Francis Bacon's Philosophy of Nature
Historians of science have traditionally regarded Francis Bacon (1561-1626) as one of the most prominent seventeenth-century champions of induction, empiricism, and experimental methodology.
While these are perhaps his most important contributions to natural philosophy, Bacon and his adherents also exerted a profound influence on Western notions of power over nature and of the possibilities of alteration, manipulation, and exploitation of the natural world. This course will examine some of Bacon's principal works ("The New Organon", "The Advancement of Learning", "The New Atlantis", and "The Great Instauration") in order to first develop an understanding of Bacon's philosophical positions and the changing landscape of natural philosophy in the seventeenth century. Then, we will examine the implications of Bacon's philosophy from his lifetime to the present, focusing particularly on the rise of artisanal and craft knowledge; the emergence of civil institutions for cooperative knowledge making; utopian and cornucopian conceptions of the natural economy; science as the manipulation of nature; the competing and complementary notions of dominion over nature versus environmental stewardship; the practical uses of natural materials during European imperial expansion; the origins of industrialization and technological development; and his influence on modern science, politics, economics, and environmentalism.
Cross-listed: HIST 25115, HIPS 25115