The exact nature of the relation between science and Scripture in the thought of Francis Bacon is a well-studied but controversial field. In this paper, it is shown that Bacon, though convinced that there exists no enmity between the book of God's wisdom (Holy Writ) and the book of God's power (nature), usually tries to separate knowledge acquired by reason (philosophy) from knowledge acquired by faith (divinity). In his exposition of the principle of the conservation of matter, however, Bacon seems to find himself constrained to invoke Scriptural truths in a manner that he usually disapproves of. In order to establish this principle, which is so essential to his overall scientific program, he appeals both to the Bible and Greek mythology in a way that points to certain conceptual tensions within his natural philosophy.
The aim of this paper is to offer a comparative survey of Bacon's theory and practice of natural history and of civil history, particularly centered on their relationship to natural philosophy and human philosophy. I will try to show that the obvious differences concerning their subject matter encompass a number of less obvious methodological and philosophical assumptions which reveal a significant practical and con ceptual convergence of the two fields. Causes or axioms are prescribed as the theoretical end-products of natural history, whereas precepts are envisaged as the speculative outcomes derived from perfect civil history. In spite of this difference, causes and precepts are thought to enable effective action in order to change the state of nature and of man, respectively. For that reason a number of common patterns are to be found in Bacon's theory and practice of natural and civil history.
This paper explores how a set of observations on the weight of lead were interpreted and assessed between the 1540s and the 1630s across three different interconnecting disciplines: medicine, mineralogy and chemistry. The epistemic import of these discussions will be demonstrated by showing: 1) the changing role and articulation of experience and quantification in the investigation of metals; and 2) the notions associated with weight in different disciplinary frameworks. In medicine and mineralogy, weight was not considered as a specific subject of inquiry in itself, but as a “sign” indicating other relevant properties of metals. In contrast, the chemistry tradition was increasingly concerned with the specific investigation of weight as a property of matter, as seen in the debates that took place in the “chemical revolution.” In addition, this study will reveal the versatility, polysemy, and parallel purposes of the recourse to experiential knowledge in different contexts, where the same “facts” operate within different disciplines.