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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 58, Issue 3, 2021
Special Issue on the Philosophy of Francis Bacon

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1. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Daria N. Drozdova Дарья Николаевна Дроздова
Francis Bacon, Between Myth and History
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Over the last 400 years, attitudes toward Francis Bacon's philosophy have changed considerably: the 17-century interest and the 18-century enthusiasm have been replaced by the 20-century criticism and reevaluation. However, both the praise and the rejection of the Lord Chancellor’s philosophical ideas often originate from the isolation and absolutization of particular features of his philosophy that can sometimes be in opposition to each other. These partial readings are justified by the fact that the reference to Bacon’s methodological and epistemological legacy has a symbolic meaning and is part of what is called “image of science” in Y. Elkana’s terminology. The way in which references to Bacon are used at different times and in different contexts is, in fact, a functional myth or theoretical fiction (I. Kasavin) in which the “historical Bacon” is fading away and what emerges is important and meaningful to those who declare themselves his followers or who lash out at him with criticism.
panel discussion
2. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Daniel Garber Дэниел Гарбер
Bacon’s Metaphysical Method
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In this paper, I would like to examine the method that Bacon proposes in Novum organum II.1-20 and illustrates with the example of the procedure for discovering the form of heat. One might think of a scientific method as a general schema for research into nature, one that can, in principle, be used independently of the particular conception of the natural world which one adopts, and independently of the particular scientific domain with which one is concerned. Indeed, Bacon himself suggested that as with logic, his method, or as he calls it there his “system of interpreting” is widely applicable to any domain, and not just to natural philosophy. [Novum organum I.127] Now, recent studies of Bacon have emphasized his own natural philosophical commitments, and the underlying conception of nature that runs through his writings. In my essay I argue that the method Bacon illustrates in Novum organum II is deeply connected to this underlying view of nature: far from being a neutral procedure for decoding nature, Bacon’s method is a tool for filling out the details of a natural philosophy built along the broad outlines of the Baconian world view.
3. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Elodie Cassan Elodie Cassan
Bacon’s Novum organum: “The Marriage Bed Between the Mind and the Universe”
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Dan Garber’s paper provides materials permitting to reply to an objection frequently made to the idea that the Novum Organum is a book of logic, as the allusion to Aristotle’s Organon included in the very title of this book shows it is. How can Bacon actually build a logic, considering his repeated claims that he desires to base natural philosophy directly on observation and experiment? Garber shows that in the Novum Organum access to experience is always mediated by particular questions and settings. If there is no direct access to observation and experience, then there is no point in equating Bacon’s focus on experience in the Novum Organum with a rejection of discursive issues. On the contrary, these are two sides of the same coin. Bacon’s articulation of rules for the building of scientific reasoning in connection with the way the world is, illustrates his massive concern with the relation between reality, thinking and language. This concern is essential in the field of logic as it is constructed in the Early Modern period.
4. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Dolores Iorizzo Долорес Иориццо
Self-preservation and the Transformation of Nature: A Response to Garber
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Garber demonstrates the shortcomings of a popular and idealised version of Baconian scientific method set against his close reading of Bacon’s Novum Organum II. The results of Garber’s analysis show that Bacon had not one but two philosophies, both of which were informed by his matter theory and speculative cosmology. This paper draws out the implications of Garber’s reading of Baconian induction in physics transferred to the natural sciences, and draws attention to the ultimate aim of Bacon’s philosophical programme as the prolongation of life.
5. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Ori Belkind Ори Белкинд
Bacon’s Inductive Method and Material Form
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This paper contends that Bacon’s inductive method depends crucially on his general account of matter. I argue that Bacon develops a dynamic form of corpuscularianism, according to which aggregates of corpuscles undergo patterns of change that derive from active inclinations and appetites. The paper claims that Bacon’s corpuscularianism provides him with a theory of material form that enables him to theorize bodily change and possible material transformations. The point of natural histories and experiments is then to find the processes of corpuscular change that correlate with making present or making absent simple natures.
6. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
William Lynch Уильям Линч
Method and Control: Naturalizing Scientific Culture in Bacon’s Novum organum
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It has been widely noted that rules for scientific method fail to produce results consistent with those rules. Daniel Garber goes further by showing not only that there is a gap between Francis Bacon’s methodological rules, outlined in the Novum organum, and his natural philosophical conclusions, but that his conception of natural forms informs the method in the first place. What needs further examination is why Bacon’s application of his method manifestly violates his rules. Garber appeals to the spirit of Bacon’s method, rather its letter, which allows him to reconcile an appreciation of Bacon’s impact on modern science with a contextualist approach to the history of philosophy. A better approach looks at the larger significance of mythological accounts of scientific method, that understand seventeenthcentury methodological doctrines as ideologies naturalizing scientific culture and outlining news ambitions for the control of nature. By examining Bacon’s followers in the Royal Society, we can see how Bacon’s “temporary” use of hypotheses helped secure support with the promise of future utility. The history of philosophy of science should focus on the conditions leading to emergence of certain kinds of distinctively modern discourses, practices, and ambitions going beyond the internal history of science.
7. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Steve Fuller Стив Фуллер
The Prophetic Bacon: Response to Garber
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This paper is both a reflection on Francis Bacon’s social epistemology and a meta-reflection on how we should be think about historical figures such as Bacon, who are of continuing philosophical, scientific and even political relevance. The impetus for this paper is provided by Daniel Garber’s ‘Bacon’s Metaphysical Method’, which depicts Bacon as making various moves in the scholastic debates of his time. In contrast, I draw two sorts of conclusions: (1) At the historiographical level, I argue against the sort of ‘contextualism’ that artificially constrains the ‘transcendental’ horizons of a thinker such as Bacon, who was clearly addressing not simply his immediate contemporaries but perhaps more importantly, some future readers whose identities he cannot know. What is sometimes called the ‘conversation of mankind’ has just this rather odd communicative character. (2) At the more substantive philosophical level, it is clear that Bacon does not have a conception of knowledge as a kind of (justified) belief at all. On the contrary, knowledge is the product of a process that is largely conducted by humans on humans, very much in the spirit of a judicial inquisition. In this context, humans – no less than the technologies normally found in laboratories – are instruments of knowledge production. Here Bacon presages the c19-c20 ideas of media as the ‘extension of the senses’ and Karl Popper’s World 3.
8. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Daniel Garber Дэниел Гарбер
Responses to Cassan, Iorizzo, Belkind, Lynch and Fuller
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epistemology & cognition
9. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Dana Jalobeanu Дана Жалобяну
On Metaphysics and Method, Or How to Read Francis Bacon’s Novum organum
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The purpose of this paper is to offer a preliminary survey of one of the most widely discussed problems in Bacon’s studies: the problem of the interplay between the speculative (i.e., metaphysical) and operative (i.e., methodological) layers of Bacon’s works. I propose to classify the various answers in three categories. In the first category I place attempts claiming that Bacon’s inquiries display his appetitive metaphysics. In the second category are those seeing Bacon’s more “scientific” works as disclosing some of the inner metaphysical layers and presuppositions. The third category see Bacon’s experimental inquiries as attempts to “fix” metaphysics, by redefining concepts of metaphysical origins. In discussing these three categories of interpretative stances I show that we can gain further insights if we take into account recent and less recent trends in philosophy of science, and especially if we think in terms of background theory and bottom-up strategies of concept formation. I offer examples of such procedures in Bacon’s natural and experimental histories and show what we can gain if we apply the same interpretative strategy of focusing on concept-formation to the reading of the Novum organum.
language & mind
10. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Natalia A. Osminskaya Наталия Александровна Осминская
Language of Reality and Reality of Language in Francis Bacon’s Philosophy
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The most important of Francis Bacon’s argument against Aristotelian syllogistic logic as a main method of investigation was his doctrine of Idols, closely connected to the contemporary Anglican theological views on imperfect human nature. In his criticism of the first notion of human mind, based on mistaken abstraction, Bacon separated “ars inveniendi”, “ars judicandi” and “ars tradendi” and argued for a new nonverbal form of communication, based on “real characters”. Bacon's conventional concept of the universal language, strongly influenced by Aristotle, was not realized by the philosopher himself, but it was of great popularity in both European rationalism and British empiricism in the middle – second half of the 17th century.
11. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Lada V. Shipovalova Лада Владимировна Шиповалова
The Owner of the Right over Nature, or Expert Mediators in the Modern Era and at Present
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F. Bacon in his work New Organon proposes a project of a new science, which ensures the desire of human race “to recover its right over nature”. The article examines the work on the universal owner of “the right over nature” in two historical contexts. The first context determines the emergence of modern science. Here Bacon plays the role of an expert mediator who introduces the new scientific method in its broader social meaning. His work on the universal owner of “the right over nature” combines and intersects the cognitive and political aspects of scientific endeavor. The second context covers the present situation after the Scientific-Technical Revolution, when the use of the “right over nature” becomes actual, and not only possible. The contradictions revealed in the first context in the activities of the expert mediator serve as the basis for analyzing the present situation of interaction between science and society. The author describes the expert mediator, corresponding to the modern context of uncertainty and conflict of values, through the concept of “honest broker of policy alternatives” by R. Pielke, as well as through the palette of expert knowledge types presented by the STS researchers. She shows why the presented differentiation of expert knowledge types is not enough to organize the work of an expert mediator as an “honest broker”. In conclusion, she puts forward the hypothesis about distributed expertise, which can represent contemporary work on the owner of the “right over nature” and describes some aspects of this work. The author associates the significance of the hypothesis of distributed expertise with the preservation of the openness of the project of Bacon's new science.
