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Introduction

  • Anthony J. Funari
Chapter
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Abstract

Modern science has always claimed to have a monopoly on truth—that it alone possesses the path to accessing the real, the objective, the accurate. To create valid knowledge, to gain access to the empirical truth of an object, scientists presume that they exist in an objective vacuum, having cleansed themselves of any potential sympathetic attachment to the object and particularities of their sociohistorical position that might obscure their appreciation of the distinctness of the object of their investigation. Moreover, the production of scientific knowledge has until recently perpetuated a narrative, a heroic tale of ever-expanding control over our environment. The appeal of scientific thought comes not merely from the surety it offers, but from the story it creates, which locates humanity always on the cusp of greater enjoyment of command over the natural world. However, Western epistemologists have begun to question whether this era of scientific certainty is now coming to an end. In his chronicling of the epistemological shift that Western thought is experiencing, John Lukács finds himself at the conclusion of an intellectual period defined by scientific positivism: “For a long time I have been convinced that we in the West are living near the end of an entire age, the age that began nearly five hundred years ago.”1

Keywords

Natural World Modern Science Scientific Revolution Scientific Thought English Poetry 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    John Lukács, At the End of an Age (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 3.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 184.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Ibid. For a history of the natural sciences’ influence on the social sciences, see Richard Olson, The Emergence of the Social Sciences, 1642–1792 (New York: Twayne, 1993), 10–25.Google Scholar
  4. Also Sal Restivo, Science, Society, and Values: Towards a Sociology of Objectivity (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  5. Susan J. Heckman, Gender and Knowledge: Elements of Postmodern Feminism (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1990), 131.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Francis Bacon, Novum Organum—With OtherParts of The Great Instauration, ed. Peter Urbach and John Gibson (Chicago: Open Court, 1994), bk. 1, iii. Further citations from this text will include the book (bk) number followed by the aphorism number. When referring to the preface of Novum Organum, only the page number(s) the quotation appears on in this edition will be cited.Google Scholar
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    Sandra Harding, Whose Science?Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Womens Lives (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 43.Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    Ultimately, Keller concludes that the Baconian scientific mind is hermaphroditic, which is established by the co-opting and denial of the feminine (Reflections, 41). Catherine Gimelli Martin adroitly resists interpreting Bacon’s instauration as based on the struggle between an easily identified male scientist and feminine Nature. Rather, Martin reads Bacon as often confusing gender designations. For example, Martin points to the gender ambiguity in Bacon’s scientific mind in The Masculine Birth of Time. “At this point in Bacon’s complex dialectic, the masculine impulse of conquest gives way to the birth of a receptive feminine mind in both partners, as ‘true’ sons of science guide an ambiguously gendered ‘nature’ by assuming ambiguously gendered minds.” Further, Martin turns to Bacon’s interpretation of the myth of Atalanta to challenge the clear gender assignments inappropriately ascribed to him: “even his ‘sons of science’ are at times identified as female and their opponents as masculinized forces of nature.” “The Feminine Birth of the Mind: Regendering the Empirical Subject in Bacon and His Followers,” in Francis Bacon and the Refiguring of Early Modern Thought, ed. Julie Robin Solomon and Catherine Gimelli Martin (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005), 71–73.Google Scholar
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    Perez Zagorin, Francis Bacon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 122.Google Scholar
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  15. 27.
    See Iddo Landau, “Feminist Criticism of Metaphors in Bacon’s Philosophy of Science,” Philosophy 73, no. 283 (January 1998): 47–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Peter Pesic, “Wrestling with Proteus: Francis Bacon and the ‘Torture’ of Nature,” Isis 90, no. 1 (March 1999): 81–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 28.
    Francis Bacon, De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, ed. Richard Foster Jones (New York: Odyssey Press, 1937), 390.Google Scholar
  18. 30.
    Sessions suggests Herbert’s overenthusiastic poem might have been in part due to Herbert’s own ambition: “On the one hand, it is clear from the occasion of the poem (and others to Bacon) that Herbert went beyond the necessity of his position as Public Orator to praise the Magna Instauratio. Was it a desire to ‘use’ Bacon, in the way that the Lord Chancellor himself had suggested all men should in his essay ‘Of Negotiation’?” William A. Sessions, “Bacon and Herbert and an Image of Chalk,” in “Too Rich to Clothe the Sunne”: Essays on George Herbert, ed. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), 170.Google Scholar
  19. 32.
    Samuel T. Coleridge, “Francis Bacon,” in Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century, ed. Roberta Florence Brinkley (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1955), 54.Google Scholar
  20. 34.
    Percy B. Shelley, “A Defense of Poetry,” in Shelley’s Prose, ed. David Lee Clark (London: Fourth Estate, 1988), 280–81.Google Scholar
  21. 35.
    See also William O. Scott, “Shelley’s Admiration for Bacon,” PMLA 73, no. 3 (June 1954): 228–36.Google Scholar
  22. 36.
    Thomas B. Macaulay, “Lord Bacon,” in Critical, Historical, and Miscellaneous Essays (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1860), 487.Google Scholar
  23. 37.
    Thomas Stearns Eliot, Homage to John Dryden: Three Essays on Poetry of the Seventeenth Century (London: Hogarth Press, 1927), 30.Google Scholar
  24. 38.
    L. C. Knights, “Bacon and the Seventeenth-Century Dissociation of Sensibility,” in Explorations: Essays in Criticism Mainly on the Literature of the Seventeenth Century (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1947), 122.Google Scholar

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© Anthony J. Funari 2011

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