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Reviewed by:
  • Francis Bacon on Motion and Powereds. by Guido Giglioni et al.
  • Claire Crignon
Guido Giglioni, James A. T. Lancaster, Sorana Corneanu, and Dana Jalobeanu, editors. Francis Bacon on Motion and Power. International Archives of the History of Ideas, 218. Series editor, Sarah Hutton. Dordrecht: Springer, 2016. Pp. viii + 312. Cloth, $179.00.

Francis Bacon on Motion and Powergathers twelve contributions by the best specialists of Baconian thought in Europe, the United States, and South America in a very unified manner. Since Graham Rees founded The Oxford Francis Bacon Projectin 1995, research on Francis Bacon's work has made significant progress. Romanian researchers have offered translations of major works, such as Novum Organumand Sylva Sylvarum. An important project of translation of Bacon's works into French (with Classiques Garnier) is also underway. A new generation of researchers has emerged, editors of this volume included, offering new [End Page 559]insights into Bacon's thought, and fighting against "idols of Baconian scholarship" and "blind spots" in Bacon studies (Jalobeanu 2012, 26). Whereas most recent publications have focused on the author or on his place in the history of modern philosophy (Stephen Gaukroger 2001, Giglioni 2011), or on one text only (Julie Robin Solomon and Catherine Gimelli Martin 2005), the specificity of this volume is to focus on particular notions, namely, "power and motion," and "desire" (chapter 7).

Indeed, as Giglioni underlines in his introduction, one of the main aims of the book is "to provide a unified view of Bacon's thought by focusing on the notion of desire" (27). This choice is crucial for at least two reasons. Firstly, it allows us to reconsider one of the most common misinterpretations of Bacon's thought: the idea that he did not understand the nature of the "scientific revolution" and that he missed the mechanistic approach to nature that was going to develop during the modern period. In Bacon's view of nature, motion is a manifestation of desire and of the appetites that are embedded in matter. With this premise of a "material disquietude," Bacon opposes the Aristotelian tradition (matter viewed as an inert substratum, Daniel C. Andersson, chapter 2), building an original metaphysics that will thrive later on, in the works of Thomas Hobbes and of Baruch Spinoza, with the emergence of the concept of conatus(chapters 1, 3, and 7). This premise is also crucial if we want to understand Bacon's natural and experimental philosophy. Often interpreted as a first step that failed to lead to induction and the discovery of causes, Bacon's experimentation should, on the contrary, be understood as a way to "illustrate the motions of spirits enclosed in matter" or the effects of motus intestini(Jalobeanu, chapter 4). Nature is a dynamic process, thus only by discovering and directing motions may we hope to master it.

Secondly, this choice allows the editors to offer a unified vision of Bacon's work. Unsystematic, sometimes unfinished or published posthumously, sometimes circulated through faulty translations (Marialouisa Parise on vernacular translations, chapter 12), this work is very difficult to grasp; and this is probably why it is too often compared in a negative way to Descartes's methodical and systematic approach. One of the main interests of this publication is therefore to allow us to link the main aspects of Bacon's thought that are too often disjoined (especially natural philosophy, moral and political philosophy, and even history and theology), and to link works usually considered separately (e.g. Novum Organumand Sylva Sylvarum, or Sapientia Veterumand History of Life and Death, or Advancement of Learningand New Atlantis). Motions, material appetites, and desires must be observed and understood within nature (Miranda Anderson on hybridity in nature, chapter 6) at the level of material bodies, but also within our minds (Corneanu, chapter 9), and in the moral and political fields (Silvia Manzo in chapter 8, Lancaster in chapter 10, and Vera Keller in chapter 11).

From natural philosophy and natural histories to moral and political philosophy, Bacon is obsessed with finding ways to struggle against death, pain, dissolution, putrefaction and perishing (Marta Fattori, chapter 5). Several articles in the volume make major...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 559-560
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-10
Open Access
No
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