Of Studies by Francis Bacon
In Of Studies by Francis Bacon we have the theme of education, knowledge and balance. Taken from his The Essays collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Bacon believes that studying has three benefits. Firstly some people study for delight or personal use. To humour themselves while at the same time not imposing their knowledge on others. Secondly others study for ornament meaning that their pleasure is in discourse. To share their knowledge with others. Which may leave some critics to suggest that due to mankind’s vanity those who study for ornament may be in reality very boring or self-absorbed. The third benefit of study is for ability. That being to use one studies practically to solve problems and perhaps to promote the individual in a more practical way than those who study for ornament. Bacon also argues that to spend too much time in study is sloth or lazy. Nobody will really benefit from the individual who spends all their time studying without any other outlet. Bacon also believes that three types of men exist when it comes to the matter of study. Crafty men condemn study because the simple fact is they will be caught out by someone who is more learned than them. Simple men admire studies as they know that studies will lead to a development of intelligence and wise men will use studies to their advantage (both personal and in business).
When it comes to studying or reading in particular Bacon also believes that it is more important for a man (or woman) to weigh and consider what they read rather than to necessarily believe or take for granted what has been read. Similarly do not read just for the sake of discourse as society may like a well-read person. However they may not necessarily like the ideas of the person. When it comes to reading a person should also only read what is needed. They should not waste their time reading entire books if there is no need for it. The reading of a book till its conclusion should be left to specialists who need the information. For the majority of people a little reading on something will suffice. Too much knowledge is not to be welcomed by Bacon. One can learn more from a chapter in a book than having any need to read the entire book. Particularly if one’s reasoning is that discourse is the goal. A person will only end up confusing others should they wish to discuss an idea with others when others may have not read the entire book. Similarly with those who like to talk to others about their knowledge. It is an effort to follow an individual when one has not engaged with the subject matter and the individual is enthused. For their own self-worth and vanity.
Bacon also argues that ‘reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.’ Therefore should a man write a little he will need to have a great memory in order to memorize all that he has not written and should the individual converse little he will need to have a present wit in order to fill up the inevitable gaps in his abilities to share knowledge. And if a man only reads a little he will need cunning to seem to know what he does not know. In reality there has to be a balance or those who consider themselves learned may be judged by others to be foolish and as such may find themselves ignored by society. A goal that no man would cherish. For to be ignored or isolated from society ensures any knowledge that has been acquired will not be passed on. Leaving the individual to have no recourse but to continue studying or acquiring knowledge in private and alone.
If anything Bacon may be suggesting in the essay that anybody can learn it’s just a simple matter of having the right balance and knowing what to learn. It is pointless leaning something that is known by few if one wants to engage in conversations with others. Yet knowing the information may be a delight to the individual and this in itself may suffice. Knowing that they know something that few know. This may sooth an individual’s ego sufficiently. Again it is better to seek a productive and balanced approach when it comes to studying. Any type of study has its benefits but it is most productive when put into action. An educated man will live a more enjoyable life should he put into practice what he has learnt rather than using his knowledge as a tool to amuse himself and others. If anything Bacon may be suggesting that using education as a delight or an ornament is in fact a waste of an education.