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Bacon, Warrant, and Classification. Hope A. Olson School of Information Studies University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Warrant. the “justifying reason or ground for an action, belief, or feeling” – OED justification for choice and order of classes or concepts in a classification.

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bacon warrant and classification

Bacon, Warrant, and Classification

Hope A. Olson

School of Information Studies

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

  • the “justifying reason or ground for an action, belief, or feeling” – OED
  • justification for choice and order of classes or concepts in a classification
pre baconian classifications
Pre-Baconian classifications
  • Based on existing knowledge
  • Reflect scientific inquiry or pedagogical goals
  • Kusukawa, Sachiko. (1996). Bacon’s classification of knowledge. In The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, Markku Peltonen, ed., pp. 47-74. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Sciences independent of each other (Posterior Analytics)
    • Based on their own premisses
  • Classification reflects essential attributes
    • Divided animals by their means of reproduction (Generation of Animals)
  • Scientific warrant
    • Result of scientific inquiry
liberal arts
Liberal arts
  • Late classical and medieval classifications are pedagogical
  • Educational warrant
  • Hugh of St. Victor
    • Educational warrant & literary warrant
    • What to read and in what order to gain wisdom to come closer to God
francis bacon s classification
Francis Bacon’s Classification
  • The Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Human (The Advancement of Learning 1605)
  • De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum (De augmentis 1623) – expanded Latin version
francis bacon s classification7
Francis Bacon’s Classification
  • Classification to show integrated entirety of knowledge
  • Include knowledge not yet developed
  • Bacon’s approach to classification as:
    • Reflection of knowledge
    • Guide to expansion of knowledge
17 th c scholarship in bacon s view contributed to
17thC scholarship, in Bacon’s view, contributed to:
  • “magnificence and memory” rather than to “progression and proficience”
  • “augment the mass of learning in the multitude of learned men” rather than “rectify or raise the sciences themselves” (AL 66)
human intellectual process
Human intellectual process

“The sense, which is the door of the intellect, is affected by individuals only. The images of those individuals – that is, the impressions which they make on the sense – fix themselves in the memory, and pass into it in the first instance entire as it were, just as they come. These the human mind proceeds to review and ruminate; and thereupon either simply rehearses them, or makes fanciful imitations of them, or analyses and classifies them. Wherefore from these fountains, Memory, Imagination, and Reason, flow these three emanations, History, Poesy, and Philosophy; and there can be no others.” (De augmentis book II, chapter 1)

human intellectual process10
Human intellectual process















epistemological warrant
Epistemological warrant
  • Classificatory structure comes from the human intellectual process
  • Includes knowledge yet to come
  •  the structure leads the development of knowledge rather than following it
post baconian classifications
Post-Baconian classifications
  • Often use Bacon’s classes and sequence, but not epistemological warrant
    • Encyclopedists
    • Hegel
    • Melvil Dewey
g w f hegel
G.W.F. Hegel
  • Hegel’s Being, Essence, & Idea parallel to Bacon’s History, Poesy, & Philosophy
  • Ontological warrant
dewey decimal classification
Dewey Decimal Classification

Amherst College chapel to literary warrant

bibliographic classifications
Bibliographic classifications
  • LCC relies on literary warrant
  • DDC now updated using literary warrant
  • Bliss, Ranganathan, CRG advocate scientific or philosophical warrant
  • Beghtol, Clare. (1986). Semantic validity: Concepts of warrant in bibliographic systems. Library Resources & Technical Services 30(April/June) 109-125
classification as active agent
Classification as active agent
  • Relationship between bibliographic classification and classification of knowledge
  • If separate, literary warrant is sufficient
  • If what is recorded and classified relates to knowledge, literary warrant is not sufficient
gaps in knowledge
Gaps in knowledge
  • Literary warrant cannot identify gaps
    • Based on record of existing knowledge
  • Educational warrant cannot identify gaps
    • Based on teaching existing knowledge
  • Ontological warrant cannot identify gaps
    • Based on what has been discovered to exist
  • Scientific warrant reveals some gaps
    • Draws structure from what exists revealing some gaps
epistemological warrants reveals gaps
Epistemological warrants reveals gaps
  • Postmodern doubts of universal frameworks
  • Bacon leaves openings proposing his: “small globe of the intellectual world, as truly and faithfully as I could discover”
attractive modesty flexibility
Attractive modesty & flexibility

“For I could not be true and constant to the argument I handle, if I were not willing to go beyond others, but yet not more willing than to have others go beyond me again: which may the better appear by this, that I have propounded my opinions naked and unarmed, not seeking to preoccupate the liberty of men’s judgements by confutations.” (AL 225)

bacon s argument
Bacon’s argument
  • Bacon advocates an epistemological warrant for classification
  • He looks to classification to integrate knowledge and reveal gaps
  • He acknowledges that his “small globe of the intellectual world” is not the ultimate universal framework
bacon from the 21 st century
Bacon from the 21st century
  • A classification can:
    • Integrate knowledge
    • Reveal gaps; point to a research agenda
  • Other classifications are potentially valid
  • Alternative classifications based on epistemological stances can also:
    • Integrate knowledge
    • Reveal gaps; point to a research agenda
hope a olson holson@uwm edu

Hope A. [email protected]

School of Information Studies

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee