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Francis Bacon's science of magic

By Sophie Victoria Weeks

Abstract

This thesis seeks to explain how Francis Bacon promoted a materialist ontology whilst at the same time designating the goal of his inquiry into nature "true natural magic. " It attempts to establish the precise relationships among Bacon's concepts of matter, inquiry and magic in terms of his novel conception of nature. Baconian matter forms the basis of Bacon's substantive natural philosophy; it is highly potent and the unique source of operative power. In its unhampered or "free" state, nature takes the easiest and most economic route leaving a reservoir of unused possibility. To access the benefits of this unexploited potential, the Baconian mage experimentally and methodically deflects nature from its habitual course. Thus\ud Baconian operational power is derived from constraining or binding nature so as to activate matter's dormant powers. For Bacon, magic is the artful constraint of nature. Through harnessing the primitive and archetypal powers of matter, Baconian magic would achieve what the magical and alchemical traditions had attempted haphazardly. Magic constitutes the capstone of Bacon's reform of natural\ud philosophy and it relies fundamentally on a plenipotentiary matter. The inquiry prepares and guides the mind in its efforts to achieve that goal. Although these themes are often fragmented by commentators, they form a coherent natural philosophical foundation for Bacon's Instauratio magna. Their reintegration requires a return to Bacon's texts. A close reading of Bacon's works demonstrates a\ud complex but internally coherent substantive philosophy. By placing Bacon's materialism centre-stage, in conjunction with thorough and detailed exegesis, longstanding\ud disputes over central Baconian concepts can be resolved

Publisher: School of Philosophy (Leeds)
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:1055

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