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Idolatry, Natural History and Spiritual Medicine: Francis Bacon and the Neo-Stoic Protestantism of the Late Sixteenth Century

Domenii publicaţii > Stiinte umaniste + Tipuri publicaţii > Articol în revistã ştiinţificã

Autori: Dana Jalobeanu

Editorial: Perspectives on Science, 21, p.207-226, 2012.


This paper aims to explore some possible sources of Francis Bacon’s peculiar way of relating idolatry, natural history and the medicine of the mind. In the first section, I argue that Bacon’s strategy of internalizing idolatry is not unlike that of his Calvinist precursors. If in using natural history as a therapy against the idolatrous mind Bacon departed from Calvin, this departure, I claim, was not unlike the road taken earlier by another important reformer, Pierre Viret (1511-1571). In elaborating a form of spiritual medicine, Pierre Viret gave prominence to the empirical and the ‘anatomical’ study of nature. In the second part of my paper, I focus on a particular kind of Calvinist writings against idolatry: the French ‘Neo-Stoic’ Calvinism of the late sixteenth century. I discuss the ways in which the Neo-Stoic Huguenots (and their English followers) used an empirical, anti-dogmatic and ‘literal’ study of the Book of Nature – under the name of ‘natural history’ – as a weapon in the war against the idols of the mind. In particular, I compare Bacon’s form of natural historical ‘therapy’ with the one advocated by Pierre de la Primaudaye (1546-1619).

Cuvinte cheie: Francis Bacon, natural history, idolatry, Pierre de la Primaudaye