Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 2

The Four Idols of the Mind

3 minutes  • 462 words

38 Human understanding is preoccupied with idols and false notions which:

  • are deeply rooted in it
  • beset men’s minds to the point that understanding becomes difficult to access.
    • Even when access is obtained, the false notions will again meet and trouble us unless we guard against them.

39 4 species of idols beset the human mind:[20][9]

  1. Idols of the Tribe
  2. Idols of the Den
  3. Idols of the Market
  4. Idols of the Theatre

40 We can expel these idols through the formation of notions and axioms based on true induction.

41 The idols of the tribe are inherent in human nature and the very tribe or human race.

Man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things.

  • All our mental and sensory perceptions revolve around humans and not on the universe.
  • The human mind resembles uneven mirrors which impart their own[21] properties onto different objects, from which rays are emitted and distort and disfigure them.[11]

42 The idols of the den are those of each individual.

Each person has his own individual den or cavern which intercepts and corrupts the light of nature, either from:

  • his own peculiar and singular disposition,
  • his education and intercourse with others,
  • his reading as the authority of those whom he admires, or
  • the different impressions produced on the mind, as it happens to be:
    • preoccupied and predisposed,
    • equable and tranquil, etc

The human spirit thus becomes variable, confused, and actuated by chance.

Heraclitus said well that men search for knowledge in lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.

43 The idols of the market are idols formed by the reciprocal intercourse and society of man with man.

Humans converse through language. But words are formed at the will of the generality. A bad formation of words creates a wonderful obstruction to the mind.

The definitions and explanations used by learned men to protect themselves is not a complete remedy. This is because words still:

  • force the understanding
  • throw everything into confusion
  • lead mankind into vain and innumerable controversies and fallacies.

44 The idols of the theatre are idols which have crept into[22] men’s minds from:

  • the various dogmas of systems of philosophy
  • the perverted rules of demonstration

All the systems of philosophy are received or imagined.

  • These create so many plays, creating fictitious and theatrical worlds.

Nor do we speak only of the present systems, or of the philosophy and sects of the ancients, since numerous other plays of a similar nature can be still composed and made to agree with each other, the causes of the most opposite errors being generally the same.

Nor, again, do we allude merely to general systems, but also to many elements and axioms of sciences which have become inveterate by tradition, implicit credence, and neglect.

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