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The World’s a Bubble: Francis Bacon, Nature, and the Politics of Religion

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The World’s a Bubble: Francis Bacon, Nature, and the Politics of Religion


This thesis examines the development of Francis Bacon’s (1561-1626) religious views and their impact on his programme for the advancement of learning. It aims to address the largely misguided body of scholarly literature on Bacon’s beliefs by situating his understanding of religion within the complexity of its Elizabethan and Stuart contexts, and to show how Bacon steered his own considered course between the emergent pillars of Puritanism and Conformism. To the latter end, it evinces how he drew upon the Christian humanism of his parents, Nicholas and Anne Bacon, as well as the political thought of Niccolò Machiavelli, Francesco Guicciardini, and Justus Lipsius. Guided by the same intellectual commitments, he subsequently came to develop his own ideas about the reform of knowledge and the character of nature within the broader context of Christian humanism, Florentine political thought, and the Magisterial Reformation in England. It argues that, contrary to modern categories of thought, Bacon had no difficulty being both a Reformed Christian and a statesman for whom religion was often little more than a social or political currency. This he achieved through a position he set out early in his career; namely, that religion had two ‘partes’: an eternal and a temporal. Christianity could, in this way, be divided into the mysteries of faith, beyond time and the reach of human reason, and civil religion, temporal, political and, in its subjection to natural reason, entirely fair game. This allowed him to anticipate a number of positions that would become central to the religious climate of the later seventeenth-century, including irenicism, religious toleration, and civil religion. It was also through this division that Bacon came to explain the relationship between God and Nature and, in turn, between religion and natural philosophy. In the 1610s, he would develop a theory of the universe which rested upon the division between the eternal and the temporal, the created and the creating. As a result, this thesis offers an examination and contextualization of the relationship between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ within Bacon’s commitment to a twofold vision of religion.

Lancaster, James (2015) The World’s a Bubble: Francis Bacon, Nature, and the Politics of Religion. PhD thesis, University of London.


Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
History
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations > Thesis
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URI: http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/id/eprint/6352
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