My View of the West: Gender, Religion, and Francis Bacon

Reeta Frosti

I have spent over ten years with Francis Bacon’s (1561–1626) thoughts of nature, science and human life. Bacon was an English philosopher, lawyer, politician and writer. In his last years he was also Lord Chancellor (1618–1621) and Viscount St Alban (1621–). Today, there are many who call him one of the fathers of modern science or the father of empiricism. Bacon’s ideas have certainly had an impact on the Western philosophical tradition.

My interest in Bacon and his philosophy has revolved around his use of language. In my master’s thesis (2007), I looked at what kind of metaphors Bacon used for nature and women. I analysed his ‘sexual metaphors’ and biblical citations. Later I became interested in Bacon’s idea of masculinity that I think is really behind his natural philosophy.

Francis_Bacon

Francis Bacon by Drebbel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In my PhD thesis, I examine how Bacon’s writings construct an example of early modern European masculinity, and how they link with Christianity. It seems to me that Bacon used the Bible as the foundation to construct his natural philosophy. The Book of Genesis in the Old Testament is of special important to Bacon. Moreover, Adam – the central figure of the Genesis – is also a central figure to Bacon. According to the Bible, Adam is the first human, and for Bacon and his contemporaries, the first philosopher as well as the model of human and the ‘imago Dei’ (image of God).

It is not only Adam but also the whole history of the creation in the Book of Genesis that is crucial to Bacon’s thought. However, there is one exception: Bacon never mentions Eve when he talks about the creation. Is this a sign of the one-sex model which was still in use in Bacon’s time? Or is it merely a sign of Bacon’s misogynistic thinking? After so many studies written about Bacon’s natural philosophy, there are still many questions to ask.

The author is a PhD student of Theology and Religious Studies at University of Helsinki, Finland.

My View of the West is a series of short posts by members of The West Network about their research topics.

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