Wrestling with Proteus: Francis Bacon and the "Torture" of Nature

@article{Pesic1999WrestlingWP,
  title={Wrestling with Proteus: Francis Bacon and the "Torture" of Nature},
  author={Peter Pesic},
  journal={Isis},
  year={1999},
  volume={90},
  pages={81 - 94}
}
  • P. Pesic
  • Published 1 March 1999
  • Linguistics
  • Isis
Although many writers state that Francis Bacon advocated the torture of nature in order to force her to reveal her secrets, a close study of his works contradicts this claim. His treatment of the myth of Proteus depicts a heroic mutual struggle, not the torture of a slavish victim. By the "vexation" of nature Bacon meant an encounter between the scientist and nature in which both are tested and purified. 

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Vitalism and the Resistance to Experimentation on Life in the Eighteenth Century

  • C. Wolfe
  • Philosophy
    Journal of the history of biology
  • 2013
TLDR
This view does not have to imply that Nature is something mysterious or sacred; nor does the vitalist have to attack experimentation on life in the name of some ‘vital force’ – which makes it less surprising to find a vivisectionist like Claude Bernard sounding so close to the vitalists.
...

References

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See the new Oxford edition: Francis Bacon, Philosophical Studies c

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For a useful treatment of the concept of science as a hunt (venatio) see William Eamon

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Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven, Conn.: Yale

  • The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca,
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emphasizes the sinister aspects of Proteus

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