Article ID: CBB157853671

Who was the Founder of Empiricism After All? Gassendi and the ‘Logic’ of Bacon (2021)


Contentions about the origin of early modern empiricism have been floating about at least since the 1980s, where its exclusive “Britishness” was initially question, and the name of Gassendi was provocatively put forward as the putative “founder” of the current to the detriment of Francis Bacon. Recent scholarship has shown that early modern empiricism did not derive from philosophical speculation exclusively but had multiple sources and “foundations.” Yet, from a historical viewpoint, the question whether Bacon’s method had any influence on the origin and development of Gassendi’s version of empiricism still carries significance, for its answer may open up different views on how the relation between British and “continental” empiricisms shall be framed. In this paper, I deal with Gassendi’s reception of Bacon. On the basis of a deep examination of Gassendi’s corpus, I contend that there is no trace of [End Page 327] a consistent influence of Bacon on Gassendi’s empiricism before 1650s; although I show that an indirect influence can be found through the mediation of Peiresc, I put forward the hypothesis that it was more the empirical attitude characterizing Peiresc’s intellectual figure, rather than his interest in Baconianism, to be relevant, along with Epicurus’ philosophy, for Gassendi’s early empiricism. I then analyze Gassendi’s treatment of Bacon’s logic in Gassendi’s Syntagma philosophicum. I show that despite Gassendi’s sympathy for Bacon’s project, his own logic lays on fundamentally different assumptions. Despite this, I argue for Gassendi’s reception of Bacon’s theory of the idols in Syntagma philosophicum. On this basis, I conclude by restating the untenability of “national” accounts of the rise of empiricism, and the importance of highlighting instead the sharing of ideas between its actors.

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Authors & Contributors
Velasco, Jesús
Garau, Rodolfo
Nicole Parisina Basile
Zagorin, Perez
Waldow, Anik
Viola, Enrico
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Perspectives on Science
Lias: Sources and Documents Relating to the Early Modern History of Ideas
Journal of the History of Philosophy
Historical Journal
University of Western Ontario (Canada)
Van Gorcum
University of Pittsburgh Press
University of Chicago Press
Columbia University
Philosophy of science
Methodology of science; scientific method
Analysis (philosophy)
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Gassendi, Pierre
Boyle, Robert
Willis, Thomas
Sydenham, Thomas
Russell, Bertrand Arthur William
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
United States
Royal Society of London

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