2016 CISSCT Symposium: "Francis Bacon and the Problem of Method"

Event date to be determined

The goal of our spring 2016 symposium is to discuss how the Baconian method (broadly conceived) has provoked and inspired methodological debate, both in past centuries and in the present, about the nature and goals of "science." The symposium features three speakers drawn from the history of science, philosophy, and literary criticism. In bringing together these scholars from different disciplines, we will consider topics such as the divergent afterlives of Bacon's method; the extent to which Bacon's method has been understood as central to the past and modern practices of the sciences; whether there are specifically "Baconian" sciences; and how Bacon method has been understood as a proxy (in the work of Horkheimer and Adorno, for example) for more general processes of modernity and Enlightenment.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory and the Franklin Humanities Institute.
10:20-10:40 Coffee and breakfast pastries
10:40-11:00 Julianne Werlin, Duke University, Assistant Professor of English: Introduction to the Symposium

11:00-12:30 Peter Dear, Cornell University, Professor of the History of Science: "The Sylva sylvarum and the Practice of Baconian 'Method.'"

Abstract: Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, has long been regarded as an initiator of empirical science in the seventeenth century, and the advocate of a "method" of generating reliable knowledge of nature.  This paper examines Bacon's impact in his own time and stresses the ways in which his work was used by his successors in developing means of engaging with the material world.

12:30-1:30 Lunch break (lunch provided!)

1:30-3:00 Richard Serjeantson, University of Cambridge, Fellow and Lecturer in History: 'The New Organon vs. "our philosophy": Debating Bacon’s method in Second Reformation Europe'

Abstract: This paper will consider the earliest reception-history of Bacon's Novum Organum – in Frankfurt, Elbing, London, Cambridge, and Amsterdam – in the two decades after its publication in 1620. Its goal will be to explore about some of the ways in which Bacon's 'new logic' was critiqued by philosophers educated in the existing philosophical culture of the Protestant Schools – and also about how he was defended from those critiques by other figures outside the academy. In exploring the surprisingly various points that were at stake in these debates, it also hopes to offer a new context for the uptake of Baconian ideas among the so-called 'Hartlibian reformers' in the middle years of the seventeenth century.

3:00-3:15 Coffee break

3:15-4:45 Henry Turner, Rutgers University, Associate Professor of English: "Bacon's Art of Thinking"

Abstract: A paper on the “philosophical" dimension of Bacon’s natural philosophy, focusing on the status of “notions” (ideas or concepts) in the Novum Organum. The paper will consider the place of instruments and artificial procedures in Bacon’s account of notions, using this problem to assess the broader status of the term “art” in the early modern period as a pre-aesthetic, quasi-empirical, practical method of generalization, abstraction, and invention. In brief, what does it mean to “think” for Bacon? What can Bacon’s work can tell us about the nature of “art" and the ontology of ideas prior to Locke?  

Science Studies Reception

Additionally, we hope that you will join us for a wine and cheese "science studies” reception on Friday, February 12, from 5-6:30 pm at the FHI Garage. The purpose of this reception is to bring together scholars in the Triangle area who are interested in science studies, especially in its science and literature, science-and-technology studies (STS), philosophy of science, history of science, and sociology of sciences modalities. This reception has been organized by Julianne Werlin (English, Duke), Stefani Engelstein (German, Duke) and Rob Mitchell (English, Duke), and is sponsored by the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory. The reception will directly follow the Center’s February 12 symposium on "Francis Bacon and the Problem of Method." While we would of course encourage people interested in the reception to join us for the symposium, we also want to stress that that these are two separate events, and you should feel free to attend the reception even if you are not able to attend the symposium.

Event Location: 
FHI Garage (in the Smith Warehouse, Bay 4)