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Home Core experiments, natural histories and the art of experientia literata: the meaning of Baconian experimentation

CORE EXPERIMENTS, NATURAL HISTORIES AND THE ART OF EXPERIENTIA LITERATA: THE MEANING OF BACONIAN EXPERIMENTATION


Dana JALOBEANU*

Abstract. Experiment, as a new form of knowledge, was a Baconian creation. It was in Bacon’s project of Great Instauration and in Bacon’s reformed natural history that experiment and experimentation
ceased to be illustrations of theories and become relatively autonomous devices for the production of knowledge and for setting the mind straight in its attempts to gain knowledge. This paper explores the way in which
Bacon’s Latin natural history transformed experiment and experimentation in such devices. More precisely, I investigate the way in which Bacon’s Latin natural histories were put together from a limited number of
significant experiments listed in the Novum Organum under the general title “instances of special power” or “instances of the lamp.” Contrary to the received view, my claim is that Bacon’s natural histories are based on a
limited number of ‘core experiments’ and are generated through a specific methodological procedure known under the name of experientia literata. This paper is an attempt to reconstruct the procedure of putting such natural histories together and a more in-depth exploration of their epistemological and therapeutic character.

Keywords: experiments, natural history, experientia literata, Francis Bacon

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