Read below our complete notes on the essay, “Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature” by Francis Bacon. These notes comprise of Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature summary and analysis.
The essay “Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature” was written by the English essayist Francis Bacon who was one of the major essayists of his time. He was also a pioneer of the essay form of writing due to his contribution to this genre. The essay was originally written in Latin language and was then translated into English language. It was published in one of the volumes of Francis Bacon called “Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral” in 1625.
“Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature ” is an essay that defines the inner goodness in humans and explains its importance. According to the author, goodness is a trait that aids the welfare of society on a larger scale. The essay also discusses the kinds of people having the goodness of heart and people who have an evil nature. This essay gives full knowledge about morality and enables the reader to keep a balance while doing good. It makes him careful about the errors committed in the process of doing good.
Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature Summary
The beginning of the essay defines the inner goodness of the human heart and its enormous importance. The author says that humanity is not an appropriate term to explain the deep concept of Goodness. The Ancient Greeks called it “Philanthropia“. It is said to be on the highest rank among the virtues. It is similar to the character of deities and goddesses as without it human beings are a harmful and mischievous creature. The excess of both power and knowledge may have a negative impact on humans but the excess of goodness is never bad.
Humans have an inner tendency toward goodness. If they are not kind towards their fellow human beings, they are good towards other living creatures. The example of Turks can be mentioned here, who were very cruel people but they were kind towards animals and birds.
Some errors do happen in the practice of goodness.
Italian people consider those who are too good are good for nothing. An Italian doctor, Nicholas Michiavalli was brave enough to speak out that Christianity sacrificed good men in the name of religion while bad and cruel ones were left open. This was a big error in the pursuit of goodness.
Just as Nicholas Michiavalli spoke against Christian laws and principles, so in order to avoid any scandal, one must have knowledge about the errors related to goodness.
It is good to see good in people but not their appearances and if that happens, it is like committing another error because it limits the goodness of a mind and causes disillusionment of the mind. Men are taught by God to help the poor but one should not give away everything to leave himself empty-handed. Nor should one empty all the resources and end up in poverty.
One should give away what the poor need rather than what he wants. As long as a person is in the position of doing good to others, he may spread and do good. Otherwise, in feeding streams, fountains would turn dry and the process of goodness will come to an end.
Some men, by nature, have inner goodness in them while there are some men who, by nature, have malignity or harmful inclination. The men with lighter malignity have stubbornness and cause problems for others while people with deeper malignity cause the situation to be even worse for others. Such people are called “misanthropists”, they are men-haters and can never be the well-wishers of others. Such people can never do any good to others without their own advantage.
These inclinations are the errors of human nature though they perfectly fit in politics. Just like the knee timber which is good for making ships to be tossed in the sea but not for building houses that are meant to stand firm.
There are many signs of goodness. A man who is good and kind towards strangers, he is considered to be a citizen of the world. His heart is not separate like an island but a continent that has a bridge of relationship with everyone. If a man feels sympathetic towards the sorrows of his fellow beings, he is like a noble tree that itself gets wounded while comforting others. If he is forgiving and easily sets aside all the offenses, he is above injuries. He cannot be shot or defeated.
If a man is grateful for every little benefit, it means he only considers the good and noble thoughts of one’s mind. If he has the perfection of Saint Paul then he would not mind going against Christ for the salvation of his brethren which shows his divine nature and conformity with Christ who himself died for his brethren.
Value of Goodness
The Author has given the highest rank to the inner goodness of a human heart. He considers it to be the most important of all the virtues. He says that some humans are naturally inclined towards goodness that is why they feel good in helping others.
He also says that while performing goodness, one should be careful of the errors of goodness. One should know about the needs of the people and helping them accordingly. This knowledge of knowing and keeping a balance will keep moving the process of goodness and charity.
The author has highlighted the importance of being self-sufficient in the essay. A person who has inner goodness in his heart needs to be self-sufficient in order to keep doing the good work. He must keep a balance between the needs of others and his own. If he cannot keep this balance, it will be an error committed while performing goodness which will cause long-term trouble. So in order to keep the process of goodness and charity continued, the source needs to be self-sufficient.
Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature Analysis
The essay “Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature” reflects Francis Bacon’s philosophy about morality in a clear and interesting manner. The style of the essay is advisory and preaching which aims at developing morality in the reader. It discusses the inner goodness of a human heart and the errors committed in the practice of goodness.
