Human Character


Human Character Essay, Research Paper

Adrian Horstead


UCCP 102

Dr. Major

The Character of Human Nature According to Francis Bacon and John Locke

Human nature is defined as one’s natural instinct or way of life and the primitive state of life. There are several stories of how man came into existence, but there are fewer stories that describe the way man personality or how man portrayed himself in his primitive state. Many philosophers have stated their views of the character of human nature in their published books or journals. Such as Greek philosopher and historian, Jacob Burckhardt, and his dictum that power never improved a man, but made him keenly aware that progress is a short-lived ideal based on wishful thinking rather than on actuality, have presented his interpretation of the character of human nature. In the sixteenth century, there were two philosophers by the names of Francis Bacon and John Locke, and in each of these men’s philosophies one will find Bacon’s and Locke’s interpretation of the character of human nature due to the respect of the state of nature.

In Novum Organum, Francis Bacon wrote a short statement explaining the general truth about his interpretation of nature and the kingdom of man. Bacon started out by stating that man can do and understand only so much, and if man tries to exceed this fact, then man neither knows anything nor can do anything. Bacon’s reason behind believing that is not stated, so his statement is made by his own judgment and not backed any sources. The entire Novum Organum is based on Bacon’s interpretation and it is not proven with any facts or any other philosopher’s view. In paragraph XXXVI of Novum Organum, Bacon states, “we must lead men to the particulars themselves, and their series and order; while men on their side must force themselves for awhile to lay their notions by and begin to familiarize themselves with facts.” When Bacon stated this, he meant that certain men must train others to relate to themselves and the men following them must put to rest their conceptions and ideas and start recognizing the facts.

Bacon stated another philosophy when he wrote about idols and false notions in paragraph XXXVIII. The philosophy he interpreted was that idols and false notions that were taking over men’s minds so much that it was hard for men to realize what was true and what was false. He stated that unless men are forewarned of the danger then the idols and false notions will trouble them. Men have been struggling with idols and false notions since the Roman Empire. As Bacon continued writing about these idols, he broke them down into four classes, which are Idols of the Tribe, Idols of the Cave, Idols of the Marketplace, and Idols of the Theatre. Bacon’s reason for these were that these were the only idols worth acknowledging is that in the sixteenth century there were not as many distractions as there are the modern world, therefore the tribe, cave, marketplace, and theatre were the only places that people were aware of.

In Of Civil Government, John Locke wrote about his understanding of the state of nature. Locke’s approach to the state of nature was an approach involving political power. In Of Civil Government, Locke wrote, “one must understand the state that all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature; without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.” This was the foundation that Locke laid for the character of human nature. Locke felt that men were in a state of equity and that all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal. By stating this, Locke presented the fact that in the beginning no man had more power than the another.

In the next paragraph, Locke presented the fact that even though men are in a state of liberty, that does not give any man the right to destroy himself or to violate any creature in his possession. The reason behind this philosophy is that once several men gather in confined area, such as a piece of land, then it is human nature for one man to be in control. If more than one man wants to be in control, then there will be conflict. In Locke’s interpretation, no man has the right to harm himself or anything in his surroundings.

Francis Bacon and John Locke were two well-known philosophers of the sixteenth century. Francis Bacon wrote the Novum Organum and in it he presented his interpretation how idols and false notions came into effect and mislead many men. In Of Civil Government, John Locke presented his interpretation of the character of human nature with the state that all men are naturally in. In these two philosophers’ works, they did not use anyone else’s work or quote anything from the Bible. These men’s philosophies were based upon their own knowledge.


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