon?

Francis_Bacon Sarah Palin

No, there is a link, beyond Palin’s published fondness for bacon burgers…

Francis Bacon, born 1561 in England, is considered the father of science.  He was among the first to publish an experimental method for scientific inquiry, part of a total reconstruction of the sciences, arts and, indeed, all human knowledge.  Bacon started from two beliefs (Jones1969), 1) that virtually everything that had so far passed for knowledge was, in fact, error, but 2) that the human mind is still an adequate instrument for obtaining knowledge.

Mankind had fallen into a state of hopeless error because of bad habits: “The human intellect makes its own difficulties”.  He compared the mind to a mirror, “true and fit to reflect the genuine way of things”, but one that has become corroded (“strangely possessed and beset”) by false assumptions and faulty logic.  If the surface could be restored, then it could, again, see the genuine light of nature.  Then his inductive methodology could provide a new way forward.

Thus, he wasn’t just advocating change, but, rather, a return.

While thinking about Bacon’s philosophy, I chanced to read a recent commentary of Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue, in the NYT Review of Books:

Her conservatism hinges on the not-so-tacit assumption that the average, hardworking person, equipped with the fundamental, God-given ability to distinguish right from wrong, is in a better position to judge, on "principle," the merits of an economic policy or the deployment of American troops abroad than "the 'experts'. Desiccated expertise, of the kind possessed by economists, environmental scientists, and overinformed reporters from the lamestream media, clouds good judgment.  Virtuous ignorance, characterized by passion, sincerity, and principle, is the solution.

Thus, she isn’t just advocating change, but, rather, an ideal of return.

The similarities in philosophy are striking, even if they sometimes reach opposite conclusions.

  For Bacon, overreliance on classical and medieval scholastics, even when they contradict simple observation, was the error. 

  For Palin, overreliance on enlightenment and modern experts, even when they contradict common sense, is the error.

But both believe that “Truth” will write in it’s own fair hand upon our intellects as soon as faith has made them ready (and empty) to receive it.

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