Critically Evaluate the Essay “Of Truth” :
Bacon was a thinker, philosopher, and essayist of wide repute. He was a man of Renaissance who never lost sight of the whole range of knowledge. He was a source of inspiration for his time. Taking a cue from Montaigne, Bacon brought scientific temper and cool objectivity while dealing with his subjects. Bacon’s penetration into the soul of things and then the analysis is logical processes distinguish him with Montaigne. Of Truth is an excellent example of his moral wisdom and intellectual richness.
Expressing his ideas about truth Bacon says that all great philosophers, divines and saints have realized the supreme values Of truth. However, it is not easy to comprehend what truth is? The Roman emperor, Pilate, was probably right in maintaining a skeptical attitude towards learning the meaning of truth. It is also a fact that philosophical, moral and religious truths have kept on changing in accordance with time and place. The only truth that defies alteration is scientific truth. In ancient Greece, there was a school of philosophers which thought that fixed belief is bondage and it affects our free-will. Nonetheless, it is not difficult to distinguish between truth and falsehood in other spheres of life.
It is strange that human beings are attracted to lies. To a poet lies bring pleasure while merchants gain profit through lies but to tell lies for the lie’s sake is quite puzzling. Lies are like candle-lights in which the show presented on the stage appears more attractive than presented in the day-light. Falsehood gives pleasure and man will lose all zest in life if he is deprived of false hopes and false opinion. The most damaging is that falsehood which sinks deep in the mind.
God created matter as well as mind but the highest faculty that he gifted is the rationality of man and with the exercise of this faculty man can discourse and enjoy truth because the truth is the supreme good. For his well-being, the inquiry of truth, the knowledge of truth and belief of truth are of great importance. Not only in the theological and philosophical field but in ordinary life also the truth is highly valued. Even a pathological liar can realize that honesty and probity bring dignity and honour in life. Men resort to a mixture of truth and falsehood to sort out the difficulties of practical life but it is also true that falsehood degrades a man. Montaigne rightly said that in telling a lie man was brave towards his fellow-men.
The essay is remarkable for its stylistic qualities. There are biblical allusions and references to Pilate, Lucian, Lucretius, and Montaigne. The quotations from Lucretius and Montaigne strengthen his ideas. Bacon uses a number of similes and metaphors in order to illustrate his views. Truth has been compared to naked and broad daylight in which the show on the stage does not look so bright as it appears in candle-light. Thus, falsehood is like candle-light which makes the spectacle more attractive. Falsehood is like an alloy in which a coin of gold or silver which makes it more flexible, yet less valuable way. In a striking analogy, the writer has correlated the deceitful life with the movement of a serpent which always crashes upon the belly. Bacon’s gift of compression, his compact and tense style of writing are crystal-clear. Some of the sentences as
“A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure” and “for these winding and crooked courses are goings of the serpent…” are proverbial. Aphorisms, illustration, and condensation make the reading of this essay a rich experience.