Relieving man’s estate

Francis Bacon was unquestionably a Protestant, and I think that my dislike of him begins there. And yet, he may be twinned with the Frenchman, Ren√© Descartes, a nominal Catholick. Both of these characters were put at the head of the Western, “secular,” scientific “revolution” of the XVIIth century, that underlies our modernity. In the case of both Bacon and Descartes, we are dealing with a new spirit in human affairs, for both are liars of a new, and extremely subtle, sort. In order to present themselves as the continuation of philosophical reasoning, they misrepresent the thinking of the past, inverting the inherited works of wisdom.

In the works of Descartes, as √Čtienne Gilson showed, the task consisted of using scholastic vocabulary for anti-scholastic (and ultimately anti-Christian) ends. At the extreme, in the Meditations on First Philosophy, he strips away the very possibility of objective, sensory knowledge. It was Descartes who “finally” overthrew Aristotle, although the Greek “master of those who know” is still waiting in the wings, like Trump.

Bacon discarded everything except sensory knowledge, and launched the vain project “for the Relief of Man’s Estate.” This he of course mentioned after “the Glory of the Creator,” but it was just words. It was a special kind of glory, omitting Faith. And it was at the root of our modern obsession with artificial technology, and by extension, the scheme of creating an impersonal, bureaucratic culture in which everything has been reduced to numbers. (And doing this strictly for pleasure.)

But it is the Things that have been created, as opposed to the numbers which decorate them, that bespeak the Glory of God.