ARTS OF THINKING AND ARTS OF HEALING IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE: PHILOSOPHY, MEDICINE AND POLITICS
ARTS, SCIENCES AND THE MEDICINE OF THE MIND: METHODOLOGICAL DISCUSSIONS IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE
Francis Bacon’s famous division of the ‘arts intellectuall’1 gives pride of place to inquiry or ‘invention’ over judgment, memory or transmission. It is especially the ‘invention’ or ‘arts and sciences’ that Bacon had in mind and set to find, claiming that no knowledge can be ‘real’, or proper knowledge, unless one can explain how it was obtained and predict its results.2 The art of invention preceded and supplemented the reconfiguration of the new logic (or the novum organum) and together, they were seen as constituting the necessary corrective for the innate and intrinsic deficiencies and distempers of the human mind. When describing his arts of thinking, Bacon talks about “improving and perfecting the use of reason” and “rising up” the intellect in such a way that its faculties become ‘fit’ “for overcoming the dark and difficult tracts of nature”.3 The discipline that would achieve such results is not, however, a ‘science’ properly speaking (scientia).
It is also not a fully developed ‘art’ but more on the level of “thoughtful prudence,”4 a “kind of sagacity”5 etc. It is also a long-term enterprise, a permanent discipline of the mind, a ‘regimen’ for preserving the health of the mind and improving its powers. No wonder, therefore, that one finds in Bacon’s writings so many analogies between the arts of thinking and medicine, or various ‘arts of healing’ so popular in sixteenth century Europe. In many ways, his plan for reforming the human mind can be seen as belonging to a larger intellectual context of cultivating, disciplining or ‘medicining’ the mind.6