Wholesome, effective and productive thought is blocked by biased obstacles which are manifest in a worship of four idols.

Sir Frances Bacon argued that human folly arose from a

virtual enslavement of the mind to intellectual idolatry.

The four idols are:

1• class: "Idols of the Tribe" --“have their foundation in human nature itself”
2• “ Idols of the Cave" -- “common errors” of the individual’s nature
3• “ Idols of the Marketplace" -- “arise from consort, intercourse, commerce”
4• “ Idols of the Theater" -- “dogmatic belief” in sensory illusions

discussion | Bacon's words | return to Bacon | restatement | conclusion

metaphorically speaking these preconceived attitudes are engendered from experiences of the:

Tribe --– ethnicity
“a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of all things.”
“measure of the individual” takes mistaken priority over “the measure of the universe.”
familial values, sanguinary obligations, common character flaws: “shared …human nature.”

Cave ––– egocentricity
“everyone has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature.”
“authority of whom he esteems and admires.”
“the spirit of a man” … “full of perturbations, and governed as it were by chance”
personal perspective narrows and ignores the wider “common world” ; troglodyte (cave dweller)
individual hubris, specific character flaws, lack of experience, breadth and exposure.

Marketplace –– social activity
“formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other… for it is by discourse that men associate, and words are imposed.” (false certainty)
too great a dependence on language creating shared illusions, ideas with a currency all their own.

Theater –– dogmatism
“All the received systems [of thought -- schools of authorities] are but stage plays -- representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal scenic fashion.”
“system now in vogue” conventionally widespread beliefs (false breadth)
“or only of the ancients sects and philosophies” customary views (false longevity)
“which by tradition, credulity, and negligence, have come to be received.” ( false depth)

discussion | Bacon's words | return to Bacon | restatement | conclusion

• § •

The four idols are, my interpretation is they stand for:
1 Tribe prejudice
2 Cave myopia
3 Marketplace rhetoric
4 Theater deception

There is --due to the worship of these idols-- a collective impact on thought:
“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it.”

Bacon insisted that as we pursue the folly of idol worship our habits of mind “neglects and despises… sets aside and rejects” the very real knowledge we should be pursuing.

discussion | Bacon's words | return to Bacon | restatement | conclusion

Restatement of four obstacles to clear thinking:
1 prejudice -- for the anecdotal, personal, idiosyncratic, narrow or provincial views
2 myopia -- tunnel vision, widespread delusions, common habits of belief & distortion
3 rhetoric -- language distorts by the very description of those things described
4 deception -- traditions of authority based on age, impression, credulousness, or negligence.

A new form of learning is required for the modern world that is practical, accurate, and reliable.