Seminarul departamentului de filosofie teoretica Miercuri, 27 octombrie, ora 18, amfiteatrul TM

Dana Jalobeanu (University of Bucharest) -The philosophy of Francis Bacon’s natural history: a research program


Many of the widespread beliefs about the nature and structure of modern science and scientific activity in general originate in a
seventeenth-century unfinished but widely popular literary device: Francis
Bacon’s New Atlantis. New Atlantis depicts what for many of Bacon’s
contemporaries and subsequent historians looked like the ideal model of a
society designed to produce, organize, administer and disseminate knowledge
about the natural world. This ideal society, Solomon’s House, was often
taken as a blueprint for various seventeenth-century projects for the
production and dissemination of knowledge. My paper will explore a handful
of such examples whose diversity had defeated interpretation. On first
sight, they might look like utopian writings, millenarian manifestoes,
plans for actual scientific societies, pamphlets dealing with the relation
between “science” and “religion”. My claim is that behind such a baffling
diversity there is an interesting unity given by the fact that they are all
readings and continuations of Bacon’s program of rebuilding all knowledge
about the world (what Bacon notoriously called a “model of the universe”)
on natural history. New Atlantis is just a fragment of a more complex
project contained in works Bacon published between 1622 and 1626 (including
the posthumous volume Sylva Sylvarum to which the text was appended). In
the first part of my paper I will reconstruct the general outlook of
Bacon’s program as depicted in his Historia naturalis and experimentalis
(1622) and posthumous fragments of the same natural history. In the second
part of the paper I show in what way most of the interpretative paradoxes
and traditional mysteries of New Atlantis disappear if the text is read in
the appropriate intellectual context, as part of a larger research program.
The last part of my paper will deal with some of the seventeenth-century
readings of New Atlantis: its first French translation, heavily edited and
adapted, published in 1631; Samuel Hartlib’s Macaria (1641); Joseph
Glanvill’s continuations of New Atlantis (1675) and the anonymous
continuation of New Atlantis published in 1660. I will show in what way
their diversity vanishes if one reads them as examples and exemplifications
of Baconian natural history.