Quarterly (spring, summer, fall, winter)
144 pp. per issue
6 x 9
Summer 2012, Vol. 20, No. 2, Pages 183-206
Posted Online April 27, 2012.
© 2012 by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Idols of the Imagination: Francis Bacon on the Imagination and the Medicine of the Mind
Sorana Corneanu is lecturer in the Department of English and researcher in early modern studies at the Research Center for the Foundations of Modern Thought, University of Bucharest, Romania. She has written articles on various aspects of the works of John Locke, Robert Boyle, Francis Bacon, and Daniel Defoe and has recently published a book entitled Regimens of the Mind: Boyle, Locke, and the Early Modern Cultura Animi Tradition (Chicago, 2011).Koen Vermeir
Koen Vermeir is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Laboratoire SPHERE, UMR 7219, Paris, France. A specialist in history of science and history of philosophy, his main interests are in the history of the early modern imagination and in the interaction between religion and technology. After studies in theoretical physics, philosophy and history of science, in Leuven, Utrecht and Cambridge, he held research positions at the Fund of Scientific Research (Flanders), the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science, Cambridge University, Cornell University, Harvard University, the ETH and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. Vermeir has published six books and special issues and has written broadly on topics in history of science and philosophy.
We propose to read Francis Bacon's doctrine of the idols of the mind as an investigation firmly entrenched in his mental-medicinal concerns and we argue that an important role therein is played by the imagination. Looking at the ways in which the imagination serves to pinpoint several crucial aspects of the idolic mind permits us to signal the explicit or implicit cross-references between what in Bacon's tree of knowledge appear as distinct branches: the various faculties and their arts; the mind, the body, and their league; natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and the philosophy of man. The consequence of this rich picture of the diagnosis of the mind is an equally rich conception of the cure, which comprises both epistemic and physiological aspects. We extract the features of this integrated view out of Bacon's epistemological and medical natural historical writings, which we propose to read in tandem. We also propose a number of sources for Bacon's views on the imagination, whose variety accounts for the multivalent, sometimes elusive, but surely pervasive role of the imagination in the Baconian diagnosis and cure of the mind.