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

  title={Wrestling with Proteus: Francis Bacon and the "Torture" of Nature},
  author={Peter Pesic},
  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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See the new Oxford edition: Francis Bacon, Philosophical Studies c

  • 1611-c. 1619, ed. Graham Rees (Oxford: Clarendon,
  • 1612

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

  • Science and the Secrets of Nature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
  • 1968

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

  • The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca,
  • 1980

emphasizes the sinister aspects of Proteus

  • 1968