Advancement of Learning
Francis Bacon
1605 AD

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  1. In 1605 AD, Francis Bacon believed that medical science was not helpful in understanding insanity. However Bacon did believe that the body could affect thinking and that the mind could affect the body: "Medicine is a Science, which hath been (as we have said) more professed, than labored, & yet more labored, than advanced; the labor having been, in my judgement, rather in circle, than in progression." He believed that insanity was something that occurred in the mind "affection" alone: "So in medicining of the Mind, after knowledge of the divers Characters of mens natures, it followeth in order to know the diseases and infirmities of the mind, which are no other then the perturbations & distempers of the affections ... Now Come we to those points which are within our own command and have force and operation upon the mind to affect the will & Appetite & to alter Manners: wherein they ought to have handled Custom, Exercise, Habit, Education, example, Imitation, Emulation, Company, Friends, praise, Reproof, exhortation, fame, laws, Books, studies : these as they have determinate use, in moralities, from these the mind suffereth, and of these are such receipts & Regiments compounded & described, as may seem to recover or preserve the health and Good estate of the mind, as far as pertaineth to humane Medycine." ... "So this league of mind and body, hath these two parts, How the one discloseth the other, and how the one worketh upon the other". (Advancement of Learning, Francis Bacon, 1605 AD)
  2. Bacon refuted the contention which had long impeded study of the sick mind that mental illness was the result either of bodily disease or divine punishment. He suggested four lines of research along which psychiatry has in fact mainly advanced since his time. First, investigation of the mental faculties, their seats, actions and disturbances and the interaction of body and mind, which apart from philosophical studies began in earnest with phrenology in the early nineteenth century; secondly, detailed study of individual cases, the raw material of psychiatry which appeared in psychiatric literature only at the end of the eighteenth century; thirdly, `inquirie . . . by Anatomie', by which he meant postmortem examination correlated with clinical findings, which started with Thomas Willis's (1672) Neurologie' and became a focal point of psychiatric research after Bayle (1822; 1826) and Calmeil (1826) had succeeded by this method in isolating the first neuropsychiatric clinico-pathological entity, general paralysis of the insane; fourthly, investigation of the interaction between society and the individual, today called social psychiatry. The extracts include Bacon's famous passage on progress in medicine being 'rather in circle, than in progression', since if it is applicable at all today, it is to that branch of it which is psychiatry. (300 years of Psychiatry, Richard Hunter, 1963, p78)

Advancement of Learning, Francis Bacon, 1605 AD

Lord Chancellor, philosopher

Francis Bacon, Earl Verulam, Viscount St Albans (1561-1626)

The twoo bookes . . . Of the proficience and advancement of learning, divine and humane, i6o5 London, Tomes Book 2, folios 35-8, 41-2, 77[84174[85]


We come . . . now to that knowledge, whereunto the ancient Oracle directeth us, which is, the knowledge of our selves : which deserveth the more accurate handling, by howe much it toucheth us more neerely .. .

HUMANE PHILOSOPHY or HUMANITIE . hath two parts : The one considereth Man segregate, or distributively: The other congregate or in societie. So as HUMANE philosophy is either simple and PARTICULAR, or conjugate and Civile ; HUMANITIE Particular consisteth of the same parts, whereof Man consisteth, that is, of KNOWLEDGES WHICH RESPECT THE BODY, & OF KNOWLEDGES THAT RESPECT THE MIND.

of those delightfull and elegant discourses, which have bin made of the dignitie of Man, of his miseries, of his state and life, and the like Adjuncts of his common and undevided Nature, but chiefely in regard of the knowledge concerning the SYMPATHIES AND CONCORDANCES BETWEENE THE MIND AND BODY, which being mixed, cannot be properly assigned to the sciences of either.

This knowledge hath two branches; for as all leagues and Amities consist of mutuall Intelligence, and mutuall Offices. So this league of mind and body, hath these two parts, How the one discloseth the other, and how the one worketh upon the other. Discoverie, & Impression. The former of these hath begotten two Arts, both of Prediction or Prenotion where of the one is honoured with the enquirie of Aristotle, & the other of Hippocrates. And although they have of later time beene used to be coupled with superstitious and fantasticall arts, yet being purged and restored to their true state; they have both of them a solide ground in nature, and a prositable use in life. The first is PHYSIOGNOMIE, which discovereth the disposition of the mind, by the Lyneaments of the bodie. The second is the EXPOSITION OF NATURALL DREAMES, which discovereth the state of the bodie, by the imaginations of the minde. In the former of these, I note a desicience. For Aristotle hath verie ingeniously, and diligently handled the factures of the bodie, but not the gestures of the bodie; which are no lesse comprehensible by art, and of greater use, and advantage. For the Lyneaments of the bodie doe disclose the disposition and inclination of the minde in generall; but the Motions of the countenance and parts, doe not onely so, but doe further disclose the present humour and state of the mind & will. For as your Majestie sayth most aptly and elegantly; As the Tongue speaketh to the Eare, so the gesture speaketh to the Eye. And therefore a number of subtile persons, whose eyes doe dwell upon the faces and fashions of men; doe well know the advantage of this observation; as being most part of their abilitie; neither can it bee denied, but that it is a great discoverie of dissimulations, and a great direction in Businesse.

