Francis Bacon and the uses of knowledge Francis Bacon (1561–1626) famously declared that ‘ Knowledge is power. ’ But what did he really mean by ‘knowledge’? What did he mean by ‘power?’ Rather than focusing on knowledge of essence s, of things in themselves, Bacon focused on knowledge of effects and how to produce them—on ‘ know-how .’ He valued knowledge of the powers and properties of things—the magnetic compass and gunpowder are good examples of putting such knowledge to use, even without knowing underlying causes. Bacon sought to achieve power over Nature by learning to control and manipulate the powers within Nature . Said ‘Nature to be commanded must be obeyed’ ; we must discover and follow Nature’s ways before we can turn them to our own use. Bacon was strongly influenced by the tradition of natural magic: exploit ‘sympathies’ and ‘correspondences’ between objects to produce desired effects. Criticized the way such magic was usually practiced, saying it relied too much on
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