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Bacon - New Atlantis and the Great Instauration

Bacon -- New Atlantis and the Great Instauration
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  FRANCIS BACON  New Atlantis and  The Great Instauration REVISED EDITION EDITED BY Jerry Weinberger  contents introduction to the revised edition vii note on the texts xxxi principal dates xxxiii Procemium 1 Epistle Dedicatory 5 The Great Installation 7 The Plan of the Work 19  New Atlantis 35  bibliography 83  introduction to the revised edition Along with Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Descartes, Francis Bacon was one of the founders of modern thought. These founders coupled realistic politics with a new science of nature in order to transform the age-old view of mankind's place in the world. They argued that once the efforts of the human intellect were directed from traditional concerns to new ones—from contemplation to action, from the account of what men ought to do to what they actually want to do, and from metaphysics to the scientific method for examining natural causes—the harsh inconveniences of nature and political life would  be relieved or overcome. No longer to be revered or endured, the worlds of nature and society would become the objects of human control. Bacon called his enterprise the great instauration, an ambiguous term that means at once great restoration and great founding. But he left no doubt that he was engaged in something altogether new: His restoration— his reform of the ways and means of human reason— would in fact be a founding because its aim would be to lay the foundation, not of any sect or doctrine, but of human utility and  power, in order to conquer nature in action. 1  Bacon argued that  before his instauration reason had suffered at the hands of the ancients, especially Plato and Aristotle. Their dogmatic preference for contemplation over action betrayed contempt for the practical arts, a contempt much more harmful than noble. For it merely served to hide the real courses of nature from view, so that from Aristotle one hears the voice of dialectics more often than the voice of nature and 1 Below, pp. 16, 21. VII  VIII Introduction to the Revised Edition in Plato one sees that he infected and corrupted natural studies by his theology as much as Aristotle did by his dialectic. 2  Thus a mere  prejudice caused the ancients to spend their energies wrangling about the meaning of nature as a part of the cosmos, and about our rightful place in the whole and before the gods, instead of dis-covering how nature's motions and processes can be bent to human  purposes. Human life needs tools for action, but from the ancient wisdom we get nothing but theological and metaphysical speculation. Had they been confined to their own academic  business, the ancient teachings would have been merely useless. But reason, however contemplative, cannot but affect practical life, and so the ancients were tempted to concern themselves with politics, especially after Socrates, who was famous for having brought  philosophy down from the heavens. Approached from the contemplative and speculative points of view, however, the ancients' concern for practical affairs was in fact impractical and served merely to fuel sectarian controversies about justice and religion, controversies that are inevitable when we are faced by material scarcity and a cosmos that is hostile to our wills and indifferent to our needs. For Bacon, reason directed by new means and ends would change completely man's place in the whole of things. When properly empowered, reason would no longer merely soothe our enslavement to a stingy nature, or take sides in the political disputes caused by nature's penury. Rather, when governed by the art itself of interpreting nature, reason would enable man to conquer nature in action, which is the real business and fortune of the human race. This real business and fortune would make human will the measure of nature and would not blush at taking aim even at the corruptibility and mortality of the human body, the conquest of which Bacon called the noblest work of natural philosophy. 3   2 The Refutation of Philosophies in The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, ed. Benjamin Farrington (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1964), pp. 112-15. 3 De Sapientia Veterum XI, in The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, 14 vols. (London: Longman and Co., etc. 1857-74), hereafter BW, VI, 646, 721; below, pp. 21, 31, 33.
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