Of Studies by Francis Bacon Summary and Analysis:

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Of Studies 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 judgement, 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 marshalling of affairs.

Studies, however, have their limitations. If too much time is spent at studies it 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 judgement 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 proyning 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 verses,

“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.

Moreover, 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 subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend”.

The about stated couple of lines contains an ocean of meaning in it. Bacon says that it is history of ancients that makes new generations wise and witty. These are rules and laws stated by the ancients that make mathematics subtile 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 stond 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”.

Of Studies Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the views of Francis Bacon regarding studies in his essay “Of Studies”?

Bacon’s view regarding studies is that it “serve for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability”. Here Delight refers to the personal and private education, similarly, Ornament refers to the conversation among people that Bacon tags as Discourse. Whereas, studies for Ability tips and individual for the better interpretation of trade and commercial pursuit. According to Bacon, the worldly experience can lead men to carry out plans and interpret particular circumstances, however, the study makes men to better recognize the various dogmatic matters and how to act in various circumstances realizing its severity i.e. rationalizing of affairs.

Bacon also encourages studies and warns the readers that sometimes too much studying may lead to the sluggishness; moreover, the excessive and irrelevant use of knowledge by men in conversation indicates the showing off of knowledge; likewise, if one only takes guidance from studies disregard of practical experiences, he only becomes a scholar. Bacon argues that the only way to use studies appropriately is to modernize it i.e. studies are only effective if it is influenced by experience as this will enhance the natural abilities of a man; however, studies without the influence of experience may lead to a great misperception in communication with the world around.

Bacon illustrates that corrupt men denounce education; imprudent men approve education; however the wise men utilize education according to the command of the real-world. He also warns the educated men not to indulge himself in an unnecessarily argument with people, likewise, educated men must not suppose that education can always cause the correct conduct or interpretation; moreover, educated men should not use purely to emphasize on their conversation with others. Rather, Bacon illustrates, some books must only be read, some must be ignored completely, while few books must be “Chewed and digested”, i.e. should be understood and interpreted completely. Furthermore, he advises that some books are read by other and they take notes out of it, and these notes are good enough substitute of a book to be read, however, this category mustn’t include the books with sublime subject matters.

Bacon, by returning to the previous argument, addresses the consequences of reading, writing, and conversation by illustrating the reading crafts an all-rounder man; conversation makes a man sharp and fast thinker; while writing makes a man rational. Furthermore, Bacon says that if an individual doesn’t write must, he must have a good memory to compensate for his writing; similarly, if he doesn’t have a good conversation, he should compensate it with a wit; and an individual has to pretend that he knows more than he does in order to fake his reading that he never does much.

Bacon, by pointing out the various subject, argues that the studying history makes men wise; mathematics makes them intellectually sharp, while logic and rhetoric skilled men in arguments. Moreover, thinking is not problematic if it cannot be established by the proper study. Every mind disorder has a treatment just like every physical illness. For instance, a man should study law, if he cannot utilizes the proofs to demonstrate the certainty of unrelated facts. By studying other forms, any defect in the brain can be cured.

Explain the line “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested” in reference to the context of Bacon’s essay “Of Studies”.

The notion with which Bacon opens his essay “Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability” parallels the line quoted in the question. The simplest interpretation of the statement implies that the studies which delight are intended for personal observation, pleasure, and understanding; the studies which are for ornament are intended to improve discourse, communication, and inscription; those that are intended for ability are meant for the “argument and judgment of business”.  However, one may also assume that one by reading, for amusement or pleasure, can also grasp a thoughtful understanding that could be utilized in serious learning.

Hence, among the books that delight are tend to be the ones that are only to be tasted. As one doesn’t surely take in the philosophical knowledge, so one simple tastes it. The books that contain some wisdom and deep thoughts need to be swallowed. However, the books that contain a real sociological, philosophical, or psychological perception, and that necessarily becomes a part of one’s mental being, are to be chewed and digested. Nutrients are absorbed when one chew and digest the food and these nutrients become a part of the body. Similarly, the books that are useful, truthful, and worthier, Bacon says, must be chewed and digested. However, if they lack truth and wisdom, they must only be tasted.

What are the three main benefits of studies did Bacon mention in his essay Of Studies? And what are dangers associated with each benefit?

Bacon’s essays contain practical, religious, and moral subjects that, according to him, would direct a man to a valuable and successful life in both business and politics. Most of his essay deals with the manners, behavior, and conduct of a man and guides him how should one act and to adopt moderation in everything. In simple words, one should neither exceed nor fall short of anything as it can lead to an unstable life, with devastating results.

Bacon, in the essay Of Studies, illustrates both the benefits and the drawbacks of studying and reading books. 1st of all he argues that “studies serve for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability. Delight is intended for private and personal affairs; Ornament for communication; the ability for logical judgment and outlook for the business.

He argues that one study for delight as it allows an individual to be contented in himself. In short, studies make a man relax when he is away from social life. Studies also make one skillful to analyze and discuss a variety of topics in a prudent way and allow him to convince other with strong facts and arguments. Moreover, in business life that also includes politics, one’s judgmental qualities increases by thorough study.

Bacon, however, simultaneously discuss the pitfall of excessive studying, more importantly, if one is studying with wrong intentions. He says that spending time only on studying makes man idle; moreover, studying for ornament is showing-off; and a scholar seems to be silly if he makes his judgment solely by rules.

Bacon depicts his practical nature in the essay when he argues that a man should have concerns for both public and private business. He mustn’t only spend his time in studying as by this he may neglect his business. Similarly, if the purpose of study for a man is only to show-off his articulating skill, then he is embarrassed with affectation. For Bacon, showing-off is not merely a waste of time but also a moral degradation. The last disadvantage of only acquiring bookish knowledge and neglecting real world experience is it may make a person “book smart” but not “street smart”. In short, study without experience is useless.

The main purpose of Bacon’s essay is to guide people in experiences they might come across as they live in the world. He encourages the readers to bring their bookish knowledge in practical use.

Explain the Bacon’s perspective in the line “Writing makes an exact man” with reference to the essay “Of Studies”.

This line is extracted from Bacon’s essay “Of Studies”. The whole statement reads “Reading makes a full man; Conference a ready man; and Writing an exact man.” Through this line, Bacon argues that writing makes man perfect. This statement is immediately followed by another statement in which he states that if a man doesn’t write much, he must have a good memory to remember. Inscription aids a person to understand various composite problems as it is inclined to stamp on the mind.

Bacon also links writing with compactness and preciseness. It is well said that if a person is unable to write about a subject clearly, his thinking is about the subject is also vague.