Article ID: CBB889974189

Beyond Recipes: The Baconian Natural and Experimental Histories as an Epistemic Genre (2020)


Abstract In 1622, Francis Bacon published his Historia naturalis et experimentalis. Many of the features of Bacon's natural and experimental histories were entirely new. This paper studies this literary form as a new epistemic genre. In particular, it analyzes its origin and evolution in Bacon's work, focusing on how its basic template and features were influenced by his specific epistemic requirements. It shows that Bacon devised these features in the process of developing a Historia mechanica, or a history of the mechanical arts, drawing on the particular case of the technical recipe. Since antiquity, the recipe had been the dominant epistemic genre for recording and communicating technical knowledge. However, this paper suggests that the recipe format did not meet Francis Bacon's epistemic needs. In particular, the format was incompatible with the goal of keeping experimentation and its reporting open-ended and flexible. More generally, the acknowledgment of the provisional, historical character of knowledge was a tenet of what Bacon called an ?initiative? method of knowledge transmission, or a method of ?probation.? According to this approach, knowledge ?ought to be delivered and intimated, if it were possible, in the same method wherein it was invented? and discovered. Only the display of its tentative features would encourage and stimulate others to improve and advance it. The format of the new genre of natural and experimental histories grew out of Bacon's dissatisfaction with the way in which recipes hid the imperfection of the process of knowledge production.

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Authors & Contributors
Jalobeanu, Dana
Pastorino, Cesare
Rusu, Doina-Cristina
Manzo, Silvia A.
Merchant, Carolyn
Anstey, Peter R.
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
British Journal for the History of Science
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Indiana University
Cornell University Press
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Springer International Publishing
University of California, Davis
Experiments and experimentation
Formulas, recipes, etc...
Natural philosophy
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Experimental philosophy
Natural history
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Della Porta, Giovan Battista
Boyle, Robert
Hooke, Robert
Milton, John
Marvell, Andrew
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
Early modern
18th century
Great Britain
Kassel (Germany)
Royal Society of London
Marburg. Universität

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