It also talks about people having inner goodness and those with evil nature. The author explains the concept of goodness. He says that there is no proper word that can explain the inner goodness of a human heart. Ancient Greeks called it “Philanthropia” which means the act of donating money for public welfare. The author gives “Goodness” the highest rank among virtues.
He further states that it has a divine nature having the character of Deities and goddesses. Humans have a natural inclination towards goodness and without it, humans are destructive and harmful beings. Those who are not good towards humans may be kind to other living creatures. According to Nicholas Michiavalli Christianity, though has strict laws and principles for goodness, is itself guilty of sacrificing good men in the name of religion while cruel men are left free. This is how goodness is used in the wrong way.
The author says that a person should have full knowledge about the errors that a person does in the practice of goodness. He says “Neither give thou Aesop’s cock a gem, who would be better pleased and happier if he had a barley corn.” A giver should judge the needs of a person and should give what a person needs. Here the “Aesop’s cock” is a symbol for a hungry person who needs food rather than ornaments.
To explain his point the author has mentioned a verse from the bible saying that “Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and follow me.” The bible also mentions the importance of giving away to the poor but one should not give away all the resources. A balance should be maintained in order to continue the process of doing good.
He advises keeping a balance while practicing goodness by saying “for otherwise in feeding the streams thou driest the fountain.” It means that while giving away charity a person should not give away all the resources so that he himself remains needy. He should keep his position to be self-sufficient so that the process of goodness remains continued.
It also talks about some men who naturally have an evil nature. They are men-haters and can never be friends with other human beings. The author has mentioned the example of Timon, the Misanthrope, which is a character in William Shakespeare’s and Thomas Middleton’s play “Timon of Athens”. Timon was a misanthrope and hated his fellow beings. He once publicly announced that he has a fig tree in his house, on which many citizens have ended their lives. He stated that he is going to cut the tree for a building so if anyone wants to end his life on it, he should avail the opportunity before it is too late.
The kinds of humans having inner goodness are also mentioned.
After reading this essay, the reader will have full knowledge of the inner goodness of the heart that is granted to some people by nature. It gives a moral lesson and clearly explains the mistakes that could be committed while doing good.
Besides discussing moral philosophy the essay also alludes to several historical events and religious references.
“As Busbechius reporteth, a Christian boy in Constantinople had like to have been stoned for gagging in a waggishness as a long-billed fowl.”
The above statement from the essay gives a reference to a historical event, happened in Turkey, reported by Busbechius, a traveller born in Comines, Flanders.
Another example of allusion in the essay is a reference to “Timon” which is a character in the play of William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton called the “Timon of Athens”. Timon was a misanthrope. The author has referred to Timon for the purpose of explaining the concept of evil nature in men.
Plenty of archaic words can be found in the essay. For example “he spake” is the older word for spoke, “doth” is the archaic form of does, “taketh” is the older form of takes, “teacheth” is the older form of teaches, “sendeth” is the archaic form of sends, “maketh” is the older form of makes, “all thou hast” means all that you have.
Proverbs, Sayings and Verses from the Holy Bible
The author has used different sayings and Biblical references in order to clarify his point. The Italian proverb mentioned in the second paragraph of the essay. He writes “So good that he is good for nothing.” This is rather an ungracious proverb in Italian, saying that extreme goodness is not good.
The saying of Nicholas Michiavalli, who was an Italian philosopher, is also mentioned in the second paragraph is “That the Christian faith had given up good men in prey to those that are tyrannical and unjust.” Nicholas Michiavalli gathered the courage to speak against the errors committed in Christianity despite its laws and principles. He objects that Christianity sacrifices good men while saving bad men which is an error committed in the name of goodness.
Verses from the Bible are also mentioned for a better understanding of the theme. “He sendeth his rain, and maketh his sun to shine, upon the just and unjust.” It means that nature teaches us to give away charity. It sends down rain and sun equally to the just and unjust which means that common benefits should be provided to everyone. It Teaches us that one should give away freely but according to the needs of the poor.
“Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and follow me.”
Here the verse encourages people to give charity to the poor. This is for the encouragement of the good people to continue the process of goodness which is of enormous importance for the welfare of the society as a whole.
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- Of Revenge
- Of Simulation and Dissimulation
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