History and Philosophy Of Science | History & Philosophy of Science in Antiquity: The World of Francis Bacon
X556 | 28744 | William Newman

History & Philosophy of Science in Antiquity: Francis Bacon and His

The world of Francis Bacon scholarship has evolved radically over
the last twenty years.  Bacon was once heralded primarily as the
father of a systematic inductive method in the sciences, but it has
come to light in recent years that he was a much more diverse figure
than previously thought.  On the one hand, Bacon has been shown to
have developed a “semi-Paracelsian speculative philosophy” while at
the same time preaching the virtues of a natural philosophy based on
empirical principles.   On the other hand, it appears that Bacon may
himself have been more of an actual experimenter than previously
thought,  and it may be that he felt his “speculative philosophy” to
have been grounded in empirically proven fact.  Other areas of
Baconian scholarship that are undergoing rapid change include the
study of his matter theory (was he an atomist, and if so in what
sense?) and his attitude towards the exploitation of the natural
world (did Bacon in some sense advocate the “torture” of
nature?).    Yet another issue concerns the nature of Bacon’s
influence on seventeenth-century science.  Was Bacon merely a sort
of “cheerleader” of experimental science, or did he actually
influence its development in some fundamental fashion?  In what
sense if any, can he be said genuinely to have influenced scientific
practitioners such as Boyle, Hooke, and Newton?  These questions and
others will form the topics of the seminar.