Francis Bacon – Of Studies (Summary)

Of Studies by Francis Bacon : Original TEXT

Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment, and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best, from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.

Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. 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.

Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know, that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores. Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body, may have appropriate exercises.

Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again. If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores. If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers’ cases. So every defect of the mind, may have a special receipt.

Of Studies by Francis Bacon : Summary

Studies serve for delight, ornament, and for ability
Francis Bacon gives account of three chief uses of studies. The first use is that they serve for delight. This delight may come in solitude or in leisure after retirement from active life. Secondly, they serve for ornament in communication, conversation and discourse.

A person who is well read can talk more attractively than an uneducated person. The third use of studies is they help in the judgment, and disposition of business. An expert man can judge matters one by one when they come face by face to him and he executes them according to his experience. However, this is not the case with an educated man. He can give counsels at any situation according to his knowledge and thus, learned men are best at marshaling of affairs.

However, Studies have their limitations. If too much time is spent at studies it is nothing more than sloth. If they are used excessively in conversation, they show exaggeration and posing of a person. And if a scholar makes each and every judgment of his life with the help of his knowledge, it is just foolish and humorous behavior of the scholar. Studies perfect nature. Furthermore, they are perfected by experience. Bacon compares natural abilities of a man with a natural tree that needs pronging that comes by study. Studies have a vast scope, it is icing on the cake if experience is also added with them.

Bacon says, “Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them”. The men who are hard workers or primitive men hate or contemn studies. However, the men who have simple wits admire them. Moreover, the men who are wise use them practically. Studies do not teach their own use. It is the wisdom of a person that teaches him their usage. Bacon is of the view that a man should not read to contradict and confute others; he should not believe and rely wholly on words; nor to find a point of discussion in conversation; but he should read to weigh them their value and use them. The writer further supports this argument in the following statement, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested”.

There are some books that are to be read only in parts because they are useful for a person only at some places. It is not worthy to read them word by word. On contrary, there are some books that are to be read not with curiosity; and some are to be read completely with attention and diligence because they require the full attention of the reader. Moreover, this category of books has treasures hidden in them that can be found only by reader’s diligence. There is another category ‘like common distilled waters’ i.e. ‘distilled books’, these books are extracts made from other books and compiled in another book. These are the meaner sort of books.

Bacon says a million dollars verse, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man”. It is reading that adds to the knowledge of a man and makes him complete in a sense of his wit. Undoubtedly, it is conversation with others that makes a man ready for any sort of step to be taken practically on behalf of his knowledge. Furthermore, it is the skill of comprehensive or innovative writing that makes a full man because man is created to do wonders, make innovations and generate new ideas.

The writer describes some facts about studies. He says if a man writes little than he needs to have a great memory to remember all the learned things. If a man interacts little he needs to have a present and sharp wit; and if a man read little, he should be cunning to know what he does not.

Bacon impresses reader through his comprehensive and great sayings. He says, “Histories make men wise; pots witty; the mathematics subtitle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend”.

The above stated couple of lines contain an ocean of meaning in it. Bacon says that it is history of ancients that make new generations wise and witty. These are rules and laws stated by the ancients that make mathematics subtitle in its nature. It is because of histories that philosophy has deeper meanings and logic and rhetoric are able to defend through arguments.Bacon is of the view that any impediment or stand in the wit can be wrought out by fit studies. If a person considers oneself dull, he can make him better through studies.

Clearly, ‘bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head’, similarly, studies also have a physical role in mortals’ life. If a man’s wit is unable to focus at a point and it keeps wandering, let him study mathematics so that he may learn to demonstrate rationally. If his wit is unable to find differences let him study the schoolmen. If a man is not able to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, he should study the lawyers’ cases. Bacon encloses the essay by saying, “So every defect of the mind may have a special receipt”.

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