The later Braunch, touching IMPRESSION hath not beene collected into Art; but hath beene handled dispersedly; and it hath the same relation- or Antistrophe, that the former hath. For the consideration is double, EITHER HOW, AND HOW FARRE THE HUMOURS AND AFFECTS OF THE BODIE, DOE ALTER OR WORKE UPON THE MIND; or againe, HOW AND HOW FARRE THE PASSIONS, OR APPREHENSIONS OF THE MINDE, DOE ALTER OR WORKE UPON THE BODIE. The former of these, hath beene enquired and considered, as a part, and appendix of Medicine, but much more as a part of Religion or superstition. For the Physitian prescribeth Cures of the minde in Phrensies, and melancholy passions; and pretendeth also to exhibite Medicines to exhilarate the minde, to confirme the courage, to clarisie the wits, to corroborate the memorie, and the like .. .

The roote and life of all which prescripts, is . . . the consideration of that dependancie, which the affections of the mind are submitted unto, upon the state and disposition of the bodie . . . As for the reciprocall knowledge, which is the operation of the conceits and passions of the minde upon the bodie; Wee see all wise Physitians in the prescriptions of their regiments to their Patients, doe ever consider Accidentia animi: as of great force to further or hinder remedies, or recoveries; and more specially it is an inquirie of great depth and worth, concerning IMAGINATION, how, and how farre it altereth the bodie proper of the Imaginant. For although it hath a manifest power to hurt, it followeth not, it hath the same degree of power to helpe . . . But unto all this knowledge DE COMMUNI VINCULO, of the Concordances betweene the Mind and the bodie : that part of Enquirie is most necessarie, which considereth of the Seates, and Domiciles which the severall faculties of the minde, doe take and occupate in the Organs of the bodie, which knowledge hath been attempted, and is controverted, and deserveth to bee much better inquired .. .

Medicine is a Science, which hath beene (as wee have sayd) more professed, than labored, & yet more labored, than advanced; the labor having beene, in my judgement, rather in circle, than in progression. For, I sinde much Iteration, but small Addition. It considereth causes of Diseases, with the occasions or impulsions : The Diseases themselves, with the Accidents : and the Cures, with the Preservations. The Deficiences which I thinke good to note, being a few of many, & those such, as are of a more open and manifest Nature, I will enumerate, and not place.

The first is the discontinuance of the auncient and serious diligence of Hippocrates, which used to set downe a Narrative of the speciall cases of his patientes, and how they proceeded, & how they were judged by recovery or death . . . This continuance of Medicinall History, I find desicient, which I understand neither to be so infinite, as to extend to every common Case, nor so reserved, as to admit none but Woonders : for many thinges are new in the Manner, which are not new in the Kinde, and if men will intend to observe, they shall finde much worthy to observe.

In the inquirie which is made by Anatomie, I sinde much deficience : for they enquire of the Parts, and their Substances, Figures, and Collocations; But they enquire not of the Diversities of the Parts; the Secrecies of the Passages; and the seats or neastling of the humours; nor much of the Foot-steps, and impressions of Diseases; The reason of which omission, I suppose to be, because the first enquirie may be satissied, in the view of one or a few Anatomies : but the latter being comparative and casuall, must arise from the view of many . . . And as for the footesteps of diseases, & their devastations of the inward parts . . . they ought to have beene exactly observed by multitude of Anatomies, and the contribution of mens severall experiences; and carefully set downe both historically according to the appearances, and artificially with a reference to the diseases and symptomes which resulted from them, in case where the Anatomy is of a defunct patient; wheras now upon opening of bodies, they are passed over sleightly, and in silence .. .

Another Article of this knowledge is the Inquirye touching the affections : for as in Medicining of the body, it is in order first to know the divers Complexions and constitutions, secondlye the diseases, and lastly the Cures. So in medicining of the Minde, after knowledge of the divers Characters of mens natures, it foloweth in order to know the diseases and infirmities of the mind, which ar no other then the perturbations & distempers of the affections . . . it may be fitly said, that the mind in the nature thereof would be temperate and stayed, if the affections as winds, did not put it into tumulte and perturbation. And here againe I sinde straunge, as before, that Aristotle shoulde have written divers volumes of Ethiques, and never handled the affections, which is the principall subject thereof, and yet in his Retoricks where they are considered but collaterally, & in a second degree, (as they may be mooved by speech) he sindeth place for them, and handleth them well for the quantity but where their true place is, he pretermitteth them. For it is not his disputations about pleasure and paine that can satissie this inquirie, no more then hee that should generally handle the nature of light can bee said to handle the nature of Colours : for pleasure and paine are to the particular affections as light is to particular collours . . . likewise I finde some particular writings of an elegant nature touching some of the affections, as of Anger, of Comforte upon adverse accidentes, of Tendernesse of Countenance and other. But the poets and writers of Histories are the best Doctors of this knowledge, where we may finde painted fourth with greate life, How affections are kindled and incyted : and how pacified and refrained: and how againe Conteyned from Act, and furder degree : how they disclose themselves, how they work how they varye, how they gather and fortifie, how they are inwrapped one within another, and howe they doe sighte and encounter one with another, and other the like particularityes .. .

Now Come we to those poynts which are within our owne command and have force and operacion upon the mind to affect the wil & Appetite & to alter Manners : wherin they ought to have handled Custome, Exercise, Habit, Education, example, Imitation, Emulation, Company, Frinds, praise, Reproofe, exhortation, fame, lawes, Bookes, studyes : theis as they have determinate use, in moralityes, from these the mind suffereth, and of these are such receipts & Regiments compounded & described, as may seeme to recover or preserve the health and Good estate of the mind, as farre as pertaineth to humane Medycine.

 By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

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