Re: Big Reply 7

Gary Goodman (sap@TANK.RGS.UKY.EDU)
Fri, 12 Jul 1996 08:23:56 EDT

"O brave new world that has such people in't!"
-- Miranda in Shakespeare's TEMPEST

I really am going to have to find some way to get readier access to a research
library, at least part of the year. There are a lot of nice things about living
in a rural area (especially one with free pizza/video delivery) -- but this
isn't one of them. I have a list of 100 books that various people have here
mentioned on my "must read" list.

Clyde Davenport (clyde@BUS.HIROSHIMA-PU.AC.JP) in his "Re: Big Reply 7" added
to it:

|Gary writes:

>(BTW, though pretty familiar with the Inquisition I must admit to have somehow
completely missed "Carolyn Merchant's connection between the Inquisition and
scientific techniques" which considering the timing and details I am aware of
seems at first glance to be blithering nonsense -- anyone tell me the book or
article this is in. I'd love to see how this "connection" was made?)

I comment: Francis Bacon (1561-1626) states that the underlying purpose of
experimentation is "natura vexata," to annoy or vex nature so that it reveals
its secrets. He also directly compares the role of the experimenter to the
role of the inquisitor who tortures his victims. See Morris Berman, _ The
Reenchantment of the World_ (Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 28 and Carolyn
Merchant, _The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution_ ,
(Harper and Row, 1980) pp. 165-172.

The question here is in evaluating Bacon's role in the development of science.
How influential was he? Also to what extent did others share his view of the
nature of experimentation.|

Good question Clyde, hope you are enjoying your vacation and look forward to
your response to this.

It it hardly fair to use such a short summary of argument to base one's
understanding of other person's argument, yet Clyde here points out one reason
I was rather flabbergasted at the suggestion that the scientific experimental
outlook was somehow tied into the Inquisition. Bacon compares the experimenter
to an Inquisitor, showing he was writing AFTER the horrors of the Inquisition
were familiar to all, and if Bacon was the primary means the experimental
viewpoint was introduced into Renaissance Europe then his influence somehow
traveled back in time it was so strong.

As Clyde points out, Francis Bacon lived from 1561 to 1626. The Inquisition on
the other hand, started in the 13th Century.

Perhaps a confusion with ROGER Bacon (?-1294)? I'll rather think so. But I'll
get to that in another posting. Let's look at Francis.

Baron Verulam, Viscount St. Albans was the son of the famous Sir Nicholas
Bacon, Keeper of the Great Seal of England, and Lady Anne Cooke sister-in-law
to the Lord Treasure, noted Puritan, and daughter of King Edward VI's tutor.
Not a bad start.

The timing of his birth could also hardly have been better. Born into the Age
of Discovery and the Elizabethan Age, which still affects us centuries later.
Then his father died before being able to secure an estate for eighteen
year-old Francis and he advanced thereafter by merit and hard work over many
years. He made both great friends and great enemies, spend much too freely, but
went from election to Parliament (House of Commons) at age 23, to
Solicitor-General to Attorney-General (yes, he was a LAWYER!) to finally Lord
Chancellor, doing his great work on the side...

Bacon's main task, as he saw it, was Reconstruction, the Great Reconstruction
(Instaration) of Philosophy (Magna Instautatio) as he tells us in _De
Interpetatiion Naturae Proemeim_ (1603). As he saw it, the "sciences ...stand
almost at a stay," held back by "all the traditions and succession of masters
and scholars" [in his _Essays_ (1597)], the dead hands of the Schoolmen.
Against the humanists near worship of the ancients. His plan for this involved
Introductions explaining the stagnation of the philosphies (remembering Science
is then known as Natural Philosphy) and the grip of ancient thought. Then he
would attempt a new Classification of the Sciences (in The Advancement of
Learning (1603-5), originally written in English BTW, then into Latin for the
European audience); then is new methodology of Experimentation (in _Cogitata et
Visa_ (1607), _Filum Labyrinthi_ (1606), and _Novum Organum_ (1608-20)). Then
actually put his method to work upon Nature (_History Naturalis_ (1622), and
_Descriptio Globi Intellectuali_ (1612)). Next document how earlier
philosophies had advanced toward what he was advocating in his Reconstrction
((_De Principiis_ (1621)). Finally, to discuss the Utopia toward all this would
advance mankind in his famous _The New Atlantis_ (also originally in English,

A daunting task to begin at 42 at a time when few lived that long, yet one, for
the most part he accomplished his great outline. Whew! (And encouraging to us
Late Starters.)

Round of applause please. Yeah Frankie.

