Sunday, April 3, 2011

Parallel - Wonder and Knowledge

First Shake-Speare:
"Wonder on, till truth make all things plain."
  A Midsummer Night's Dream 5.1.127

"All this amazement I can qualify,
when after that the holy rites are ended
I'll tell you largely of fair Hero's death.
Meantime let wonder seem familiar,"  (see the comment below for explanation)
    Much Ado About Nothing 5.4.67-70

"Feed yourselves with questioning
That [with] reason wonder may diminish"
   As You Like It 5.4.137-8

And now Bacon:
"Make wonders plain, not plain things wonders."
   Natural History
"Wonder (which is the seed of knowledge)
... wonder, which is broken knowledge"
   The Advancement of Learning
"After wondering men begin to philosophise"
  The Promus 227

Cockburn's comment:
"Bacon stresses the point that wonder leads us to knowledge. He describes wonder as "broken knowledge" because if our knowledge were whole we would no longer wonder. Shake-speare too stresses the progression from wonder to knowledge. An author who did not have Bacon's conceit in mind would be unlikely to express himself as in the three Shake-Speare texts. Line 70 in Much Ado means "treat these surprises as natural matters" - because their wonder was about to be converted into knowledge."


  1. The idea “from wonder to knowledge” is probably taken of Aristotel.
    This is a proper passage from his Metathysics:

    For it is owing to their WONDER THAT MEN BOTH NOW BEGIN and at first BEGAN TO PHILOSOPHIZE; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of the moon and those of the sun and of the stars, and about the genesis of the universe. And a man who is PUZZLED and WONDERS THINKS HIMSELF IGNORANT (whence even the lover of myth is in a sense a lover of Wisdom, for the myth is composed of wonders); therefore since THEY PHILOSOPHIZED ORDER TO ESCAPE FROM IGNORANCE, evidently they were pursuing science in order to know, and not for any utilitarian end.

    In the Promus Bacon literally repeats the Aristotel’s thought.

  2. Thank you for this. Bacon clearly pickup up a lot of ideas from his readings of classical philosophy and literature. It makes me wish I had more time to read the same!