Abstract

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.

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