Sunday, 14 July 2013

Bacon and Astrology

Bacon had mixed views when it came to the practice of astrology. He felt that astrology was very full of superstition, and argued that there was very little sound evidence to be discovered in it. However, he wanted to see astrology ‘purified’ rather than rejected altogether [Tester, 220]. He believed that astrology needed to be based on reason and physical speculation, and rejected the use of horoscopes, nativities, elections, and query. He argued that these factors were the very “delight” of astrology, and in his judgment, were based on nothing pure or solid. Bacon insisted that the 

Bacon and Astrology

heavenly bodies affected the more sensitive bodies, such as humors, air, spirits, an actually affected solid bodies and large numbers of people. However, he also felt that the influence on an “individual” was so small that it would be insignificant [Tester,
221]. He held that astrological predictions of the climate and what each season would bring forth, could be accurate and have some value. In contrast, forecasts for particular days held no value. He stated that the celestial bodies must encompass certain other influences besides heat and light, and these influences must act by the rules of physics and needed further study.

Bacon’s view was that if astrology was purified, then it would be accepted as a "Sane Astrology." Thus the very nature of the stars and planets and hence their differences, needed to be updated in accord with logical sense, and not be contradicted or be inconsistent with what was scientifically proven. Such a "Sane Astrology" would be used for the prediction of comets, meteors, coming droughts, heats, frosts, earthquakes, fiery eruptions, winds, great rains, the seasons of the year, plagues, epidemic diseases, plenty, famine, wars, transmigration of people, or great innovations of things both natural and civil [Tester, 222]. Astrology could be used for agricultural or horticultural actions, factors including planting according to the phase of the Moon would be particularly important. Bacon stressed that the practical way in which one arrives at this sane astrology could be used for experiments in the future, by checking on past experiences, and thereby shifting traditions with the implementation of physical reasons. He rejected the use of all semi-magical uses of astrology connected with seals, talismans, amulets, etc. Inn-ovum Organ-um, Bacon was very dismissive and said that all superstition is much the same whether it was in regards to astrology, dreams, omens, or any of the like. All of which he felt, deluded the believers to observe events which seemed to be fulfilled. Bacon believed that superstition additionally included theology, religion, and philosophies such as Platonism . He thought that astrology should only be applied to the world of nature and human history in its collective sense, but not to the life and fortune of any individual [Whitfield, 169]. In other words, Bacon advocated the use of mundane astrology, and nothing more.

Bacon also urged reformers to abandon the safety of classical scholarship because he felt that the intellectual globe should expand outside the discoveries of the ancients. He promised that experiments would transform discoveries into knowledge and create a Utopian New World [Fara, 157]. His assertion eventually influenced scientific research across all of Europe. As Lord Chancellor, Bacon coined the ideal slogan "Knowledge is Power" to help convert the doubters. Though many of the Natural Philosophers preferred to investigate from the certainty of one's mind, Bacon urged the use of the inductive approach. He insisted that explanation from observations untainted by theoretical preconceptions was the only true way to get untainted results. He envisioned a future Utopian island community dedicated to investigating new ways of harnessing nature’s powers for the benefit of society. Of course he was vague about how all that would come about, but did insist that information collected by teams of researchers who were organized into separate projects, could accumulate facts that their leaders would digest into scientific knowledge. He envisioned such topics as metallurgy, agriculture, and even refrigeration would be tested and investigated [Fara, 158].

Bacon’s lack of consideration towards the craftsmen, artisans, mechanics, and engineers was pitiable [Perry, 549]. In fact, the craftsmen and artisans made a huge impact on the improvement of human life. They advanced knowledge and technology and contributed to the betterment of human life, far more then Bacon ever did. Even though the craftsmen occupied a lower status in society, they were able to construct products for the natural philosophers to use. The craftsmen mastered their art and became experts at assisting the philosophers to produce important, systematic experimentation's [Gregory, 136]. These new scientific philosophers worked with the craftsmen to further develop existing instruments, and make them even more accurate. Measuring instruments were essential for everyday use: the weighing of food, surveying of land, navigating by using the stars, telling time and even preparing herbal remedies, which were upgraded for experimental use. The Optician, who had traditionally worked with reading glasses and nautical telescopes soon became in demand in the seventeenth century when they expanded to use microscopes and telescopes as well. These optical instruments revealed details of the natural world that had never been seen before and lead the early experimenters to turn to the craftsmen for guidance, not to Francis Bacon [Fara, 159].

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