Saturday, January 9, 2010

Francis Bacon, Technology, and Modernity

If you are interested in further reflections on Francis Bacon, the problem of technology, and the crisis of modernity, go to my theological blog, Piety and Humanity. For example, there is this reflection on Perez Zagorin's account of his life in chapter two of his 1998 book, Francis Bacon, the chapter entitled, "Bacon's Two Lives."

Lytton Strachey's question, "Who has ever explained Francis Bacon?," still hangs over Bacon scholarship (Elizabeth and Essex, A Tragic History. Butler Press, 2007; p.9). Perez Zagorin identified the puzzle at the very outset of his book, a study of Bacon's life and thought entitled simply Francis Bacon (Princeton, 1998) :

Francis Bacon lived two separate but interconnected lives. One was the meditative, reserved life of a philosopher, scientific inquirer, and writer of genius, a thinker of soaring ambition and vast range whose project for the reconstruction of philosophy contained a new vision of science and its place in society. The other was the troubled insecure life of a courtier, professional lawyer, politician, royal servant, adviser, and minister to two sovereigns, Elizabeth I and James I, who from early youth to old age never ceased his quest for high position and the favor of the great (p.3).

He could have practiced law, a profession for which he trained at Gray's Inn. Indeed, many suggested that he solve his financial difficulties by pursuing that option, but he simply refused. He could have sought an academic position, but that would not have satisfied him. He desired political office. Though he combined both scientist and politician in his soul, he was fundamentally a man of politics. ...

Read on at "Francis Bacon's Very Political Life." Perhaps you have heard that Bacon was a godly example of devotion to both Christ and science? Perhaps you've heard that he was a selfless servant of enlightenment and human well-being with an inexplicable interest in practical politics? As they say in Brooklyn, "fahgettaboudit."

In addition, there will soon be a post on New York City, dung, and our dance with technology. How can you resist that? Really, it's like seeing Hans Zinsser's Rats, Lice, and History in a used book shop for 75¢ and not buying it. (You wouldn't do that, now would you?)

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