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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines how encounters with new innovations influenced Bacon?s earth-shaking call for a scientific method that could produce truth-claims with pretensions to universal validity. The camera obscura offers a fascinating case-study of how early modern technology shapes Baconian epistemology. Among the wonders of Bacon?s utopia is a ?perspective house? where the scientists have assembled all the latest instruments that can distort or enhance the sense of sight. Frustrated by their disagreements, the Empress orders the astronomers to smash their telescopes. Repeatedly the text uncovers that the much-vaunted scientific instruments cannot overcome either human error or self-interest. The satire reaches a climax when the Worm-men arrive and the Empress demands they make a patently absurd attempt to examine a whale under a microscope. The scene serves as a humbling reminder of the limitations of technology as a springboard to a domineering, omniscient perspective over the natural world.

Keywords: astronomers; Baconian epistemology; camera obscura; early modern technology; Empress; Francis Bacon?s utopia; microscope; perspective house; sense of sight; whale

10.1163/ej.9789004170506.i-582.68
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