Glossary: Appetite

Works: Abecedarium novum naturae (OFB XIII)

Sylva sylvarum (SEH II)

The term ‘appetite’ is a key concept within Baconian natural and moral philosophy, though Bacon never gives a definition or a clear explanation of the term. What can be understood from the several discussions about the appetites is that they are the causes of all actions in nature, both in the inanimate and in the animate realm, and at the distinct levels, from the last particles of matter to the most complex beings. At a micro level, they are also the causes for the existence of compound bodies. From the Abecedarium novum nature it becomes evident that there are four classes of appetites of bodies: for preserving themselves, for bettering their condition, for multiplying themselves and applying their form, and for imposing themselves upon other bodies (ANN, OFB XIII, p. 197). For each of these appetites there are several correspondent simple motions.

Simple motions and their correspondent appetites (ANN):

Of resistance

Of connection

Of liberty                                            self-preservation

Of self-continuity


Of hyle

Of the mayor congregation

Of the minor congregation                bettering of their condition

Of disposition


Of assimilation

Of excitation

Of impression                                     propagation of their nature

Media of motion


Royal motion

Spontaneous motion

Of repose                                           enjoyment of their nature

Of trepidation

In her book Entre el atomismo y la alquimia, Silvia Manzo defines motion as the effect of an appetite and the appetite itself. There is no difference for Bacon, says her, between the tendency to motion (appetite) and the motion itself. Moreover, she discusses the relation between the appetites of matter and the distinct kinds of good propsed in ethics – comun and private (pp. 69-82), both for inanimate, and for animate matter. Tangible matter has two main appetites, to reject vacuum and to consolidate its proper nature. On the other hand, spiritual matter has three appetites: to enjoy its proper nature, to multiply itself upon other spirits and to escape and unite with their connaturals. The main processes in nature (desiccation, liquefaction, putrefaction, and vivification) are the effect of these appetites and the relation between them (pp. 83-85) and between tangible and pneumatic matter.

Most important experiments in SS in which it is given an explanation based on the appetites of matter are: 24 (appetite of continuation in liquids), 33 (appetite of union of dense bodies), 290 (appetite to receive the sound), 293 (appetite of union in bodies), 300 (appetite of the stomach), 336 (appetite of issuing in spirits), 713 & 714 (appetite to expell what strikes the spirits), 716 (appetite to revenge), 763 (appetite not to move), 800 (appetite of bodies to take in others), 831 (appetite in the stomach), 845 (appetite of not discontinuing), 846 (appetite to conitnuity), 931 (venenous appetite of musk, amber, civet), 944 (appetite of contact and conjunction).

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