Date of Award

10-2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Supervisor

Dr. Sylvia Bowerbank

Abstract

While Francis Bacon has come to be known as modernity's herald, the putative "father" of experimental scientific method, this commonplace notion has come to serve scholars, both within and beyond the confines of Bacon Studies, as a means by which to circumvent, rather than to scrutinize, his most important scientific texts. As a result, constructions of Bacon's thought today have come to diverge markedly from the texts that they claim to represent, often asserting on Bacon's behalf claims that Bacon himself would not only have rejected, but which at times he can be seen to directly refute. The task of this thesis is threefold. Chapter One seeks to establish a strategy for reading Bacon's text that critiques the received wisdom concerning Bacon's utilitarianism and empiricism. This received wisdom is predicated on the failure to read--in perfectly literal terms--Bacon's text. In this regard, I elaborate a reading methodology in which Bacon's text is placed alongside Bacon Studies, creating a situation in which Bacon quite literally refutes the critical claims that have come to represent his thought in the twentieth century. Chapter Two proceeds to offer a revised reading of Bacon's text itself. I dwell specifically on the theoretical nuances of the Instauratio Magna , elaborating on Bacon's articulation of scientific method that takes into account the theoretical presuppositions of his thinking. Eminently self-evident constituents of Bacon's philosophical itinerary--induction, experiment, natural history, etc.--are cast in a new light when contextualized according to their place in Bacon's extended argument for a renovated natural philosophy. Chapter Three suggests that, far from being the precursorial "father" of modernity, Bacon is still fathering it. Bacon's striking relation to the thought of Thomas Kuhn offers a new way to conceive of Bacon's continued impact on, and continued structuring of, the manner in which we produce scientific knowledge today.

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