Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pope's Religion and (Right) Reason vs. Bacon's Religion and the Hierarchy of Knowledge

Learning about the difference between the Augustan and Baconian strains of thought was definitely helpful in looking at the two sides of the argument for the advancement of human knowledge, particularly science. From what was studied it seems that both strains of thought harnessed the use of God for very different means. In Bacon's "New Atlantis" the society he describes uses the teachings of God to lead them to the institution of the "Houses" to find out the pure nature of all things. Through the explanation of this society Bacon puts forth his idea of knowledge being owned by those who discovered it and it being their responsibility to disseminate their knowledge wisely. Or in other words keep the knowledge from getting into the "wrong" hands. In this hierarchy of knowledge Bacon is placing knowledge at the top of the pyramid right underneath God. In this way it would seem that Bacon wishes to have all of the knowledge possible next to what God knows. He stresses the importance of "morality" and "purity" in nature and knowledge yet his ambitions toward ultimate knowledge do no take into account all aspects of "morality" such as thinking about the consequences of his actions.
In opposition to Bacon, we read a few poems by Alexander Pope criticizing man for attempting to be as knowledgeable as God about nature. In Pope's interpretation nature is an all powerful force that man should respect and work alongside of, rather than try to harness. In the main argument within Augustan thought being the importance of "right reason", Pope would have thought Bacon's views to be irrational and disrespectful. In thinking that just because something could be done, it doesn't mean one should always do it, the Augustans are asking for moderation and forethought in the endeavor for knowledge. I would agree with the Augustans, on the side of rationality and forethought, but is obvious in science today that the Baconians won the battle. There are constant questions of morality that come up in modern day science, but since God can no longer be "rationally" conjured, scientists must use their personal discretion as well as the standards of the society in which they live.

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