Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bacon's Signature Ciphers in Shakespeare -3- Disguises and Encrypted Nature


Fun with Baconian Ciphers
Part 2

Before we start looking at cipher candidates, readers need to understand a little of Bacon’s mindset on his writings. First, Bacon had a grand scheme to revise all learning. To get an idea of how grand this scheme was we’ll use a quote from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“Early in his career he claimed “all knowledge as his province” and afterwards dedicated himself to a wholesale revaluation and re-structuring of traditional learning. To take the place of the established tradition (a miscellany of Scholasticism, humanism, and natural magic), he proposed an entirely new system based on empirical and inductive principles and the active development of new arts and inventions, a system whose ultimate goal would be the production of practical knowledge for “the use and benefit of men” and the relief of the human condition.”

Bacon, however, early on perceived a problem with this scheme of his – he didn’t have a reputation in his early years that gave him the perceived ‘Authority’ to be taken seriously by the scholarly community.  So to get around this he would publish his ideas, the portions of his “grand design”, in various ways and under different pseudonyms. As his main biographer, James Spedding, put it:

And how little Bacon could trust for a favourable hearing of his case to his personal reputation among his contemporaries during the first fifty years of his life appears from his hesitation, uncertainty, and anxiety as to the form in which he should cast it, and the manner in which he should bring it forward”. “…. but also experimental variations of the design itself, in which the same matter is dressed up in different disguises, with the object apparently of keeping the author out of sight; as if he had thought that a project of such magnitude would be entertained less favourably if associated with the person of one who had done nothing as yet to prove any peculiar aptitude for scientific investigation, or to entitle him to speak on such matters with authority.” Works – Volume 3: Collected and edited by James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Doublas Denon Heath, 1857.

A couple of the known pseudonyms he considered using for his philosophical works were ‘Valerius Terminus’ and ‘Hermes Stella’.

Second, Bacon, in his grand scheme of rejuvenating learning, had conceived the ‘Book of Nature’ as being a kind of labyrinth, and laws of the natural world as being ‘encrypted’ within it. He wasn’t the first philosopher to have this kind of conception of natural laws, but being heavily involved with political intelligence, as was his brother Anthony, it was a natural way for him to think.  There’s an article on Bacon’s view of this to explain it further. Here’s a link to a preview.

Nature, to Bacon, being like a labyrinth, “presenting as it does on every side so many ambiguities of way, such deceitful resemblances of objects and signs, natures so irregular in their lines and so knotted and entangled”, it needed a new system of investigation, like his inductive method, to find clues to discovery.

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