case-studies – science studies
12. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Pietro Daniel Omodeo Пьетро Даниель Омодео
Bacon’s Anthropocene: The Historical-Epistemological Entanglement of Power, Knowledge and Nature Reassessed
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The current predicament, marked by an unprecedented environmental crisis and novel debates on the anthropic-technological transformation of the earth-system, calls for a reassessment of the historical-epistemological question of the entanglement between power, knowledge, and nature. Francis Bacon is the classical reference point for this thematic cluster – a focal point for both historical reconstructions and epistemological reflections, for both those who extol the merits of scientific progress and those who criticize the risks posed by its abuse. I begin this essay by considering Merchant’s eco-feminist interpretation of Bacon. Additionally, I briefly recount how Bacon is envisaged as a symbol of science as domination within the critique of capitalism provided in another classic, Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. I also consider the flipside of the reception of Bacon in assessments of our modern scientific world, namely the empowerment-and-emancipation discourse on technology, typical of much of Marxism. In this respect, I deem it expedient to mention the knowledge-power problem in relation to the Anthropocene debate, and in particular in relation to the theme of the transformation of the world in praxeological terms. These considerations, which deal with various assessments of techno-scientific capitalist modernity, are at the basis of my final remarks on the most urgent Anthropocene dilemma, namely, whether we need more or less technoscience. This concerns the historico-political question of whether the ecological limits of growth are an intrinsic limit of capitalism.
interdisciplinary studies
13. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Başak Aray Башак Арай
The Baconian Background of Hogben’s Scientific Humanism
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This essay examines the impact of Baconian utilitarianism on Lancelot Thomas Hogben (1895–1975), a biologist whose view of science was heavily intertwined with his support of socialist planning. Like Bacon and Marx, Hogben considered science to be a collective tool of utmost importance for empowering people and improving life conditions through a conscious and methodical intervention on our surroundings. Convinced by the fundamentally applied nature of science, Hogben successfully used the principles of the emerging Marxist historiography of science in his popular science books to teach abstract ideas through their origins in practical life. Furthermore, he extended the view of science as planning from biology and economics to linguistics by designing the international language Interglossa that would also serve to enhance scientific literacy in the lay public.
14. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Omar Del Nonno Омар Дель Нонно
A Baconian historiola mentis in Spinoza’s Method
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Bacon’s influence on Spinoza’s thought is controversial, since this latter seems to underestimate the role of experience in achieving true knowledge. In this paper, I will investigate Spinoza’s reference in Letter 37** to a historiola mentis (little history of mind) a la Bacon as an empirical-historical method to distinguish between different kinds of perceptions. My aim is to explain why Spinoza considers Bacon’s little history of mind a useful tool to proceed towards the knowledge of the excellent things [praestantissimae res]. I will suggest that Spinoza could have been inspired by Bacon’s theory of idols and his historical method, since they help distinguish between different kinds of ideas with no previous knowledge of the first causes. Moreover, Spinoza’s method for interpreting the Scripture in his Tractatus Theologicopoliticus seems to be partially indebted to Bacon’s account of natural and civil history and aims to clarify the practical meaning of the Scripture. According to Spinoza, a historical and empirical method might play a pivotal role by transforming human praxis and behavior according to the order of the intellect. This method has in a strictly practical function and cannot be compared to the true knowledge of things through their first causes. However, it is a fundamental part of the process directing human beings to the knowledge of the most fundamental things.
new trends
15. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Doina-Cristina Rusu Дойна-Кристина Русу
Francis Bacon and His Fate in the History and Philosophy of Science, 2010–2020
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In this review I analyse new trends in Bacon-scholarship over the last decade. Bacon’s role in the history and philosophy of science has been the topic of debate since the second half of the seventeenth century. Scholars took him to be either a key figure in the emergence of experimental sciences, or the opposite of what science is supposed to be. However, most of these bold claims were based on distortions and misunderstandings of Bacon’s programme. Starting in the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, several studies offered a more nuanced account of Bacon’s philosophy and tried to refute some of the ‘unsound criticisms’. Moreover, over the last decade, we can notice a tendency to focus on Bacon’s more practical works, and not only on the more theoretical ones. In the context of these practical works, I identified several new trends: the role of the natural and experimental histories in the overall project of the Great Instauration, and their relation with natural philosophy; the function of mathematics and quantification; the employment of instruments and other devices to overcome the shortcomings of both the senses and the minds; the scientific methodology with an emphasis on the relation between theory and experiments, and the use of exploratory experiments; and finally Bacon’s use of sources and his influence on later early modern authors. As opposed to the idea that Bacon was interested either in collecting random facts or in inventing experimental reports to present his speculative ideas, Bacon is lately portrayed as a careful experimenter, meticulous in writing reports, ingenious in designing instruments and new experiments, and critical towards his own conceptions.
in memoriam
16. Epistemology & Philosophy of Science: Volume > 58 > Issue: 3
Piama P. Gaidenko (1934–2021)
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