Article ID: CBB001210458

Coleridge's Theory of Symbol and the Distinction between Reason and Understanding: A Genealogical Recovery of the Baconian Method of Science (2010)


Samuel Taylor Coleridge's thought has been seen by many scholars to be derivative of German Idealism, especially Kantian critical philosophy. The present article challenges that claim by offering an analysis of Coleridge's interpretation of Francis Bacon's founding of the empirical method. Through the course of this discussion, Coleridge's understanding of the distinction between the intellective faculties of reason and understanding will be established, and will be shown to run counter to Kantian epistemology. Coleridge's dialectical approach to the role of reason in the operations of the understanding will be applied to their uses in scientific discovery, aesthetics, and religious thought. The various uses of symbolic representation in the context of these different endeavors will be given critical expression, revealing the unity of the human mind and nature, of subject and object. Ultimately, it is by appeal to the existence of God that the intelligibility of these various fields of symbolic representation are established. Coleridge's interpretation of Bacon offers a way of reconciling Baconian empiricism with Platonic Forms, in a genealogical recovery of the concealed methodology established in his Novum Organum. The overall argument proceeds critically, through a discussion of the subjective operations of the symbol-making powers of human thought, in the sciences and mathematics, in aesthetic, and in theological speculation and religious representation, revealing the Romantic origins of modernity.

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Authors & Contributors
Mahootian, Farzad
Butler, Judith
Largier, Niklaus
Francois, Anne-Lise
Cooper, Andrew
Vanderburgh, William L.
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Eighteenth-Century Studies
Foundations of Chemistry
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Oxford University Press
University of Pennsylvania
University of California, Berkeley
Philosophy of science
Methodology of science; scientific method
Natural history
Kant, Immanuel
Poincaré, Jules Henri
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
Lyell, Charles
Paneth, Friedrich Adolf
Soury, Jules
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
20th century
17th century
20th century, early
Great Britain
International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry

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