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Francis Bacon’s Common Notion


This essay examines the political imaginary of Bacon’s philosophy of nature as elaborated in the Novum Organum (1620). It concentrates on the formation of notions in Bacon’s method and on the structure of the notion as a political form, as well as on the formation of axioms, form, and laws as important components of the “political biology” that Bacon describes. The essay traces how the idea of the “common” drives Bacon’s account of natural and political bodies; it argues that his notion of the “common” is in tension with his notion of the “collective,” and it suggests some of the ways in which Bacon’s work can shed light on theories of politics based on a principle of sovereignty. It concludes by sketching the outlines of a “compositional” theory of political bodies in Bacon’s work.