Identifier

etd-07052012-140651

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Francis Bacon, long considered a minor figure in the founding of modern political thought, is now recognized as one of its foremost thinkers. Bacon not only championed a new type and method of scientific inquiry, he also developed a plan for how modern society could be re-ordered to accommodate and promote scientific progress. Bacon’s scientific writings cannot be wholly understood apart from his political writings, and many of his works combine the two topics so subtly that it is difficult to even place them in a definitive category. My project expands on the previous literature with a detailed analysis of the New Atlantis, which marks Bacon’s turn to a poetic form in presenting the final image of his new science and the possible political consequences of science’s ambition. I examine the place of the New Atlantis in Bacon’s larger project and Bacon’s place in the founding of modern political philosophy, briefly showing the ways his thought relates to Plato, Machiavelli and Hobbes. While the link between modern science and liberalism is not immediately clear, my project demonstrates that a clear thread can be found linking the two. Bacon’s demonstration of scientific rule in the New Atlantis is not meant as a blueprint for modern society; rather it shows us the dangers of a scientific society devoid of liberty. I begin my project by asking why Bensalem is considered an Atlantis by Bacon. Does it represent a correction of Plato’s ancient myth and by extension Plato himself, as has been argued by the leading studies of the matter? Or does it, as I argue, show the limits of science’s ability to shape a society without destroying it? By examining what is troubling about the New Atlantis, I can explain what problems lead to the emergence of Atlantean societies, i.e. societies that are prosperous, ambitious, and doomed. My project shows that Bacon’s portrait of Bensalem may provide the light necessary to guide those of us living in a world shaped by modern science through the dangerous seas.

Date

2012

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Stoner, James Reist Jr.

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