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“ But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.” (Bacon 1620). so what is to be done?.

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so what is to be done?


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slide1

“But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.” (Bacon 1620)

so what is to be done?

speak/write only of what can be observed in nature, and refrain from speaking/writing of “qualities” or any other individually-based subjects.

this injunction, together with the rest of Bacon’s program, had a major effect on what it meant to do and what it meant to be a student of nature

slide2

To be a Baconian student of nature, one had to:

  • conduct many detailed investigations on all aspects of nature
  • write up these investigations in detailed fashion in order to ensure that others could try the same experiment and/or so that others could “see for themselves” (re: Shapin and Schaffer reading for Thursday)
  • correspond with people who were also doing “scientific” work, since the only way one could stay up to date and informed was by communicating and collaborating with others

In order to facilitate these kinds of investigations and this kind of correspondance, people began to get together and form what we would call “organizations” but what were closer to listservs in function.

In France: the Academie Francais (who published the Journal des Scavans)In England: the Royal Society (who published the Philosophical Transactions)

slide3

From the Royal Society website: http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/

“The origins of the Royal Society lie in a group of men who began meeting in the mid-1640s to discuss the new philosophy. Its official foundation date is 28 November 1660, when 12 of them met at Gresham College after a lecture by Christopher Wren, the Gresham Professor of Astronomy and decided to found ‘a College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning’…The Society was to meet weekly to witness experiments and discuss what we would now call scientific topics…At first apparently nameless, the name The Royal Society first appears in print in1661 and in the second Royal Charter of 1663, the Society is referred to as ‘The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’.”

slide4

the Royal Society was self-consciously Baconian

Charles II

tools & instruments

Bacon

Christopher Wren

“renovator of arts”

slide5

read introduction to Phil. Trans. (1665)

table of contents of first volume:An Accompt of the Improvement of Optick GlassesA Spot in One of the Belts of JupiterThe Motion of the Late Comet PraedictedAn Experimental History of ColdAn Account of a Very Odd Monstrous CalfOf a Peculiar Lead-Ore of Germany, and the Use ThereofOf an Hungarian Bolus, of the Same Effect with the Bolus ArmenusOf the New American Whale-Fishing about the BermudasA Narrative Concerning the Success of Pendulum-Watches at Sea for the LongitudesThe Character, Lately Published beyond the Seas, of an Eminent Person, not Long Since Dead at Tholouse, Where He Was a Councellor of Parliament

slide6

science with a practical orientation

  • emphasis on experiment and the gathering of facts
  • science done collectively in a proper organisation
  • independent science (not affiliated with church or party)

"The business and design of the Royal Society is to improve the knowledge of natural things, and all useful Art, Manufactures, Mechanick practices, Engynes, and inventions by Experiments, - (not meddling with Divinity, Metaphysics, Moralls, Politicks, Grammar, Rhetorick or Logick)" - R. Hooke.

slide7

Thomas Sprat (1635-1713): bishop, poet, 28 yrs.old in 1667

“Such is the dependance amongst all the orders of creatures; the inanimate, the sensitive, the rational, the natural, the artificial: that the apprehension of one of them, is a good step toward the understanding of the rest: And this is the highest pitch of humane reason; to follow all the links of this chain, till all their secrets are open to our minds; and their works advanc'd, or imitated by our hands. This is truly to command the world; to rank all the varieties, and degrees of things, so orderly one upon another; that standing on the top of them, we may perfectly behold all that are below, and make them all serviceable to the quiet, and peace, and plenty of Man's life…”

slide8

The History of the Royal Society (1667)

- “apology” for the Society- not much “history” to recount (Society was then only six years old)- more concerned with glorifying the Society than with documenting its formation

and yet…

- it remains an important document for what it has to say about the idea (and ideals) of science in the 17th century

particularly regarding the subject of language and its proper relation to science

slide9

Sprat - and more or less the RS - argued that language should be functional (like mathematics) instead of “eloquent” and/or “mysterious”

“I can hardly forbear recanting what I said before; and concluding, that eloquence ought to be banish'd out of all civil societies, as a thing fatal to Peace and good Manners.”

slide10

“ornaments of speaking” used to be used nobly:

“They were at first, no doubt, an admirable Instrument in the hands of Wise Men: when they were onely employ'd to describe Goodness, Honesty, Obedience; in larger, fairer, and more moving Images: to represent Truth, cloth'd with Bodies; and to bring Knowledge back again to our very senses, from whence it was at first deriv'd to our understandings…”

but no longer:

“But now they are generally chang'd to worse uses: They make the Fancy disgust the best things, if they come found, and unadorn'd: they are in open defiance against Reason; professing, not to hold much correspondence with that;but with its slaves, the passions: they give the mind a motion too changeable, and bewitching, to consist with right practice. Who can behold, without indignation, how many mists and uncertainties, these specious Tropes and Figures have brought to our Knowledge?”

slide11

so how to ensure one is not using speech ignobly (i.e. how does the Royal Society do it)?

“They have therefore been most rigorous in putting in execution, the only remedy that can be found for this extravagance: and that has been, a constant resolution, to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style: to return back to the primitivepurity, and shortness, when men delivered so many things, almost in an equal number of words. They have exacted from all their members, a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expressions; clear senses; a native easiness: bringing all things as near the mathematical plainness, as they can: and preferring the language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants, before that, of Wits, or Scholars.”

slide12

birth of the “plaine style”

ex. from Statutes of the Royal Society (1928)

“In all Reports of Experiments to be brought into the Society, the Matter of Fact shall be barely stated, without any Prefaces, Apologies, or Rhetorical Flourishes, and entered so into the Register-book, by order of the Society.”

read Hook’s “Observations” (1666)

slide13

sample statements re: speech v. truth (sound familiar?)

others “put us off with nothing but rampant Metaphors and Pompous Allegories, and other splendid but empty Schemes of speech…true Philosophie is too sober the descend to these wildernesses of Imagination, and too Rational to be cheated by them…”

“All those Theories in Philosophie which are expressed only in metaphorical Termes, are not real Truths, but the meer Products of Imagination, dress’d up in a few spangled empty words…Thus their wanton & luxurient fancies climbing into the Bed of Reason, do not only defile it by unchaste and illegitimate Embraces, but instead of real conceptions and notices of Things, impregnate the mind with nothing but Ayerie and Subventaneous Phantasmes.”

slide14

**important point alert**

“…these accounts of style are not neutral or accurately descriptive. They are the result of animus, or controversy, or party politics, or religious dispute. What these writers give us is not a programor manifesto for how they themselves intend to write but an account of how their opponents write…You attack your enemies for their style, but that is part of your whole campaign; or, equally, the style is a symptom of something else that you disapprove of” (Vickers 1985).

arguments about style are arguments about politics, religion, economics, nationality, scientific technique, etc.

slide15

those advocating a plain style of speaking/writing believed that, by developing a “close, naked, natural way of speaking”, they would be able to erect a mirror in front of nature, to capture Nature as it was, not as we wished it would be.

it turned out that even the plain style connoted political and religious affiliation;

and

to make an argument about style tranforms all styles into political and social practices, with opponents and adherents

there is (and could never be) a “plaine style” (more in Burke about this)

slide16

For Thursday reading : Shapin and Schaffer (1985)

read p. 55 – 79

don’t sweat the details re: names, dates, technical terms

  • be able to answer the following questions:
  • what features of Boyle’s writing enabled him to seem a reliable student of nature?
  • what is “virtual witnessing”? why is it important? how is it achieved?
  • how did Boyle think scientific disputes should be handled? What does this have to do with creating a “calm space”?