Thesis ID: CBB144446037

Nature and Man in the Works of Francis Bacon (2020)


Francis Bacon inaugurates a new science with a new aim, to master nature for the relief of man’s estate. The new goal of his new science is bound up with a new account of nature, man, and the relation between them. Yet Bacon nowhere expressly defines these most important terms, nature and man. So here I ask, what is nature such that man can master it, and what is man such that he can master nature? To bring Bacon’s idea of nature to light, I have had to give an unorthodox account of its genesis. Instead of looking for Bacon’s idea of nature in his “eclectic” speculative philosophy, I have looked for it in his critiques, especially what I call his prudential critique, of the philosophical and biblical traditions. The idea of nature I uncover is not the discovery of his method, but rather the idea of nature that method presupposes. I draw out Bacon’s idea of nature from his critiques of the old science’s starting point, order of demonstration, and end. In place of the old philosophy’s starting point in ordinary experience, Bacon’s new science is grounded in an artificially constructed experience. In place of the forms that were real principles of both knowledge and being, Bacon’s new science seeks knowledge of non-ultimate, “methodological” principles, forms or laws that make possible a rapprochement between knowledge and power. In place of the more-than-human contemplative goal of ancient philosophy, Bacon’s new way of contemplation strives to make man a powerful and benevolent god without making him any less a man. These critiques point to an idea of nature that is the negation of what Bacon takes to be the Socratic-Aristotelian idea of nature. Nature itself, natura naturans, is a plenipotential source of power ungoverned by final causes. What nature is in itself, we cannot know and cannot alter. The species or kinds we encounter in ordinary experience—natura naturata—are only one of nature’s many possibilities, nature’s deep-rutted ways or the mask nature habitually wears. But with the right helps and aids, we have the power to force nature—human nature included—into new shapes, to bring about “a kind of alternative universe or theatre of things.”

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Authors & Contributors
Giglioni, Guido Maria
Jalobeanu, Dana
Rusu, Doina-Cristina
Anstey, Peter R.
Artis, Aderemi Ethan
Clulee, Nicholas H.
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Perspectives on Science
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Historical Journal
Journal of the History of Ideas
Lexington Books
University of Chicago Press
Natural philosophy
Philosophy of science
Experiments and experimentation
Natural history
Natural laws
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Descartes, René
Boyle, Robert
Galilei, Galileo
Bruno, Giordano
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
18th century
15th century
19th century
Royal Society of London
Oxford University

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