J. D. Fleming: 'The more Navigation increaseth': Sir Francis Bacon's idea of discovery and the origins of scientific naturalism.
The natural philosophy of Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was instrumental in contributing a methodology and epistemology of discovery to the natural sciences. Traditionally, Bacon’s idea of discovery has been traced to the transatlantic voyages of the late fifteenth century. This narrative “naturalizes” Baconian discovery, deriving it from an untheorized encounter with the world. In fact, however, Bacon constructs scientific discovery as an explicitly metaphysical innovation. Although he is impressed by early-modern “navigation,” it is not his model. If anything, the exploits of the navigators are phenomenologically antithetical to those of the Baconian natural philosopher
About the Presenter
James Fleming is Professor of English at Simon Fraser University. He works on the history and philosophy of Western science and technology in the early-modern period (1500-1700). His most recent book, The Mirror of Information: John Wilkins and the Universal Character (Palgrave, 2017), is about the leading early-modern attempt to construct a scientific and objective writing system (or “character”), with the hope of displacing ordinary human language.