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Love Part 17: Bacon on the “corrective spice”

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Pleading to the King about how great learning and knowledge can be when blended with the proper “corrective spice,” Francis Bacon, one of the fathers of the scientific method, writes:

“…it is manifest that there is no danger at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large whatsoever, lest it should make it swell or out-compass itself; no, but it is merely the quality of knowledge, which be it in quantity more or less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof…this corrective spice, the mixture whereof makes knowledge so sovereign, is charity, which the Apostle immediately adds to the former clause: for so he says, “knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up.”

But not only is love the glue that keeps knowledge together, it also keeps all of morality together:

“charity…is excellently called the bond of perfection [reference to Colossians], because it comprehends and fastens all virtues together…if a man’s mind be truly inflamed with charity, it doth work him suddenly into greater perfection than all the doctrine of morality can do.”

(Perhaps he got the "inflamed" metaphor from Aquinas?) And:

“only love doth exalt the mind, and nevertheless at the same instant doth settle and compose it: so in all other excellencies, though they advance nature, yet they are subject to excess. Only charity admits of no excess.”

In other words, you can't have too much love; there's no such thing. He illustrates with a theological point: the angels fell by wanting to be powerful like God, but nobody ever falls by trying to love:“by aspiring to a similitude of God in goodness or love, neither man nor angel ever transgressed, or shall transgress.” Indeed, this seems to agree with the teaching of Jesus to “Be therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This also reminds me of Carl Jung, who controversially interpreted the book of Job in saying that humans are in a position to be even more perfect than God, because they can choose love in the face of suffering, hatred, injustice, powerlessness, and hopelessness--even with all that, we can still choose to love. 

Agreeing with Aristotle, Bacon thinks that understanding the path to morality, how to be good, is essential to understanding morality and goodness. And, agreeing with Aerosmith (“life’s a journey, not a destination”) it’s really the pursuit, the striving, the going-after that makes us virtuous:

“For if these two things be supposed, that a man set before him honest and good ends…that he be resolute, constant, and true unto them; it will follow that he shall mould himself into all virtue at once. And this is indeed like the work of nature…when nature makes a flower or living creature, she forms rudiments of all the parts at one time.”

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne


of empire

Posted by Matt Smith at 10/13/2011 07:54:35 AM