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History Redoubled: The Synthesis Of Facts In Linnaean Natural History

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Chapter Summary

As Michel Foucault has shown in his classic Les mots et les choses, natural history evolved over this period into ?a general science of order? possessing its own ?area of empiricity?, organized by ?taxinomia? or the ?arrangement of identities and differences into ordered tables?. Foucault?s observation draws attention to two aspects of the Baconian legacy. First, it depended on the development of novel technologies of formalizing and arranging information in printed texts and diagrams. Second, these innovations led to the emancipation of natural history from the concerns of natural philosophy. This chapter explores these two aspects of the Baconian legacy through the lens of the work of the eighteenth-century naturalist Carl Linnaeus. It looks at the three devices used by Linnaeus to arrange written information: species descriptions, tables, and ?histories?. Finally, it argues that Bacon?s legacy must be understood as the legacy of a methodological problem: the problem of induction.

Keywords: Baconian legacy; Carl Linnaeus; eighteenth-century; Les mots et les choses; Michel Foucault; natural history; natural philosophy



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