His main premise was that Humankind was to learn FROM Nature -- "Nature can not
be commanded except by being obeyed." Along the way he invents new sciences
right and left, as he demands that all -- even what we now term ESP -- be
scrutinized. But in the end concluded that Science was NOT enough! "There is
another great and powerful cause why the sciences have made but little
progress, which is this. It is not possible to run a course aright when the
goal itself has not been rightly placed." Science need a philosophy, the
analysis of the scientific method itself, the coordination of results and
results, without which Science is superficial. In fact, Bacon's comments rather
resemble Davenport's own on Science's lack of self-awareness and purpose!

In truth Bacon was much more the Philosopher of Science than ever a Scientist.

And Philosophy in General was his true love. Yet it is interesting that this is
not really how he remembered (how many here even knew of his great political
career? Or his warnings about superficial Science?). And too few take to heart
his warnings about Idols of the Tribe, Cave (Den), Market Place, and Theater
("Idols of the Mind") and how prejudices, propaganda, authority, and bad
reasoning can lead us astray.

But how much influence DID Bacon have? Induction hardly was new. The proposal
for scientific societies had to await his death and Charles II. But yes,
FRANCIS Bacon, had great influence. As Susanne K. Langer in her great little
work _Philosophy in a New Key_ (1942/1951) remarks, Bacon (I think due to many
earlier writers' superficial reading of his thoughts) *was* a major contributor
to the development of "....A undisputed and uncritical empiricism -- not
skeptical, but positivistic..." which became scientific culture's "official
metaphysical creed, experiment its avowed method, a vast hoard of "data" its
capital, and correct prediction of future occurrences its proof." The very
language of science became something of a prison limiting metaphysical inquiry.
As Wittgenstein put it in _Tractatus Logio-Philosphicus_ (1961): "The limits of
my language mean the limits of my world."

Even so, I suspect from the accounts here mentioned by Davenport that perhaps
it is a bum rap to call *Francis* Bacon the instigator of the attitude of
callousness toward humans. I think Christianity, at least the Roman Catholic
and Protestant European varieties are more to blame. And Aristotle (a huge
dislike of Bacon). It is the attitudes as seen in Shakespeare's _Tempest_
(1611), and other plays, rather than Bacon's Magna Instautatio that we should
look. Where outsiders are seen as savages and subhuman, Nature as an Enemy,
Like the English viewed the Irish which the English were also colonizing at
this time, burning and pillaging, relocating into reservations, starving and
committing genocide, taking their heads as trophies (some still hidden away in
old castles here and there).

All done in the Name of God, to reform such heathen barbarians.

Besides, Modern Science developed in Italy, and only matured under Bacon.

Mike Shupp ( in his reply to Davenport's question
commented: "Hard to say. Bacon's ideas about scientific method were dogma in
high school science texts of the 1950's. I don't know about today.

From observation, working scientists are not much interested in philosophy, at
least on a day to day basis. Einstein and Percy Bridgeman and Schroedinger,
etc., are pretty rare beasts.

The argument has been made, though, that Bacon had enormous influence, because
most educated people after 1700 or so thought that Isaac Newton had developed
his theory of gravity through Baconian induction. And that David Hume's
assault on unnamed believers in induction in his ESSAY had to be delicately
worded because he was attacking a pair of English icons."

Not sure I can agree Mike. Bacon did indeed have strong influence. And his idea
became incorporated into the framework of Science.

Of course induction was hardly created by F. Bacon. and Isaac Newton I think
drew more from the Greeks (especially Euclid) and near-contemporary NeoPlatoist
Dr. Henry More (Newton was tutored by one of More's students), the Renaissance
humanists (of whom Bacon should not be counted), Aristotle, and his radical
religious beliefs. Hume was attacking Locke I think more than Newton.

BTW, Hume wrote many Essays, and actually employed the Newtonian (Baconian)
experimental (inductive) method in his work; the one in question here is
_Philosophical Essays concerning the Human Understanding_ (1748, retitled _An
Enquiry concerning the Human Understanding_ in 1758).

In partial answer to the ROGER Baconian influence on the Inquisition and
materialism. No, it is not Science but the maturation of an anti-Natural
Religion where Stewardship over Nature became debased into Ownership, the
oriental attitudes brought back in the Crusades, the ultra-orthodox Saint
Dominic and damnable Black Friars, Innocent III, the stirrings of reform, we
SHOULD be looking at. I suspect some scholars were here perhaps a little too
desperate for something to write about.

IMHO, but of course.

Gary D. Goodman
[|8{) self portrait (recognizable!)
Pentad Communications McDaniels, KY


"Man is _not_ conditioned and determined; he determines himself whether
to give in conditions stand up to them. In other words, man is
ultimately self-determining... every human being has the freedom to
change at any instant."
-- Viktor E. Frankl. Man's Search for Meaning. 1963, pp. 206-207